Mags: Girlfriend retro issue

What was Girlfriend talking about 15 years ago? GWAS takes a look inside a treasured back-issue to find out. Giggles, gasps and OMG-are-they-kiddings? ensue...

November 1993
Cover price: $3.20
Book size: 148 pages
Cover models: Krissy and Niki Taylor. You could pretty much bet on one of the Taylor sisters appearing on the cover of Girlfriend or Dolly in the early 90s. Like younger versions of supermodel Elle Macpherson, their smiley, "sunkissed" LA-girl looks were what Aussie girls aspired to. When Krissy died from a reported asthma attack in 1995, aged 17 (later her death was linked to cardiac disease), it was major news and majorly disappointing. I may have cried. Inside, there's a DPS feature dedicated to the girls with a bunch of black and white beach snaps. They are too beautiful. No wonder I felt so inadequate as a teen!

Cover lines: 'Cossies that make you look slim' and 'Stars who starve themselves': in addition to Taylor sister perfection, the message is clear and simple: thin + beautiful is in.

Of note:
  • In the tradition of Sassy, the features writers tend to use their own life experience (eg. "When I was in Yera 10 I had to move to a new school...") to create relationship and understanding with the reader. This doesn't happen as much with features now – the editor blogs (fash, ent., beauty), reader blogs and columns tend to be the reserve for the first-person, while features use second or third, giving them a more credible, if clinical, air. That said, teen writers would be remiss to use an "all-knowing" voice – young people are far too cynical to fall for that! A trend across the magazine spectrum these days, particularly in women's mags, sees writers using a mix of first and third person voices.
  • No sealed section: the 'Body Clinic' and 'Love & Life' pages are open for all to read. No Q&As for family or friend issues, as there are now – plus, no Michael Carr-Gregg (who is a genius – Dr. Phil ain't got nothing on MCG).
  • There are two fiction pieces – one being a column by 'C.C. O'Brien', who has decided to throw her first dinner party.
The ed. says: Kathryn Brown is "suffering Beverly Hills withdrawl symptoms... life isn't the same without Luke and Jason."

Celeb roll call: The 'Famous Faces' section gives us Edward Furlong, Marky Mark, Jeremy Jordan, Kate Moss and Michael Hutchence, while Christian Slater, Sandra Bernhard and Joey Lawrence make the 'Global Gossip' cut.

Regular pages: How Embarrassment (it never fails to amuse); This Month (we learn about Supermodel TV and casting love spells); in 'How to...' we're shown how to make a candle and a cool drink; Earth Alert – Eco Update (we cared about the environment back then, too – then it fell of the radar!); the 'This month's models' column profiles, you guessed it, the models featured in this issue (they have personalities and interests, you know); Horoscopes and Dream Doctor precede 'Global Gossip', a DPS of entertainment news ("Recently Sara Gilbert, who plays Darlene Connor on Roseanne, announced she was leaving the comedy series which is based in LA to attend Yale University in Connecticut"; "America's biggest heartthrob is Joey Lawrence who appears in the TV soap Blossom"; "Alex Demitriades and Melissa Tkautz were caught having a snog-up in a Sydney nightclub"), and the issue rounds off with 'Awkward Moments', a comic page.

Major features:
  • 'How to get that boy to notice you' (writer Ally Oliver imparts her first-hand knowledge of boy attraction tactics - don't avoid him, flirt, be confident, get him alone, be bold, make him laugh and send him a mystery gift). There's a positive message about not changing yourself to get his attention and having something to say.
  • In 'Is shyness ruining your life?', writer Ella McIntyre relates her own shy-girl behaviour before offering up her best advice via 'The art of conversation', 'How to make yourself speak out' and '8 ways to beat shyness'.
  • 'Do you have to be thin to be famous?' gives us a bunch of celebrity before-and-after shots (Dannii Minogue, Madonna, Tracey Gold, Roseanne Arnold, Demi Moore, Melissa Tkautz, Cindy Crawford), with commentary about their weight loss ("how the stars keep their wobbly bits under control"), which is rather scary, as it gets quite specific:
"Tracey started struggling with anorexia when she was cast as Carol Seaver is the sitcom Growing Pains. The actress starved herself from 60kg down to less than 40kg after a casting agent told her she'd never get work unless she lost weight"; and "After giving birth to two children, Demi felt her fleshy frame was hindering her movie career. Funnily enough, after she hired a personal trainer she was immediately cast in Ghost and her career has gone from strength to strength ever since."

Essentially, for all the stars featured, their weight loss has been equated with success. What kind of message is this to be sending girls? The introductory editorial reads: "If you listen to the stars talking about their careers, it's always divided into two distinct sections – before they met their personal trainer and chef and after... when they won an Academy Award. Annoying, isn't it?". Yes, annoying, isn't it? This would never fly on the pages of GF now.

Fashion & Beauty: 'Beauty Bazaar' gives us 'supermodel secrets' (i.e. use this product and look like Helena/Niki/Naomi/Claudia/Cindy); Hair Buzz gives us the lowdown on Goldwell's Design Curl perming product; the 'House of Style' page starring Jennie Garth is sponsored by Sportsgirl (a store that teens still love but is marketed to older girls); 'White Heat' is the first fashion spread - think crochet, cheese cloth, shell necklaces, lace and white denim shorts. Hot!; a random page of 'Bargain Buys' gives us fashion priced from $10 to $72; the 'Style Council' page uses illustrations, rather than photos of real girls, to show us which swimsuits to choose to flatter our body shapes (big boobs; no waist and tummy bulges; small boobs; petite; too skinny; pear shape).

The 'Formal Special' contains a fashion spread called 'Enchanted Evening' – think long, floral frocks, dresses in shades of emerald and burgundy, ugly shoes word with sheer black tights and chokers (ew!) – a beauty story on the art of subtle makeup application, 'Late night locks', 'More dash than cash' (cheap dresses by Johnny Dexter, Room Two, PTO and Dangerfield) and another fashion spread pairing Nathan Harvey with models (clearly the male model is where it's at).

Health: We're given info on breast checks, fresh juices and cystitis and a 'Body Clinic' page (have I got genital warts? could I get breast cancer? I make myself sick...). There's a sport and fitness DPS called 'Good Sports' (how the Girlfriend team stay in shape) and a quiz which asks, 'Do you know enough about sex?'.

Boys & Entertainment: Nathan Harvey is on almost every page (a friend of my step-bros, I know he's now working at Sea World on the Gold Coast); Kelly Slater rates a few mentions; Keanu Reeves scores a DPS; 'male supermodels' get a four-page spread; music gives us Kim Wilde ("That pout! Those hits!), Pet Shop Boys, Kris Kross (jump, jump!), Ugly Kid Joe and Four Non Blondes. There's an ad for the Janet Jackson film Poetic Justice - and a film review; and a box on 'stars and their bad habits' (Tom Crusie = miming to songs; Sharon Stone = wearing no knickers). There's an interview with a guy named Justin King, who was a Girlfriend model but has his own band, Chill Factor. 'Loud Americans' profiles Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine (learn all the facts about your fave band!).

Advertisers: Coca-Cola, Yardley Oatmeal skin products (modelled by the band Girlfriend!), Bodypaint, Jenkins shoes, Hound Dog, Andrea hair removal products, Voodoo Dolls, Nair, Schwarzkopf Napro LIVE, Carefree...

There's not a lot of girl-empowerment going on between these pages, but there are a whole bunch of models, skinny celebrities and ads featuring bikini models. There's more interest in male celebrities than female celebs (who are gossiped about), with no feature stories devoted to girls on TV/film, though there are, of course, those two pages of the Taylor sisters ("the luckiest schoolgirls in the world"). Not a lot of looks/body/aspiration diversity going on here – even the staffers are trying to lose weight for summer in the health feature. I feel bad for my thirteen-year-old self (and worse still for the pimple-faced, frizzy-haired, braces-wearing, puppy-fat-cushioned 15-year-old she became!).

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


Anonymous said...

Can I ask what the "DPS" acronym stands for? It's been used a few times and I just can't work it out!

frangipani princess said...

Scary! That magazine was written before I was even born! And is it bad that I don't know who the Taylor sisters are? I love looking at old magazines - at a sleepover once a friend and I spent the entire time reading her mums Dolly's from the 80's. Looking at that cover, there seems to be hardly any coverlines compared to magazines today. And it only cost $3.20!!!! Golly gosh! The new issue today cost me $5.50 and it's one of the cheaper mags on the market! Thanks for posting this review Erica!!

gg xx

Poodle Soup said...

Oh my goodness, I remember this issue!!! Can so remember my crush on those gorgeous Harvey brothers and wanting to be just like Nikki Taylor. S

Anonymous said...

Erica that is BRILLIANT. I had that issue! I think it was my first issue of GF and I was obsessed with magazines ever since!

Can you please post more of these? Esp anything from 1993-1995.

I used to live on Seventeen magazine!

Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) said...

Sorry, that's industry parlance for Double Page Spread!

Anonymous said...

Erica who was the ed back then??

Give us the masthead run down...

ahhh, the memories!

Anonymous said...

Erica who was the ed back then??

Give us the masthead run down...

ahhh, the memories!

Anonymous said...

I still have this issue too!