GWAS Glossy Yearbook 2008

The pop culture, magazine & pretty thing happenings of 2008...

As GWAS jumps off the treadmill that is the blogosphere and heads to Sydney's northern beaches for some downtime with the fam, and the mag girls put the finishing touches on their March editions and kick up their heels, let's take a minute to reflect on the year that was in the Land of Gloss...

The most talked about magazine launches of the year...
The titles we said farewell to in 2008...
  • The Bulletin (ACP Magazines)
  • New Woman (ACP Magazines)
  • Vive (POL Publishing)
  • CosmoGIRL!
  • ELLE Accessories
Aussie Glossy Land's game of musical chairs...
  • Harper's Bazaar's Alison Veness McGourty took on Grazia
  • Jamie Huckbody appointed editor of Harper's Bazaar
  • New Idea/Pacific Magazines' Robyn Foyster made EIC of The Australian Women's Weekly – goes on paid three-month hiatus before commencing work at Park Street (whee - holiday!);
  • Mirella Cestaro made EIC of New Idea;
  • New Idea weathers sh*tstorm over Prince Harry 'media blackout' saga;
  • Kerrie McCallum leaves Shop Til You Drop for InStyle
  • Justine Cullen appointed editor of Shop Til You Drop
  • Nedahl Stelio leaves CLEO to pursue "other projects"
  • Sarah Oakes leaves Girlfriend for CLEO
  • Fashion director Jo Ferguson departs CLEO; moves onto NW and Woman's Day
  • Zoe Foster leaves Harper's Bazaar to edit (live on August 19)
  • Sarah Cornish left Total Girl for Girlfriend
  • Amanda Taylor made editor of Total Girl
  • Kerry Parnell leaves Marie Claire to take on Glamour (now shelved)
  • Charlotte Scott leaves RUSSH; is replaced by Natalie Shukur
The people and pop culture events making headlines in Glossy Land...
  • Heath Ledger's death (January 23);
  • Andrew Morton's "unauthorised" Tom Cruise biography;
  • UK ELLE founding editor Sally Brampton writes of her depression in Shoot The Dam Dog: A Memoir of Depression; former Woman's Day editor Nene King talks nervous breakdowns with Steve Dow; former UK Marie Claire editor Liz Jones discusses the glossy posse's thin obsession;
  • Tyra Banks threatens to usurp Oprah as the queen of the talk show circuit;
  • The US writer's strike causes a fuss;
  • Hillary Clinton's electoral campaign results in a teary; power suits make a comeback; Clinton appointed Secretary of State;
  • Teen Vogue cuts ties with The Hills;
  • Project Runway's Nina Garcia makes a cameo on Ugly Betty; ELLE's Anne Slowey debuts Stylista; Garcia moves to US Marie Claire;
  • Bill Henson's controversial photography for Art World results in a NSW government review of laws regulating child nudity and art;
  • Russh Australia uses 16-year-old model Zippora Seven in a provocative beach shoot; Vogue Australia features Seven in its December 2008 issue; a primary school teacher is fired after appearing naked with her partner in CLEO;
  • The skinny model issue overshadows fashion week; the age limit for models at Australian Fashion Week is set at 16; Russian model Ruslana Korshunova commits suicide;
  • Rachel Zoe turns reality TV subject;
  • Is size 0 over?;
  • Rachel Zoe up-sizes for the September issue of US Harper's Bazaar; says she never feels sexy;
  • 90210 brings skinny back;
  • Photoshop cops it;
  • Everyone is girl crushing on Carla Bruni;
  • The 90s supermodels return in full force;
  • Anna Wintour is named an OBE for services to British journalism and British fashion in the US; Wintour denies she will retire;
  • Italian Vogue publishes an "all black" issue;
  • The Olympic games makes stars out of swimmers Michael Phelps and Stephanie Rice;
  • Sex and the City The Movie, Australia and Twilight take movie marketing to a whole new level, with the glossies only too happy to inflate the hype;
  • Famous goes cheap, lowering its cover price from $4.50 to $3.50;
  • Maxim magazine names Sarah Jessica Parker the "unsexiest woman alive"; later makes her its "unexpected crush" of the month;
  • Kath & Kim is poorly received in the US... kind of like Kylie Minogue and Vegemite;
  • Kylie Minogue turns 40!;
  • Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr are Australia's new sweethearts; Lara Bingle and Michael Clarke are the new Bec and Lleyton;
  • Power lesbians Lindsay and LiLo, Ellen and Portia and Jess and Ruby grab headlines;
  • Australian Cosmopolitan magazine gets 100 pages fatter starting with the September issue;
  • Scarlett Johansson makes the cover of the re-designed Australian Marie Claire;
  • The green/eco movement is nudged aside by the global financial crisis;
  • "Credit crunch" and "recessionista" enter the media lexicon ("eco chic" no longer the cool kid);
  • Alaska's vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin gives Tina Fey's career a boost;
  • ACP magazines' internal publicity department was expendable;
  • Sarah Murdoch usurps Jodhi Meares as the host of Australia's Next Top Model;
  • Jodhi's ex, James Packer, bails out of PBL Media;
  • Britney gets her body back (gossip mags go bananas), wins at the MTV awards, goes 'on the record' for MTV, makes covers of Glamour, Australian Cosmo (looking fives years' younger) and Rolling Stone;
  • The Paid Maternity Leave Scheme is shelved thanks to the tightening of government purse strings;
  • Barack Obama wins the US election; is named Time magazine's person of the year;
  • Jennifer Aniston won't shut up;
  • Women loathe Nicole Kidman;
  • But celebrity mums are the business ;
  • Roberta Myers oversees US ELLE magazine's best year yet; Glamour's Cindi Leive named Forbes' most powerful fashion magazine editor;
  • The Australian edition of Glamour is shelved indefinitely;
  • Weekly magazines experience a circulation nosedive (with the exception of OK!), while the likes of Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and Women's Health hold their readership ground;
  • Mischa Barton's fashion credibility plummets; Gwyneth Paltrow's skyrockets. This is Very Important to know... on par with what's happening in Afghanistan.
Top Cover Girl Commodities
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Jennifer Aniston
  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Sarah Jessica Parker
  • Britney Spears
  • Madonna
  • Keira Knightley
  • Rachel Bilson
  • Jessica Alba
  • Blake Lively
  • Kate Bosworth
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Victoria Beckham
  • Heidi Klum
GWAS Glossy Awards
  • Magazine of the Year: Marie Claire Australia; runners-up Shop Til You Drop and Women's Health
Marie Claire is looking youthful and fresh in its smaller, plumper package. The editorial is always diverse and the fashion pages continue to set the bar. Shop Til You Drop has been the underdog of the mainstream glossies but is consistently on-target and sells like hotcakes. Women's Health, with its cheeky tone, random pop cultural references and girls-kick-ass fitness focus is a breath of fresh air. Special mention also to Franie magazine, who never fails to inspire and remind us that not all women's magazines need contain mind-and-energy sucking diet/exercise/sex advice (unless it's done particularly well, as in Women's Health, of course!).
  • Editor of the Year: Alexandra Shulman @ UK Vogue
While editors are often shrouded by an aura of mystery, Shulman put her journalistic skills to paper several times this year to share her thoughts on everything from ageing and cosmetic surgery, to beauty's changing faces and Victoria Beckham. Enlightening. And UK Vogue continues to be one of my preferred glossy purchases.
  • Glossy Writer of the Year: Sarah Wilson for Madison
Freelance writer and former Cosmopolitan editor Sarah Wilson's feature stories are always remarkably intimate, well-researched and articulated, and tap into the female zeitgeist. Her piece on the "thrisis" for Madison was fantastic, as was "The Big Secret".

In the same vein, I am always impressed by Vogue Australia's first-person pieces (example: Jessica Rowe's recent story on post-natal depression). Thoughtfully and expertly written, with a level of depth unsurpassed by other glossies, they offer a poignant glimpse into the lives and minds of other women in a non-trivialised/commercialised/overly simplifed way.
  • Magazine Makeover of the Year: Marie Claire Australia; UK ELLE
UK ELLE had some work done: is now sleek, streamlined, simplified and visually appealing, with a definite focus on fashion and rock-star edge. Editor Lorraine Candy often makes risky cover choices (Courtney Love?!), steering away from the more mainstream celebrity faces we're accustomed to seeing. Jumping on the recession bandwagon, columns like the Credit Crunch Shopper show ELLE knows its reader... an is unashamed to say she's a shopaholic (and is only too happy to encourage her superficial pursuits).
  • Beauty Editor of the Year: Eugenie Kelly @ Harper's Bazaar
I am always entertained by Kelly's writing: she makes the business (pleasure and pain) of beauty extremely palatable.
  • Design Award: UK ELLE; UK Glamour
These magazines are, as Derek Zoolander might say, ridiculously good looking. Fantastic page layouts (see ELLE, right), still-life photography, fashion and celebrity shoots.

This is GWAS signing off. I will be posting sporadically from now until around January 5, so check in if you are near a computer.

Thank you so much for visiting in 2008! Merry Christmas!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: The Nicole Conundrum

As mentioned in yesterday's Latte Post, Nicole Kidman has positively polarised the population. From where I sit, there are two camps: the female, celebrity-media-consuming one, who largely dislike Kidman because she has been dishonest by omission about having 'work' done, is devoid of genuine acting talent and is a walking ad for the kind of unattainable perfectionism we loathe. Fair enough. Facebook has been a particularly vitriolic breeding ground for the haters.

The other camp consists of the not-as-media-literate (no bad thing) general public, who remain quite adoring of Kidman. My husband belongs to this club. So do some of my close friends and family members. And those who have seen Australia are even more emphatic with their praise of the actress. Most refer to the scene where she mounts her horse and has her first attempt at mustering cattle: "Ra, ra...!".

An online poll of 1000 Aussies by UMR Research conducted in November placed Nicole Kidman in the Top 10 Australian celebrities (yeah, I know there are slim pickings), with 58% having a positive perception of Nicole and 23% a negative one (compared to Hugh Jackman's respective 74% and 7%). More people like her than Kylie Minogue (53%) and Delta Goodrem (51%) but more people also dislike her (only 21% think negative thoughts about Kylie, but Delta's disliked by 24%), which is about on par with Elle Macpherson. To me, all these women (Nicole, Delta, Kylie and Elle) are of the same genre. All have clearly had a little work done – Macpherson may be the exception, but there is still something intrinsically fake about her; perhaps the accent? – and all are seemingly nice, Aussie-girls-next-door who've had international success and relationship dramas, yet remain somewhat elusive, their perfect exteriors masking what lies beneath. Yet Nicole has really copped it.

Obviously, inside the media bubble, with the exception of a few journalists who have come out in support of Kidman (perhaps just to be divisive) there is more hating going on compared to that of the general public. I obviously consume a heck of a lot of media, but having seen Australia (finally got around to seeing it on the weekend) and read the Q&A with Nicole in the December issue of US Glamour magazine, as well as contemplating our insatiable lust to know our celebrities warts-and-all, am now firmly on the fence... perhaps even erring towards the pro-Kidman side.

What I garnered from the Glamour feature, leading to this fence sitting position:
  • She is an ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), yet isn't photographed on the ground like Angelina despite making a point of visiting women's shelters in places like Kosovo when she can (she says "I feel dedicated to giving back to other women"). She also works to raise funds for breast and ovarian cancer (like Sarah Murdoch - and we all love her, right?);
  • She had to endure her new husband's stint in rehab in the face of a judgmental public but held her head high and is now positively circumspect about the experience ("the experience gave us deep honesty");
  • She was married to a crazy person, but has never spoken a bad word about Tom or Katie (unlike Jennifer Aniston), even joking with Glamour about her kids: "They're used to having a little one around, because of Suri. Bella is very maternal. Connor would like one of us to have a boy. Katie?"
  • She felt inferior as an actress when she was married to Tom: "I felt I became a star only by association. I didn't think [the early movies] were very good, which is why I would always cower in the background. I thought, I don't deserve to be here... I felt it was my job to put on a beautiful dress and be seen but not heard."
  • She was single for six years (remember how we loved her when she was single?!): "I went six years alone. I'm not saying it's for everyone, but it's better to be alone than in a lousy relationship. Work was my escape. I was existing more strongly in my creative world than in my own world... I had to find my own identity and reason for being here, and it couldn't be because of another person."
  • Even after winning her Oscar, she felt inferior, telling Glamour she went home early but if she could have the moment again would "stop being so shy and insecure, and revel in it... and go back to the Vanity Fair party!"
Amazing how a single feature story can change one's opinion. I can sympathise with her insecurities. Plus, we're all a product of our experiences, and I can imagine being married to the controlling Tom Cruise left an indelible mark on Kidman. Added to that, she's also just a shy girl who went to North Sydney Girls' High. Perhaps it's the Christmas spirit, but I feel increasingly compassionate towards her... Botox and all.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Oprah needs to give herself a break

What kind of message does it send to women when one of the most powerful females in the world admits that she is "mad at herself... embarrassed" because she has gained weight?

In the January edition of O The Oprah Magazine, no less than eight pages have been dedicated to the talk show queen's weight battle. Cover line: "How did I let this happen again?". A self-confessed fad and yo-yo dieter, WWD reports Winfrey, who writes the opening and closing essays each issue, "uses more ink in the January one to deconstruct how and why she has gained 40 pounds in four years, reaching 200 pounds." She writes: "I didn't just fall off the wagon. I let the wagon fall on me." She says: “this past year, I took myself off of my own priority list. I wasn’t just low on the list, I wasn’t even on the list.” Winfrey attributes the gain to a slow metabolism, missed meditation and workout sessions and not eating right.

But so what if she wasn't able to maintain the same rigorous exercise and diet regime as Madonna? Clearly she is a woman with more on her plate (no pun intended... sort of) than maintaining some external image to win the approval of her devoted fans. Do other women care if Winfrey is overweight? Would they really respect her any less if she stayed the shape she is now? And, by the same token, would they respect her more if she dropped the surplus pounds?

The media is prone to celebrating the weight loss of celebrities, for sure (particularly post-birth), but why does Winfrey have to play victim to the same game? Could she not take a stance that says, "Hey, I'm a busy woman running a multi-million dollar empire, and I haven't had a chance to hit the gym"? Sure, being overweight is detrimental to one's health, but how much of our lives should we invest in aspiring to look thinner? It's such a brain suck. We're smarter than that. Admittedly, Winfrey does say in the story that it's not about losing weight but regaining control of her life. Still, pictures (and cover lines) speak louder than the fine print.

The cover shows an image of Winfrey sporting a crop top and toned stomach to rival Britney Spears from the January 2005 cover, juxtaposed with a current shot. She has been reluctant to use full-body shots of herself on recent covers, only allowing headshots and poses that disguised her body.

The new issue will be complemented by a week-long Oprah Winfrey Show series beginning January 5 during which she'll take viewers through five days of advice on health, spirituality, money and relationships.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel
P.S. In the interest of disclosure and honesty, I have battled my fair share of body/mind/soul issues (and still do). Which is, in part, why I feel so impassioned about the representation of women's body image in the media. Diversity and fabulous, three-dimensional women whose lives are not controlled by calories are what we need to see more of in our magazines, people.

Mags: Model search winners

You might recall the media interest around Girlfriend magazine's 2008 Model Search finalists, which included then 12-year-old (she's now 13) Karla Reid. Well, the votes are in and it's not Reid but 15-year-old Kate Budrodeen (pictured on left) who's taken the crown this time 'round (as with past winners Sarah Stephens, Abbey Lee and Catherine McNeil, the media coverage will likely kick in when she eventually 'makes it' overseas).

As I've mentioned before, I was impressed to see that Girlfriend/Chic's selection of finalists this year all appeared to register within a healthy weight range. Budrodeen, who hails from Clareville, NSW, and sports a pair of braces, is gorgeous (see her pictures from the January issue below). She maintains a balanced diet (Weet-Bix with honey and banana; salads and sandwiches for lunch; fruit for snacks; "whatever mum cooks" for dinner) and likes to play netball, swim, go for walks and practise yoga ("I just exercise when I feel like it, really," she says). Let's hope she doesn't fall victim to the weight pressures of the NYC/Europe scene a la Abbey Lee (who used to be enviably voluptuous – in model terms, at least – and healthy looking).

Also new to the professional modelling scene is the winner of the Supreme Management/V Magazine model search, 16-year old Canadian Addison Gill (also pictured). Let's hope this youngster gets the support she needs, too. As we know from the case of Ali Michael, without the correct support and supervision, the international modelling world can be brutal for an impressionable young girl. And tempting – Patty Huntington has taken issue with 16-year-old Australian model Tallulah Morton's partying antics. Ironically, both Lee and Morton are also featured in this month's Girlfriend.

Images from Budrodeen's shoot...

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Note: Girl in a Bubble

As fellow glossy obsessives can attest, it's annoying when your favourite magazine loses the plot. Like Britney armed with an electric shaver and umbrella, a few misguided editorials, sycophantic celebrity coverage, hackneyed headlines and/or poor cover choices can send readers (or fans) running in the opposite direction, lamenting how things used to be. I've fallen out of love with Nylon for this reason... (or maybe I just grew out of it?)

Anyway, like most bloggers, I exist in a little bloggy bubble. Mostly, it's just me, my MacBook, Perez Hilton and the glossies... and they're not always good company. It's like working in an office full of diet-conscious, size-O, celebrity obsessed, bitchy, man-pleasing, pop cultured, shopaholic, Botox-filled, though occasionally positive and inspiring, designer-label snobs – OMG, I'm working on the set of The Devil Wears Prada! Add to that the often snarky anonymous comments and you've concocted quite the toxic working environment. Don't even get me started on the mental health issues this can cause a girl (as one commentor has noted, twice, things on GWAS ain't as funny as they used to be).

But before I get too 'woe is me' (it's my choice, after all), blogging has its positives, too. Like the often lovely feedback, the comradeship between fellow bloggers and surprise packages in the post.

So, dear reader, to keep the blog from falling into an irrelevant state of 'blah' (a la my formerly beloved Nylon), and focus my energies on the areas you enjoy most, I'm asking for your feedback. For example, recently, I had a complaint about Latte Post and its irritating intros. So, tell me, what would you like to see more of, less of, etc.? Do you enjoy Playlist or Latte Post or Cute & Chic? Want more magazine reviews (and of which mags)? Glossy covers? Book reviews? Media musings? Glossip? Random funny things? Soapbox rants? Spiritual insights? Positive thinkings? What can I do to improve your GWAS experience (short of shutting the hell up, as I'm sure some would have it)?

Thanks for your time and bless your clicks!

Yours truly,
Girl In a Bubble

P.S. I wonder if Eva went to rehab suffering glossy fatigue?

Soapbox: Binge drinking girls

In two weeks' time my three best girlfriends from high school and I are getting together for a 10-year 'Schoolies' reunion on the Gold Coast (we are all class!). Our original Schoolies experience had all the classic and cliched hallmarks of the summer holiday-come-road-trip: boys, booze, sun, sex and the skimpiest of outfits. Think Laguna Beach meets Sex and the City in the Hamptons (only there were no hoedowns, cute doctors or cases of crabs). Fuelled by the sweet taste of Lemon Ruskis, Mindori and Lemonade and various vodka mixers, the mission was to drink a lot and dance a lot. Our working mantra: girls just want to have fun! Never mind the ghastly hangovers, our health or reputations.

Hailing from Sydney's northern beaches and aged 17 and 18, we were all pretty well entrenched in our nation's culture of binge drinking before letting loose on Cavill Avenue. Typically, we didn't get to see a lot of daylight. Schoolies requires an almost nocturnal existence. How we ever had the energy to sustain those long nights out clubbing, I do not know. Sheer youthful energy, I imagine. Oh, yes, and the drinking...

The nation's current crop of underage drinkers are being targeted with a new, two-year $20 million Federal Government multimedia advertising campaign (print, outdoor, TVC) timed to coincide with the binge drinking and debauchery extravaganza that is Schoolies Week.

Created by M&C Saatchi, the ads targeted at young women (tagline: ‘Don’t turn a night out into a nightmare’) will run in Cleo (whose swimsuit issue was sponsored by Midori), Dolly and Girlfriend magazines, while others will appear in cinemas, toilet stalls, buses, street and music press and outside nightclubs, as well as infiltrating key youth TV programming.

One of the shock-tactic TVCs depicts a half-dressed drunk teen girl fumbling around with a young guy in a garden while other partygoers photograph her embarrassment on their mobile phones. The key message? A night out on the drink won't end on a happy note, so consider the consequences of your actions.

According to the Federal Government:
  • Four Australians under the age of 25 die due to alcohol related injuries in an average week;
  • One in four hospitalisations of people aged 15-24 is due to alcohol;
  • 70 Australians under 25 will be hospitalised due to alcohol-related assault in an average week;
  • One in two Australians aged 15-17 who get drunk will do something they regret.
Concurrent with these statistics are rising rates of STIs amongst young women (alcohol, as we know, lowers inhibitions, making women more inclined to participate in sexual activity than their sober sisters), increased incidence of depression (alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant), unplanned pregnancies, and body image and self-esteem issues, all arguably related to alcohol consumption (as precursor to and/or temporary antidote).

While researching a story on teen binge drinking, which addressed the effectiveness (or futility, rather) of introducing the 'alcopop tax' earlier this year, it became clear to me that it will take more than token government ads and half-baked, flashy policies to change the culture... an ingrained drinking mentality that has existed for decades (remember Puberty Blues?). Getting drunk is almost a rite of passage... albeit a messy one with a vomity aftertaste. Can attitudes to binge drinking, or just drinking for that matter, ever be changed in the same way as smoking? Will drinkers ever become social pariahs?

And what exactly are we up against? Despite Amy Winehouse becoming a walking poster girl for the physical effects of drug and alcohol abuse, and the demise of the Young Hollywood party set via a string of DUI charges, drinking is still the party pastime dujour.

In fact, it has quite the glamorous image (see: Sex and the City). While magazines like Cosmopolitan and Cleo campaign against sun-worshipping and wouldn't dare run a picture of a celebrity smoker (unless for an anti-smoking story), they continue to promote a party-hard lifestyle via ads for the likes of Midori, Sky Vodka and Kahluah. One Midori competition run this year offered winners the chance to take two friends on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Whitsundays.

The women in those ads, including Yellowglen champagne's 'bubbly' series, are gorgeous and fun-loving: just what every young woman aspires to be. You can't imagine that these pretty young things might wake up in a stranger's bed or find themselves doing the walk of shame, stilettos in hand, at 9am as joggers stride past on a Sunday morning. It's all about 'living in the moment', after all.

As we come into summer, holidays and cricket season, I imagine the multi-million-dollar marketing behemoth that is the alcohol industry will be going into over-drive. The Public Health Association of Australia says the new binge drinking campaign aims to counteract the irreverent ads of the alcohol industry. Geoff Munro of the Australian Drug Foundation says the government must do more to regulate the alcohol industry:

"Alcohol is the new tobacco, and tobacco lost all credibility when it advertised and promoted its products any way it wanted. Alcohol is going down the same path,” Munro said. "They [alcohol companies] make out like it’s the consumers’ choice, but I’ve spoken with people in advertising, and alcohol is marketed and designed specifically to appeal to young people. It’s made very attractive to kids who want to get drunk fast on purpose.”

Often it's a bad personal experience, moment of revelation or the passage of time that turns young women (and men) off drinking (just yesterday one of my Schoolies comrades admitted she desperately wanted to give up the drink for good). And, even then, it's not easy to be social when you're the only teetotaller at the bar – a lot depends on the company you keep.

Until everyone comes to the party on this issue – media, advertisers, TV producers, interest groups, health professionals, educators, government, communities and parents – and agrees that we really do have a problem (it's not just a faze), I imagine curbing our binge drinking culture will be an uphill battle; particularly amongst those fun-loving young women. Step one is to quit glamorising and big-noting drinking – there's nothing glam or funny about throwing up all over yourself, acting like a slapper or contracting chlamydia. What's really needed is more education around alcohol – I'm not averse to the occasional tipple; a glass of red sipped during a meal is healthy and good for the soul. But many people – even into their 30s and 40s – are drinking with the sole purpose of getting drunk. This smacks of a lack of sophistication and self respect. I rather liked the RTA's 'No one thinks big of you' speeding campaign – the same 'do this and you're a loser' theme could be applied to binge drinking.

Escaping the 'Toolies' tag by virtue of the fact that we're mostly married (one with child), staying in Broadbeach rather than Surfer's Paradise and generally have no interest in turning all cougar-esque on the young men, I think my girlfriends and I are going to enjoy Schoolies this time round a whole lot more. Good company, great food, a glass of wine or two, girlie conversation, dancing and a whole lot of shopping – holidays are too short for hangovers.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

P.S. A shout-out to the Red Frogs Hotel Chaplaincy team working Surfer's Paradise over Schoolies Week. Keep up the good work.

GWAS Latte Post

Newsy snippets to digest as you sip your morning latte and munch on a peanut butter and honey crumpet. Mmm...

• As reported earlier, it looks like the proposed Paid Maternity Leave scheme will be shelved. Poor Julia Gillard was given the job of announcing the news. "Paid maternity leave is something we believe is important but we will look at the final Productivity Commission report and we will weigh it in the budget process," Gillard told ABC TV. "Obviously we want to be in the business of looking at paid maternity leave - that's why we have the Productivity Commission report on it - but we will deal with the final priority setting in the budget."

Blah, blah, blah... rhetoric schmetoric – women make up 52% of the Australian population! In the US, women are reportedly sending tubes of lipstick to US NBC boss Ben Silver in protest to Lipstick Jungle’s possible cancellation. Perhaps we can send Kevin Rudd and co. purses packed with pooey nappies, breast pumps and child care bills?

• Move over, Condoleezza: Hillary Clinton is set to fill your killer Secretary of State shoes. Given her handling of her husband’s, ahem, affairs, could there be a better person for the ultimate diplomatic position? Not to sell short her foreign policy credentials, of course. At times like these – and with baby-faced Obama in the top job – the country needs the metaphorical security, stability and versatility of a pantsuit – and we know Clinton can deliver on that front.

• Paris Hilton says she’s still in love with Benji Madden: “He’s an incredible person and we’ll always be very close… I’m still in love with him.” Hilton cites busy schedules and travel as the reason behind the split. Don’t they all?!

Gossip Girl’s lowly status on the US TV ratings totem poll (150) is attributable in part to computer downloads and TiVo, says TV columnist Andrew Mercado. In Australia, the show is Foxtel’s highest rated US drama ever.

Vogue Australia’s Kirstie Clements writes in The Sunday Telegraph: “Somehow, fashion has reached a place where grown women are dressing like little girls and little girls are dressing like the Pussy Cat Dolls, neither of which is pretty or appropriate.”

• Speaking of appropriate, New Zealand model Zippora Seven, who posed in various states of undress (including topless in a bubble bath) for a RUSSH magazine shoot aged 16, has been signed to appear in campaigns for See By Chloe and H&M (apparently, any publicity is good publicity). At just 167.5m, Seven has been compared to Kate Moss and has posed for French, Italian and Australian Vogue. (The Sun-Herald)

• This made me chuckle. From The Fitz Files: “Let me ask – is this Sydney’s cleverest-everest ad? I am told that in the mid-1990s, driving along Parramatta Road… was a gym advertising for new members with the following sign outside: ARE YOU FAT AND UGLY? WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE JUST UGLY…?” (The Sun-Herald)

• Definitely not fat or ugly, hunky Hugh Jackman is on the cover of Vanity Fair’s Italian edition.

• IMG’s Swim Fashion Week will be held at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast from February 25-28, taking its lead from Miami Swim Week. Between the GC’s Metre Maids and Indie Girls, the city is fast becoming the nation’s babes, boobs and bikinis capital. Oh, it already was?

• From bikinis to body-hugging underwear: Spanx creator Sara Blakely tells Sun-Herald fashion editor Glynis Traill-Nash: “I can’t go to a cocktail party without people lifting up their skirts or showing me their bra.” Her company turned over $400 million in sales last year, spank you very much.

• From WWD: MAC Cosmetics has teamed up with Sanrio Global Consumer Products to create a Hello Kitty color cosmetics collection. The line will arrive on MAC’s website Feb. 10, in North American stores on Feb. 12 and into overseas stores in March. “MAC has been mining pop culture since the brand was founded,” said John Demsey, group president of Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. “This is a sexy and innocent fashion line, and a true MAC moment. In these times, everyone can use a little fun — and a little Kitty.”

• Not so innocent is Marc Jacobs, who's been fined $US1 million for bribing an official for the past eight years in order to secure Manhattan’s 69th Regiment Armory Drill Hall for his fashionably late Fashion Week shows.

• David Salter writes in the November 21 edition of The Week: “There is, right now, a curious mood of disengagement in Australia. A sense of vague foreboding about nothing in particular…The danger is that nations tend to become politically unstable when extended periods of economic stress coincide with a pervasive mood of sour introspection. Italy turned to fascism; Germany to the Nazis…”. And Australia turns to Baz Lurhmann…

• But Sun-Herald film critic Rob Lowing doesn’t fancy Australia: “Australia is a big, gloopy mess of a movie: an overlong, overstuffed production and a prime example of egos gone wild… Watching this is like being hit over the head by a giant glitter-coated marshmallow wielded by a director whose concept of epic romance is like a drag queen’s interpretation of what a woman is.” Ouch.

The Word for the Week: "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Girl Talk: Is size-0 finally over?

The UK Times' Kate Spicer has reported on the 'death of size zero', citing model/It girl Daisy Lowe's apparent ample skeletal coverage as evidence that we have finally passed go and collected some calories on the way (if Lowe is 'curvy' then Kate Winslet's a walking Krispy Kreme). Significantly, Lowe (photographed for the August issue of UK mag Tatler, right) recently told The Guardian:

"The thing is, I'm not teeny-weeny stick sample size so I don't want to go along to the cattle castings and not fit into any of the clothes. Show size is very small and I eat doughnuts and Red Velvet. I love curvaciousness. Curvy girls are the sexiest girls. If clothes were built for curvier women, which is most of the population, one: people would look better; two: designers would sell more clothes, and three: they wouldn't have to use tiny anorexic models."

Wise words from a girl of just 19.

Spicer writes: "At last, slowly and from within, it seems fashion is falling back in love with the things that make women truly beautiful: confidence, sex appeal, health... Could it be that, finally, we can put those two incendiary little words, “size” and “zero”, behind us, and that Lowe and her softly cut ilk are the poster girls for a new aesthetic of womanliness and personality that lies ahead? While catwalk girls will always be thin, there has been a bit more bounce lately in the bottoms and flesh on the bones that walk in London, Paris, New York and Milan...

Kate Moss was overheard saying how sexy Lowe and the shapely girls sporting hundred-quid frillies looked at the recent AP perfume launch. The super-stylist Katie Grand has talked of being tired of “the tedious stereotypes of what it is to be a wonderful 21st-century woman”. Even mean old Karl Lagerfeld, the wicked fairy godfather of the cruel world of fashion, sent some girls away from a recent show, a first, saying: “They looked as if
they had grown up in a Third World country with no food to eat.”

Significantly, the original LA poster girls of scrawn, the ones who gave skinny a well-dressed media glow that extended beyond the little pond of true high fashion — Nicole Richie, Mischa Barton, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan — have all either put on weight or been disgraced... Mix up the newish girls (Lowe, the fervid-looking Lara Stone or the generously sexy Sasha Pivovarova, who, despite putting a very unmodelly quantity of pounds on recently, still got to open Prada last season) with the reclaimed supers (who, while still natural-born skinnies, have the presence and fleshy strength of a mature woman) and we have a refreshing alternative to the status quo of recent years..."

All this talk is positive but may be premature. The size-0 mentality, I would argue, is still pervasive, though arguably reached is ridiculous apex when Nicole Richie was still being styled by Rachel Zoe (that said, the new 90210 crew are doing their best to keep the momentum going, as is a media obsessed with all things bodily, a fashion industry who insists on hiring lifeless, emaciated mannequins we are supposed to 'aspire' to look like and editors who have their own food issues).

I predict we'll have a mental hangover (not to mention a health one) from it for years to come. We've become almost anesthetised to the effect of seeing skinny celebrities and their catwalk counterparts... Twiggy was once a novelty; now you can see her everywhere!

What's more, many (maybe most) women are almost always in diet mode. Food, probably since the Fonda era, has been seen as an enemy we must fight, control, fear and view with suspicion ('5 healthy foods that aren't'; 'Is your salad making you fat?') rather than as a friend to aid in our physical, mental and emotional health and stability, and the enjoyment of life. The media discourse around eating is currently one associated with guilt and sin and geared towards fat-blasting our way out of the obesity epidemic.

But for the girls suffering eating disorders, encouraged by the entrenched skinny aesthetic and tormented by magazine images of too-thin celebrities (see NW cover), editorial trumpeting the latest diet fads ('Eat more, weigh less!') and a society obsessed with kilojoule counting, it's an uphill battle to better health and happiness... and the acceptance of self, whatever package that may come in.

A whole new mindset is required that says it's okay to eschew exercise, eat the occasional treat (and carbs... for dinner!) and feel full. It's a battle I've personally embarked on and it's taxing. What women need to see and read in magazines are positive health stories minus the prescriptive diet advice (i.e. let's start talking about the pleasures of social eating, of food preparation and the foods we really enjoy), less pictures of emaciated celebrities who clearly need help, less 'a day in the diet of...' stories charting the non-eating habits of skinny socialites and their ilk, and an abundance of happy, healthy women enjoying their bodies and food and life. Oh, and perhaps less mind-numbing talk about everything I've just said. Size-0, over and out.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Books: A foodie fairytale

I imagine that if Nigella Lawson had been a girl of, say, six or eight years, and stumbled across Madame Pamplemousee and Her Incredible Edibles by Rupert Kingfisher (Bloomsbury Children's; $19.95) on a trip to the library, it may have been attributed with igniting her life-long passion for food, with the same fervour that Judy Blume's Are You There God...? triggered many a pre-teen's commitment to bust enhancing exercise (Lawson's lust for food itself negates the need for any such exercise – eat your potatoes, girls).

In a word, this book is delightful. A Cinderella-like fairytale, with black-and-white illustrations by Sue Hellard complementing every page spread, Kingfisher has conjured up a world where food is mysterious and pleasurable, with the ability to affect common feeding folk like a spot of Harry Potter magic unleashed on a muggle.

Set in Paris, epicurean capital of the world, the story revolves around the young Madeleine, whose natural culinary flair lands her in all sorts of trouble but ultimately leads to her salvation and happiness.

In the opening pages, we meet Madame Pamplemousse, whose discreetly located food shop sells "rare and exotic delicacies", like Giant Squid Tentacle in Jasmine-scented Jelly and Scorpion Tails in Smoked Garlic Oil (ick!). However, it's the coveted secret ingredients for Madame's rarest delicacy, which is served like a pate with bread, which becomes the point of contention.

Madeleine has been sent to stay with her uncle, Monsieur Lard, who is a fat slob of a man and owns a "big, flashy restaurant called the Squealing Pig." His cooking, unbeknownst to many a tourist and visiting celebrity, is known to be revolting and laden with, you guessed it, lard.

One day, Madeleine, who finds herself drowning in dirty dishes after sparking Lard's jealousy with a superb tasting soup, is sent to buy ingredients for some foul recipe. On the trip, she discovers Madame Pamplemousse and her store (as well as her cat comrade, Camembert) and walks away with a jar of pate which has the power to transform tastebuds and the mind. The pate impresses Lard's customers so much that he becomes set on discovering the secret ingredients, sending poor Madeline on a covert mission to undermine Madame Pampelmousse (who is, of course, quite the wise old woman). What ensues is a complicated relationship based on deception and culinary kinship, which ultimately reveals Madeleine's good character, celebrates her gastronomic expertise and brings about the downfall of her greedy uncle.

At times dark and odd, this clever book is embellished with edible descriptive passages, complex characters (the food critic will amuse adult readers) and a sound moral message. Catering for children aged 6-12 and registering 138 little pages, it traverses literary territory between Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter and your classic Disney fairytales.

Considering most tween girls are today growing up with food phobias and body image issues, I would encourage mums to slip this little hardback under the Christmas tree. I'd sooner breed a mini-Nigella than a potential Pussycat Doll.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Films: The Women (gushing review)

As we've seen of late, adaptations of films and TV shows that were much loved in their original form aren't always well received by audiences (unless you are God perfecting woman, why tamper with the original?). Similarly, Diane English's 2008 interpretation of The Women hasn't been warmly received by critics, written off as the millennial chick flick's lame answer to the spicier 1939 original, which doesn't hold a candle to Sex and the City The Movie or The Devil Wears Prada. Bullocks to that, I say. I adored this film... and will pay to see it again.

For me, it has all the ingredients I look for in a good chick flick (and, no, I don't think that's an oxymoron): a gorgeous, interesting and credible cast, complex characters with whom I can identify in some way (one whom edits a glossy magazine), a storyline that pulls on the heartstrings and/or confronts moralistic issues, the glamour of a big city (New York), beautiful fashion and a conclusion that satisfies like a hot cup of tea on a cold day.

From the moment the opening credits start to roll (to the tune of Beautiful by Lucy Schwartz – I am definitely buying the soundtrack), it's hard not to be impressed: Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Debra Messing, Candice Bergen, Bete Midler, Eva Mendes... it's an A-list lineup as impressive (if not more so) as the upcoming He's Just Not That Into You.

Ryan plays to type as the lovable domestic goddess Mary Haines (I am in awe of her hair and the subtle facial surgery); Annette Bening is stand-out as the single, Samantha Jones-type career woman, Sylvie Fowler, editor of Cache magazine; Debra Messing makes childbirth look realistically excruciating; and Eva Mendes plays the bitch so well you hate her.

Candice Bergen does justice to all her roles (including her cameo as a Vogue editor on Sex and the City, though she's best known as English's Murphy Brown) and she doesn't disappoint as Mary's mother. I even loved Debi Mazar in the lesser role of the gossipy manicurist. Casting perfection (and there's not a man to be seen!). My only qualms: Jada Pinkett Smith rubbed me up the wrong way as the token (black) lesbian friend, though I had to laugh at the angry antics of her carb-deprived supermodel girlfriend, Bette Midler is wasted in a vellor tracksuit and role of little significance, and Mary's 'have it/do it all while looking amazing and acting chirpy', sickly sweet, modern Wall Street wife made me feel terribly inadequate (probably the point).

Like the Sex and the City movie, the central theme is female friendship (there are even parallels between Miranda and Sylvie's betrayals, not to mention the fact that there are four women in the circle... oh, and there's a Natasha/Carrie-like changeroom confrontation, too), though the plot revolves around Mary's husband's infidelity, the other woman (Mendes as perfume 'spritzer girl' Crystal Allen) and the dynamics of divorce, as well as the fallout when children are involved (teens will identify with Mary's daughter, Molly, and the premature teen angst brought on by her parents' separation).

In a tasty subplot (for those of us interested in the world of magazines – and if you're not, I think you've stumbled into the wrong blog), as the editor of a glossy losing readership ground, Sylvie is confronted with several issues: the (much) younger staff member with brilliant ideas, selling out to please a publisher, the danger of investing too much of yourself in your work and the hypocrisy of women's magazine publishing ("We are driving women mad!" says Sylvie in one editorial meeting). Her character evolves, of course, and loses some of her hard edge (more than Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly). Similarly, Mary's mother (Bergen) also eventually lets her pretense go and becomes a more compassionate, honest, giving mother in the process.

While we were all familiar with the dynamics of Sex and the City before the film was released, I think The Women does a brilliant job of establishing character connections, plot lines and audience empathy in a short space of time. It challenged my thinking (how would I react to news of my husband's infidelity?) and ultimately left me with a case of the warm and fuzzies. A welcome feeling in these troubling times.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: The Girlfriend model debate

The media loves a good model debate!

I'm a little late to the party with this one, and expect to cop a bit of flack for my comments, so I'll just start with a quick ceveat: yes, I worked for Girlfriend magazine ('04-'07) and, yes, I still occasionally write for the magazine. I'm also quite fond of its staff. And its editorial. Enough said.

I am in two minds about the controversy around the inclusion of 12-year-old Karla Reid in the finalists' lineup for this year. 'Underage modelling' is the issue, according to The Australian, an argument which loses weight (no modelling pun intended) when you consider that Girlfriend is a magazine read by 11-17 year-olds.

In the context of the magazine, Karla doesn't look out of place. This is not a 12-year-old posing provocatively in the pages of Vogue or Russh (or Art Monthly, for that matter), or being ogled on the Fashion Week catwalk. Most models cast for Girlfriend's fashion shoots are aged 13-18 (though they're most often older teens, making them 'aspirational'), with young actors from the likes of Home and Away (former H&A girl Indiana Evans is popular) and 'real girls' also modelling clothes.

Karla has secured herself a two-year contract with Chic Model Management (as have the five other finalists), though I'd say Chic would be more inclined to align Karla, given her age and girl-next-door good looks, with its Scoop Management division (which specialises in models for advertising, TV commercials and 'mainstream' fashion – as apposed to high fashion). When I was casting for Girlfriend shoots, I'd often hire girls from Scoop based on their healthy schoolgirl appeal. Of course, the winner of the competition (to be announced on November 19) also wins a contract with Chic's affiliate New York agency Next – if Karla were to win, we may have more cause for concern.

The international world of modelling, which, as Patty Huntington goes into on her blog, can be a harsh, cruel world, where young girls suffer depression, eating disorders and isolation, is no place for a 12-year-old. Though many would contend that today's 12-year-olds are an entirely different proposition to the ones of 10 or 20 years ago, at that age the brain and emotions are still underdeveloped, though the girls' bodies might suggest otherwise. Even at 18, a fragile constitution and personality (perhaps an inclination towards depression) combined with the pressures of modelling can be catastrophic.

Modelling competitions in general also don't sit well with me, though I was obsessed with them (and their winners) as a teen, and would have given my right arm to model in a magazine (because, as I was led to believe by said magazines, modelling was, like, the ultimate aspiration! And models had perfect lives... and boyfriends like Johnny Depp!).

When I sat on the panel of Girlfriend's 2007 Model Search Sydney event, I looked on despondently as many pretty, lovely girls, who desperately wanted to be models (more than anything they wanted to be the next Miranda Kerr!) had their picture taken, only to be sent to the bottom of the pile based on their height (and height potential) and hip size (and hip potential).

It is a superficial, looks-based competition with very specific criteria, just like Australia's Next Top Model (remember the furor over bitchy finalist Demelza?), where personality counts about as much as your grasp of the periodic table. How disheartening to be sent to castings by agencies only to be turned away time and time again, let alone be told that you are fat (as was the experience with young American model Ali Michael). Not fabulous for the self-esteem, as Mia Freedman contends.

That said, winning Dolly's modelling competition in 1997, aged 13, doesn't seem to have done Miranda Kerr any long-term psychological harm (the girl's even writing a holistic health book!). With the right kind of upbringing and family support, as well as an empathetic agent, one could assume that the potential for a girl to get lost in the world of fashion is minimised. Perhaps securing modelling mentors like Kerr would help alleviate any parental or industry angst about sending girls into the modelling world... while more magazine editorial around building a wider sense of self would help the majority of girls left behind (self included) whose looks just don't cut it.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

P.S. I also think Girlfriend has to be commended for choosing girls who appear to be in a healthy weight range for their ages.

Mags: Teen Vogue's superslim ideal

In her October issue editor's letter, Amy Astley takes aim and fires at L.A.'s glamour girls – namely, those who partake in a little plastic surgery action – with reference to the mag's 'Hot Topic' feature of the month, 'Faking It'...

"The bland sameness of what passes for L.A. glamour is worse than boring – it's hazardous to mental health! Witness the clonelike armies of perma-tanned, hair-extensioned, pillow-lipped, breast-implanted superskinnies that many of us measure our appearance against. Hollywood's version of beautiful and sexy seems to embody one aesthetic – and women of all ages, from Heidi Montag and Ashlee Simpson to Pam Anderson (okay, she invented the look), contort what nature gave them to conform to the prevailing standard. But really, what is sexy about doing unnatural things to your body in pursuit of looking like everyone else?"

But while Teen Vogue clearly disapproves of the tacky-glamour aesthetic popular in L.A., it's only too happy to endorse its own aesthetic ideal – one that's arguably harder to attain and places more strain on the 'mental health' of young women. It's one thing to be "superskinny" with fake boobs (bad) but apparently it's entirely different to be plain "superskinny". And white (unless you are Chanel Iman). And WASP-like. And tall, too, if you please. The generic beauty ideal that Teen Vogue serves up for readers month after month via its fashion, beauty and even 'real girl' editorials certainly eschews the well-endowed (Vogue is no place for boobs – fake or real; suppress your womanhood like a good girl, an androgynous, svelte 13-year-old boy figure is what you want – just look at Anna Wintour, Carine Roitfeld and Astley herself). Here are some of the Vogue-approved girls to feature elsewhere this issue...

Actress Hayley Bennett reminds me a little of Blake Lively (who also gets TV's nod – though it's Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester who features this month) and seems to be enjoying the sun on her alabaster skin. Thin. White. WASP.

And here we have a typical Teen Vogue model. Thin. White. Tall. WASP.

And Agyness Deyn, of course. Thin. White. Tall. WASP.

Even this super-slim 'super fan', who interned with Phillip Lim, fits the Teen Vogue mould (though she could be Jewish – diversity!).

Admittedly, Teen Vogue is ostensibly trying to convey a positive message in 'Faking It', despite its undercurrent of WASPy clones: "There's no doubt that feeling insecure about your looks can be difficult to deal with," writes Jane Shin Park, "but plastic surgery shouldn't be seen as a quick-fix solution... start making improvements from the inside out." And it has gone to the effort of including Zooey Deschanel, Taylor Momsen, Ellen Page, Lily Allen and America Ferrera in a 'Unique Starlets' side-panel (one Hispanic with hips – check!). But the message is still loud and clear: in the great white world of Vogue, it's survival of the slimmest... and boobless.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel