Mags: Mia Freedman does 'Glossy Vision'

Where's the I.T. guy when you need him? That's a question I often find myself asking when Mia Freedman and I get a chance to chat about blogging issues... of which, there are many, like how I spent half my day working out how to use iMovie and upload a clip to YouTube (hope it's worth it for you, guys!).

Having recently upgraded, while, you know, writing a memoir, appearing on Today, writing her weekly Sunday Life column, chairing the Body Image Advisory Board and raising three children, I've always been amazed by Mia's capacity to find the time to have a chat. She is extremely generous: with her time, advice and encouragement, thanks, in part, to the mentoring she received as a wet-behind-the-ears editor at ACP.

It's this spirit of generosity that permeates her memoir. I believe it is a kind thing for women who are in the public eye to be open about their shortcomings and failures... when the timing is right. For example, it probably wouldn't be a good idea for Anna Wintour to all of a sudden get openly teary about how hard it is to maintain her visage of perfection. Because that is what she peddles as the editor of Vogue. In the same vein, while Mia was editor of Cosmopolitan, she chose not to share the fact that she was married or had children with her readers in order to maintain her relatability.

Currently on the periphery of the magazine industry (she maintains strong friendships with former colleagues but now is lucky to find the time to flick through the odd issue of Who), Mia is in a place where she feels confident to open up about her frailties and life's challenges. And she does so in her memoir – to the point where I feel like she might be overcompensating for her success. But her realism – and humour – is something that clearly resonates with women. The proof's in the blog traffic.

I hope you enjoy my chat with Mia, whose memoir, Mama Mia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines and Motherhood (HarperCollins; $27.99), went on sale today (buy it here!). Please excuse my excessive 'ums', 'kind ofs' and amateur production values: this is new territory for GWAS (yeah, yeah, video is, like, the new frontier in blogging... five years ago). Oh, and turn the volume down on your computer!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

P.S. Having "issues" with the video? Head to YouTube to watch it.

Girl Talk: Glamour gives good belly

The female side of the blogosphere formed a celebratory conga line this week, with a picture of "plus-sized" model Lizzi Miller from Glamour's September issue (page 194) spreading like swine flu, triggered off by editor Cindi Lieve's blog post in response to the positive feedback the mag's received about the shot. Lieve writes:

"I'd loved this photo at first sight myself--we'd commissioned it for a story on feeling comfortable in your skin, and wanted a model who looked like she was. But even so, the letters blew me away: "the most amazing photograph I've ever seen in any women's magazine," wrote one reader in Pavo, Georgia. From another in Somerset, Massachusetts: "This beautiful woman has a real stomach and did I even see a few stretch marks? This is how my belly looks after giving birth to my two amazing kids! This photo made me want to shout from the rooftops."

The emails were filled with such joy--joy at seeing a woman's body with all the curves and quirks and rolls found in nature. (Raising a question: With all the six-packs out there, do you even know what a normal belly looks like anymore--other than the one you see in the mirror?)

So what's the story behind the photo? "The woman on p. 194" is actually 20-year-old model Lizzi Miller, and this is her second appearance in Glamour, shot by fashion photographer Walter Chin. A size 12-14 and avid softball player/belly dancer ("I like exercising when it's fun"), Lizzi moved to New York City from San Jose three years ago to become a model (a "plus-size" one by modeling industry standards, though hello, at size 12 she's actually "normal size"...but I digress).

"When I was young I really struggled with my body and how it looked because I didn't understand why my friends were so effortlessly skinny," Lizzi told me. "As I got older I realized that everyone's body is different and not everyone is skinny naturally--me included! I learned to love my body for how it is, every curve of it. I used to be so self-conscious in a bikini because my stomach wasn't perfectly defined. But everyone has different body shapes! And it's not all about the physical! If you walk on the beach in your bikini with confidence and you feel sexy, people will see you that way too."

The fact that we are all so ecstatic about Lizzi's little tummy speaks VOLUMES about women wanting to see themselves – and their bodies – reflected in the pages of the glossies. To that end, Glamour has done a very generous, altruistic thing for the female population. I hope this issue sells its knickers off. But it also speaks VOLUMES about the types of images we've become accustomed to seeing, which make Lizzie the exception rather than the rule.

Jezebel's Margaret writes: "Being the ladymag with the most body diversity isn't that hard when your competition is Vogue. Both pictures of Miller were included in articles about body acceptance and May's plus-size swimsuit spread was a rarity. Every other model featured in this month's Glamour was very thin."

And it's not like Lizzie made the cover; she was relegated to a "three by three inch" spot tucked inside the mag while Jessica Simpson scored the cover. But, as Mia Freedman – who as editor of Cosmopolitan once placed a size-16 Sara-Marie Fidel on a flip-cover also featuring Britney Spears – writes, "baby steps". The glossies tread a very thin line between aspiration and reality (Kelly Clarkson Photoshopped for SELF, anyone?): but is what we consider "inspirational" changing? And are the glossies using the obesity epidemic, in addition to the fashion industry's insistence of providing small "sample sizes", as a scapegoat for keeping their girls within the trim size 6-12 body range? Viva la body diversity revolution, I say.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: state of the (mag)nation (June 2009 audit)

Looking at the latest Audit Bureau of Circulation figures, it's plain to see why editorial heads have rolled at ACP Magazines: amongst the titles reporting losses are Woman's Day, NW, The Australian Women's Weekly and Harper's Bazaar, all which have new editors at their helm.

In all, 202 million audited magazines sold in Australia over the June 2008-June 2009 audit period representing a 4.7% decline. Clearly consumers are being picky about where they spend their discretionary dollars. Herewith a breakdown of sales results across key female-oriented categories...


With its $3.50 pricing strategy, catchy covers and cheeky content, Famous is breaking open the champagne to celebrate a 20% circulation gain, while OK! maintains its position and the other glossips experience sales setbacks. Trailing the pack with sales of 66,240 per week, and now sharing staff with Harper's Bazaar, Grazia is defiantly hanging in there with a small increase (no year-on-year data available yet). Is it the Lindsay Lohan of magazines?


Poor Cleo can't catch a break, reporting another circulation dip of -10%, while its ACP sister title Cosmopolitan makes a nominal sales gain. Jamie Huckbody has already suffered for Harper's Bazaar's sales losses, though the ACP fashion monthly is ahead of News Magazines' Vogue Australia by 715 average monthly copy sales. SHOP Til You Drop, as predicted, continues to impress on the fashion front, while Pacific Magazines' Marie Claire maintains its position. Not even Magda could stop The Weekly from dipping below sales of 500,000 year-on-year.


Dolly editor Gemma Crisp will be doing a happy dance, with the teen title extending its lead over Girlfriend (not to detract from editorial excellence but, clearly, the covermounts are working).


After relaunching in June, Good Health has posted a small but promising circulation gain; still, it's Pacific Magazines' Women's Health that continues to make impressive sales gains. Perhaps Weight Watchers readers are switching to Healthy Food Guide and Diabetic Living (that, or they didn't get the memo about it going monthly?).


Pacific Magazines claims a 60% share of the home and lifestyle magazine market, a category which is up 4.3% year-on-year, with the publisher's Better Homes and Gardens contributing an impressive 10.5% circulation gain.


Perhaps Aussies have been content to get their serving of food content via TV's MasterChef, which aired from late April to July 2009, as category sales are down almost across the board? This audit welcomes ACP's BBC affiliated title Australian Good Food to the fold with the possibility of some readers switching to the title in a wider market offering.

Readership snapshot: The women's lifestyle category is up 4.1%; fashion is up 0.9%; men's lifestyle is up 13.2%; teen is up 4%; though home and lifestyle fell 0.5% and 0.2% respectively, reports Mediaweek. The Australian Women's Weekly is still the number-one read title in the country, with 2.2 million monthly readers. mUmbrella reports the major readership swings in the women's market were felt by NW (down 31% to 363,000); Notebook (down 23% to 261,000); and Harper’s Bazaar (down 19% to 191,000).

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Pretty: Beauty eds with cred (an oxymoron?)

I am slowly making my way through Mia Freedman's memoir, Mama Mia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines and Motherhood (out September 1), not because it's boring or I have the reading ability of a five-year-old (debatable) but because it's the sort of book you don't want to end – like the Lindt Ball of literature, it is to be savoured, not scoffed.

I felt the same way about India Knight's The Shops, one of my most beloved 'girlie reads' (not 'chick-lit' but 'girlie', as there is no female protagonist trying to find happiness; it's mostly just Knight waxing lyrical about her love of shopping), as well as Knight's newbie The Thrift Book, which would seem to contradict The Shops in purpose but doesn't. We girls are excellent at sharing information and when it's done in a creative, entertaining way, with pretty packaging, we eat it up.

Anyway, both Knight and Freedman delve into the role of the beauty editor in their respective books, providing some insight into one of the most important (but seemingly not) roles on a magazine. While ostensibly glamorous, it's a sucky sort of position, as if you have any inclinations towards being taken seriously, as a "proper journalist", you find yourself spending a lot of time and energy validating what you do (to wit: write about lip-gloss and peptides).

Which is silly and sad, because, frankly, girls like to read about lipgloss. And if there's no one prepared to do it, because it's not a lofty journalistic calling, how would we learn to decipher our Dior Addict from our Dior Kiss; our AHAs from UVAs? Getting your first Lancome Juicy Tube is like a right of passage. But is this because magazines have CREATED this right to wear $40 shiny-sticky lip stuff to suit Lancome's business interests? Or do we just REALLY LIKE expensive shiny-sticky lip stuff?

Knight warns her readers: "Please do bear in mind that editorial coverage of beauty products in your favourite glossy magazine is inextricably and fundamentally linked to advertising, that no glossies can survive without advertising, ergo that id X's new cosmetics line is an utter disaster, you're unlikely to read a trenchant critique of it in Lovely Me magazine. When I worked on a glossy, in the early 1990s, we'd shoot the cover girl and then simply invent whatever products the make-up artist was supposed to have used on her to match the brand name of the expensive ad on the back cover. So if Dior had spent thousands and thousands advertising on the back, we'd say the make-up used on Miss Supermodel was by Dior. We made it up... I used to wonder about the poor girl who'd saved up to buy the lipstick Christy Turlington was supposed to be wearing, and who'd ask herself why it looked so different on her."

Freedman leaps to the defence of her beauty editor comrades, intellectualising the role and giving credit to the magazine reader: "A smart beauty editor can lubricate the passage of advertising dollars from the client into the magazine. She understands both the implicit and explicit connections between advertising and editorial. She knows how to keep clients happy without compromising her editorial integrity. Well, no more than she has to, anyway. It's an open secret that big advertisers are looked after on the editorial pages of virtually every magazine in which their ads appear. There is so much competition for a limited pool of advertising dollars that ethical lines are often blurred. The basic equation is simple: we'll give you positive editorial mentions for as long as you give us advertising dollars... But it's not quite as simple as a cash-for-comment. Not always. If an advertiser pays tens of thousands of dollars to buy a dozen ad pages in your magazine, it will only be because their products are targeted directly to your readers' demographic. Chanel won't buy pages in Dolly, they'll advertise in Vogue. So it's not exactly a stretch for Vogue to write about Chanel lipstick."

Freedman goes on to suggest that a good beauty editor will find a way to present advertiser products in a fair and creative way: "Writing beauty copy is part science, part politics and part bullshit with a sprinkling of journalism on top. There is a language of beauty writing steeped heavily in cheesy cliche that's best avoided if you want to succeed."

I was a beauty editor once upon a time and it was really hard work, albeit with a lot of nice rewards. Prior to taking on the role, I'd also spent 12 months making remuneration sound interesting in a corporate PR role, as well as penning copy about Yu-Gi-Oh! and DragonballZ for a kids' magazine, so the prospect of waxing lyrical about the latest L'Oreal product didn't seem such a stretch. Easy peasy! But when you have to write about said L'Oreal products month after month, and find yourself caught in a monotonous cycle of hair/skin/perfume/body stories and attending launches for leg-wax when you'd rather be at home on the couch, it's hard to muster the enthusiasm to write chirpy copy about teeth whitening. Which is why beauty editors need all the inspiration and encouragement they can get – and a little respect*.

In Freedman's conclusion to her tenure as beauty editor of Cleo, she writes: "Like working in a chocolate factory, the perks soon lose their perkiness. There were only so many posh restaurants you could be wined and dined at. Only so many lipsticks and mascaras and mascaras and nail polishes you could wear. Or give to friends. Or stash in cupboards for future use. Only so many glasses of champagne you could sip while discussing the relative merits of free radicals as a skincare ingredient. It was a dream job in so many ways. But I had a different dream."

And, on that note, I'm off to get my hair cut and coloured with a stash of magazine references in my satchel!

See also, 'In Defence of Beauty Editors'.

* That said, I'm not a huge fan of some of the beauty writing suggesting that all our prayers will be answered with a tube of $400 face cream or jab of Botox!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Girl In Media – Megan Hess

When I lamented last week that Vogue Australia had missed a great opportunity to promote local talent by commissioning a UK-based illustrator to produce its September anniversary issue covers, Megan Hess is one name I had in mind.

Melbourne-based Hess has an unmistakably sophisticated, cosmopolitan and Vogue-esque sensibility – her inspirations include fashion, art, travel, Hepburn, vintage finds and film noir – with the illustrious international career to match (her commissions range from Chanel to TIME).

In fact, the majority of her regular clientele are based in New York. So, it's no coincidence that Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell called upon Hess to create the cover for One Fifth Avenue: she is the Carrie Bradshaw (or, keeping it local, the Yasmin Sewell) of illustration. A truly inspiring 'Girl In Media', here's what she has to say about art, the glossies and her fairytale (and 'Femme Fatale') career...

"I got a call in the middle of the night from Candace Bushnell’s publisher asking if I would illustrate her next novel..."

Can you tell us how your passion for illustration and design evolved? What activities did you enjoy as a little girl? I always loved drawing and it was that one thing that I was good at. From the time I was about 10 years old, I went to art classes every Saturday and I looked forward to it all week.

Where did you study after school? I studied Graphic Design at Griffith University because it felt like the closest thing to a ‘real job’ in the art world. It was never quite the right career for me but it lead me to finally being an artist, so I’m very grateful that I did that now.

How did you get your career started? After working as an art director in various ad agencies for several years, I packed everything up and moved to London where I worked in a million different creative jobs. It was in my final job in London, working as the art director for Liberty department store, that I realized that I had a burning desire to be an artist.

The budgets [at Liberty] were huge and the creative people that I worked with still give me goose bumps. We had billboards with model Erin O’Connor dancing with elephants; it was just amazing. While I loved art directing fashion, I loved illustrating it more. I started to do very small illustrations for Liberty and from this little commissions began to follow.

After about a year, I found myself with non-stop work. I wasn’t earning a fortune, but I’d never been happier and I knew regardless of finances I was going to do this forever. As my clients got bigger and better, I was able to be a little more selective and just work on briefs that I knew had a great creative opportunity.

Then, in 2006, I got a call in the middle of the night from Candace Bushnell’s publisher asking if I would illustrate her next novel One Fifth Avenue. After that, things took off at rapid speed! Her book became a New York Times best seller and I meet with Candace and she asked me to illustrate all her previous books including the cover of Sex and The City. Once Sex and the City was released, I was contacted by TIME magazine in New York to create portraits for them. This was a dream come true; I still can’t believe I work for them!

Following this, I was invited by Bloomingdales to create a new look for the store. This involved illustrating everything from new fashion collections by designers such as Marc Jacobs and Chanel, to window display and full page brand illustrations in The New York Times. They are still my biggest client. Right now I'm working on their next fashion campaign.

What was your first illustration commission for a magazine? It was a ¼-page illustration for ELLE UK . I was living in London and working at Liberty at the time. I remember racing to the newsagent to see if it had come out. I probably bought 100 copies!

Who have been some of your mentors/inspirations? Erte. I think he was, and still is, the greatest illustrator of all time.

"I’ll bring my little digital camera with me in case I see something interesting."

What does a typical day involve for you? I work from home in my studio. So it’s breakfast, then I check all deadlines to make sure I’m on track. I always try to leave lots of time for the initial concept stage, because you never want to rush that bit. Once an image is working, it comes together very quickly, but if I’m not happy with something I could re-draw it a hundred times.

When you're lacking inspiration, what do you do? Get out of the studio. I usually try to not think of the brief and instead just go for a walk or look at unrelated things. Give my thoughts some space.

Do you keep a journal/sketch pad with you at all times? I should but often don’t have one on me when I have an idea. If I’m really looking for inspiration, I’ll bring my little digital camera with me in case I see something interesting. I usually have a little pile of things that have inspired me that week. It could include a postcard, an old photograph, fabric, anything really.

"Every month I buy Vanity Fair, US Vogue and Italian Vogue."

You launched a beauty brand, Femme Fatale, with your sister Kerrie, which is how I first came to know of you. Can you tell us about that experience? About eight years ago, Kerrie and I decided to create a little range of bath and body products which we called ‘Femme Fatale’. Initially we sold our range in Henri Bendel exclusively, and it was very small and boutique. Then it took off in a big way. We were featured in Vanity Fair and, before we knew it, we had stores from here to Tuscany wanting to stock our range.

While we loved creating the products, the business just got too big and we hadn’t spent a single day doing anything creative for a long time. So we decided to still continue doing what we loved (the creative bit) and get someone to handle all the other bits. Right now we’re in development to create some lovely new things, but we’re taking our time with it.

Outside of design/illustration, what are your interests? I love to travel and watch films. I also have a huge interest in architecture and interior design. I’ll often flip through an architecture book just before bed.

Which magazines do you read? Every month I buy Vanity Fair, US Vogue and Italian Vogue. And then it just depends what I’m working on, or which mags look good that month. I might buy an interior mag or Conde Nast Traveler. Last week I was working on some menswear illustrations for Bloomingdales, so I bought every men’s fashion mag that looked interesting. Other months I might be illustrating bridal images, so I’ll buy some bridal mags. It changes every month..

Which blogs/websites do you frequent?
GWAS: I find this website incredibly helpful to what I do. I’m so glad you started your site.
Mamamia: I love that Mia brings a sense of humor to things funny, sad and everything in between. She is one of my favorite writers.
The Sartorialist: Great for style inspiration
WWD: I love the fashion market news. Great runway coverage Because most of my work is in New York, I like to keep up with what’s happening when I’m not here. This is my favourite distraction!

"As magazines search for more of a point of difference I think they will use more illustration."

Can you give us an idea of illustration trends in the mag industry? The first magazines ever created only used illustration, but today the amount of illustration used is relatively small. I think there’s so much more room for illustrations in mags today, and I feel a rush of joy when I see anyone’s illustration in a magazine. We’ll always be secondary to photography and, like most people, I too love beautiful fashion photography. But as magazines search for more of a point of difference I think they will use more illustration.

Are there some key titles who use illustration really well? The indie mags definitely do use more illustrations; and they do it well. I illustrate for Fashion Trend magazine here, and it’s one my favorite clients because they me give a full page to draw one beautiful runway image from the latest collections. I’ll often do a few pages like this for them each month, and it’s such a joy to do because the image just speaks for itself. Many international fashion magazines also do much more Illustration than most Australian titles. I was recently flipping through FLAIR magazine and they had about 20 fashion pages all illustrated. It’s not unusual to see this in high-end European fashion titles.

How do you think illustration complements a magazine's aesthetic offering? I think it can break the visual monotony. It can also capture something that sometimes photography just can’t. Illustration can make a magazine unique and refreshing. A great illustration can stop you in your tracks.

Who are some of the stand-out/popular illustrators in the industry now, and where can we see their work? Many of my favorite illustrators are on My favourite of all time, though, is Erte. What I love about him is that he completely ignored all fashion trends and created his own world of fashion images. Most of his work was quite simple, in black and white, but every image created drama and a sense of escapism. He will be forever my biggest inspiration.

And I've no doubt Megan will inspire many aspiring young illustrators herself!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Girl Talk: Extreme role models

Way back in 2005, a little known stylist named Rachel Zoe Rosenzweig sashayed her way into our collective consciousness as she fashioned her Young Hollywood underlings into youthful versions of herself.
Oversized sunglasses, aircraft-carrier 'It' bags, chunky gold jewellery, Grecian gowns and dark tans became the signature accessories du jour, further dwarfing (if not disguising the extent of) her clients' diminished bodies.

Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton, Keira Knightley and her makeover raison d'etre, Nicole Richie, became her calling cards, their pictures the staple diet of tabloid magazines proffering the latest celebrity diet tips. She claimed to be "more influential" than Anna Wintour. She published a book. She secured her own TV show deal. All the glossies featured her style tips, some enlisting her as a regular columnist. Her image – and that of her proteges – was everywhere.

But there was a sinister flipside to her rising star: Perez Hilton dubbed her 'Raisinface'; she was singled out for creating the 'Size 0' phenomenon; The New York Times called her a "pox on humanity" for "exploiting an aesthetic of dissipation"; and, in the ultimate face slap, Nicole Richie turned on her via MySpace writing, "What 35 year old raisin face whispers her order of 3 pieces of asparagus for dinner at Chateau everynight, and hides her deathly disorder by pointing the finger at me, and used her last paycheck I wrote her to pay for a publicist instead of a nutritionist?".

Scapegoat for the super-skinny celebrity phenomenon, which arguably started when Mary-Kate Olsen went wayward beneath her bag-lady clothes (and with the fashion industry before that), she may have been, but Zoe's influence was undeniable and far reaching, more to the detriment of women than their betterment. And it wasn't entirely her fault – the media couldn't get enough of her and her acolytes. She sold glossies. And they put this interest ahead of any thought of the negative affect her omnipresence (whether as herself or in the form of one of her charges) might have on women.

Fast forward to 2009 and it's like we're experiencing the Rachel Zoe phenomenon all over again, only this time it's in the form of celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson. Her "underlings" are Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, two of the most influential celebrities in the world. She claims to be able to re-shape any body to a svelte, virtually fat-free, "teeny-tiny" version of its former self.

In fact, it is her mission in life to see to it that every woman has the opportunity to look and feel amazing in her body, as she tells Sunday Life, she wants to give every woman "the tools to look and feel their best and to be able to do everything 100 per cent. To love their bodies, to absolutely not have cellulite, to not spend their money on gimmicks, to not have their emotions messed with. To not think they can't lose the baby weight – no way! Don't even go down that miserable road! My method is the best girlfriend you could ever have!". There are certainly more unworthy callings.

And she's getting her message out there via the press, the glossies, Oprah (who was really into The Secret at one stage, you might recall), her own website and DVDs, and Gwyneth's lifestyle website GOOP. Her working mantra (aka "The Tracy Anderson Method") is about pushing yourself harder with each workout and to use all your muscles, lest some of them become lazy (a word that registers alongside "hate" and "hell" in her vocabulary).

She sees herself as a superhero sent to earth to save womankind from its natural inclination towards curvature of a softer nature: "I walk down the street and it's almost like a superhero feeling, like, 'I could do this for that person.' It's about getting the content and information out there. So I decided to use the internet to offer mini-moves all the time that people can add on to the DVD routines."

Like Zoe before her, it's Anderson's extremism and cultish following that sends alarm bells ringing. Rather than replacing solid meals with Starbucks coffee, she favours grueling workouts, dismissing Bikram yoga and Pilates as valid forms of exercise, as "lots of dancers have horrible bodies", says running gives you an ugly butt and endorses daily, hour-long workouts to achieve "hot body" perfection. She is Hitler in hot pants.

But she could also be classified as bulimic – the type that compensates for food consumption by exercising, confessing that, "When I first met them [Madonna and Paltrow], I literally was dunking a double-stuffed Oreo into a can of processed icing...", though now she just eats a brownie every morning and is "buttercream-frosting-obsessed".

A year ago, I spoke with Marion Maclean ( about "anorexia athletica" (aka compulsive exercise), a condition which she had suffered and I could strongly identify with. Unlike anorexia and bulimia, exercise is socially acceptable and encouraged – but like its eating disorder cousins, over-exercise becomes a problem when it affects the sufferer's quality of life. Symptoms include:

- feeling guilty or anxious when you miss a workout
- exercising even when sick or hurt
- skipping family time, time with friends or other obligations to work out
- calculating exercise according to calorie intake
- an inability to sit still
- reduction in calorie intake to compensate for lack of exercise

Like a strict diet, the kind of intensive, dedicated workouts that Anderson condones can't possibly be sustainable over the long term. And there's a danger in becoming so obsessed with the amazing results these workouts have on your body that you can't foresee living your life without them and/or your self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the after-buzz of an exercise session and a trimmer tummy.

Of course, I advocate exercise. But any kind of extremism can only be to the detriment of one's physical, emotional and mental health (the proof's in my own pudding!). Is it a coincidence that Rachel Zoe's former client Mischa Barton has battled with weight and body image demons? Or that Madonna's marriage collapsed under the strain of her rigid adherence to a strict exercise schedule (I know, I know, it's more complex than that, but I strongly believe it may have been a contributing factor).

Rather than promoting the causes of these prophets of body submission, I think it's a far safer and more responsible proposition to find women who sit somewhere in the middle with regards to health to speak into our lives. I have nothing personal against Zoe or Anderson, of course – I'm sure they're both lovely people – but what they symbolise and espouse is, frankly, dangerous behaviour.

My current preferred health and wellbeing role model is Sarah Wilson, the former MasterChef host and Cosmopolitan editor whose Sunday Life column has fast become a wholesome weekly must-read for me, probably because I can identify with her journey of returning to full health via a more holistic, balanced approach (unlike me, she suffered from Hashimotos, a form of thyroid disease, which also caused her to hit physical rock bottom).

A self-described "shocking reward snacker", in her latest 'A Better Life' column she writes, "I don't do diets. I like to think it's because I'm intellectually above them (statistically they fail, they're destructive, look what they did to Princess Di), but it's more that I'm not good at "not doing" things. Being told to refrain or limit myself makes me want to do the opposite... So to put my treat habit in check, as of this week I do eat chocolate. But it's not the grab-and-shove; it's dark, expensive and worthy of treat status... There should be a poignancy, with every surge of saliva enjoyed. There should be a true reward, with closure... This gentle, kind framing of food is gaining momentum and has emerged as the 'positive eating' movement overseas. The principle is simple – achieve wellness and your happy weight by approaching food with positive and conscious intent."

Asparagus for dinner? Treadmill for lunch? Forgedaboutit – Wilson's approach sounds more like my cup of (green) tea.

"Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to to his life?" Matthew 6:25

Yours truly,
Girl With a satchel

Girl Talk: Domestic blitz

This morning Husband and I had the sort of heated argument that could power up a MasterChef kitchen. And gosh it felt good. We fought good and hard and loud, and afterward I felt amazing. I'd had my say, and, surprisingly, graciously admitted defeat... or, at least, a truce.

This whopper was about housework or, rather, the (un)fair and equitable division of it. Apparently, Aussie blokes are the worst in the world when it comes to helping out about the home, so I'm clearly not alone in my frustration with Husband's inability to perform menial tasks, such as the washing up or a load of laundry or cooking dinner. Dirty dishes, piles of unwashed clothes, bags of garbage, crumbs and the like are simply invisible to him – not on his radar. In his eyes, inside the home is my domain; outside is his. Heaven forbid should we have children – his idea of cleaning them will be taking them outside for a hosing down (hello, DOCS calling).

To be fair, we live on a 10-acre farm property owned by his parents, which requires him to mow a lot, attend to general maintenance and pick and pack avodacos for sale three months each year (which "we" do to pay the rent). Also, being borderline OCD, I'm not averse to cleaning and tidying and keeping things in order. The amount of time I invest in performing such tasks is really my choice – and I choose not to live in a pig-sty.

The argument, which took place in the kitchen – the hub of domestic life – started with a pile of laundry, built over a bit of bed-making and climaxed with the cleaning of a pile of dirty dishes. Worn down by the daily grind, I let loose with a rant about how unfair it was that I spent a good part of my day attending to such things, when I had far better things to do with my time – like blogging! I tallied up the hours for him: an hour in the kitchen each day cooking and cleaning up, four hours a week of washing, three hours of cleaning every Saturday morning = 12 hours of domestic duties each week, and then some. He retaliated with his list of outside duties and the avos. He had me at the avos.

Without wanting to come across all anti-feminist, I think I've been somewhat conditioned by society, television producers and the media to believe that housework is evil, unfair and beneath me as a professional, educated working woman. I'm not supposed to enjoy it or get some sort of warped satisfaction from performing it – I'm to loathe it, and begrudge my husband for trapping me into a lifetime of domestic subservience. Housework sucks, right? In Desperate Housewives, for example, the mere idea of domestic duty is associated with boredom, suicide and murder!

Additionally, there's the superficial "Martha Stewart complex" pressure of having your house look like something from the pages of a glossy interiors magazine or Spray-n-Wipe commercial. We can choose to buy into that, too. Who's setting the standards, anyway?

I think it's grossly unfair that women who live in apartments or homes requiring little outdoor maintenance should get lumbered with all the required household work – more particularly, those with children to rear (which, I imagine, adds to the "inside" duties a thousand fold).

But I'm slowly beginning to accept my lot and find joy in the domesticity rather than fight, tirelessly and fruitlessly, against it. My mother worked full-time, reared two girls (no mean feat!) and kept our house spotless – and I don't ever remember her complaining about it. In fact, the first time I think I heard a woman whinge about domestic duty was Peggy on Married... With Children, followed by Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond (who I still think is awesome).

Is this, therefore, a GenX/Y thing? Have we become a bit soft around the edges? Afraid of putting in the hard yards on the homefront for fear of betraying our feminist forebears or getting our designer dresses dirty? Are we getting our knickers in a knot for no good reason? Or are we really hard done by?

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Scoop: InsideOut gets a makeover

It's not all about Vogue, you know. In fact, the fashion glossy's News Magazines' stablemate InsideOut has a few surprises between its September issue sleeves ready to hit shelves tomorrow.

With a relatively small circulation of 48,372 copies*, the prestige bi-monthly is
beloved by a dedicated group of interiors nuts who get more pleasure from furnishing rooms than fashioning outfits. Much like Vogue, it covers local design and retail, while also maintaining an international focus, featuring inspiring individuals with equally aspirational homes. Vogue and InsideOut share a certain aesthetic sensibility, though the interiors title is a little more, um, approachable; homely, even (well, I'll be!).

I imagine the InsideOut girl (cousin to Vogue's "Uptown Girl"), spends more time on The Selby than The Sartorialist; shops for vintage cushion covers rather than shoes; keeps her linen closet well stocked and her desk drawer in order; and can tell you exactly where to find the perfect duck blue wallpaper for your newly renovated 'space'.

Editorial director and published author Karen McCartney (pictured) talked to GWAS about her passion for interiors magazines, the evolution of InsideOut and what we can anticipate with the redesigned September issue...

GWAS: You have an extensive editorial career. Have you always been passionate about the design category? Before I came to Australia [from the UK], I mainly worked as an editor in fashion and general lifestyle but had started to become interested in home and interiors and did some work for British Elle Decoration. My full passion for interiors and design was unleashed when I moved to Australia and worked on the launch of marie claire lifestyle.

[Karen oversees Notebook: and Country Style, in addition to InsideOut]. How do you divide your time between the magazines you oversee? Are you very hands-on? Basically my role breaks down into three parts; I am the day-to-day editor of InsideOut, I oversee Country Style and Notebook:, and I am the voice of editorial matters in our executive management team. I am very hands-on as editor of InsideOut and am involved in design, copy and concepts for features, as well as marketing and advertising relationships around the brand. I have a fantastic team of people who I have worked with for a long time, so we have a sort of creative shorthand in our communication that makes life easy. With both Country Style and Notebook:, I am there for the editors to discuss anything to do with the business of editing — I am a sounding board and a support.

You were founding editor of InsideOut. Can you tell us about the launch? How did you get involved? I was editing [Matt Handbury's) marie claire lifestyle at the time and was approached by News Magazines — now, almost ten years ago. News Magazines had researched a gap in the homemaker market defined by an inspiring/practical positioning and, convinced by the research, I moved across to launch the magazine. It was a pretty stressful time because News Magazines was at an embryonic stage as a division, and we had to staff up and launch in just under four months. News Limited was incredibly supportive and has continued to be so.

How has InsideOut evolved since its inception? We launched with a determination to produce a package that inspired and excited the reader but also delivered real, actionable information and that is something we have stuck to. The delivery of that message, in terms of the art direction, has changed but the core philosophy has not. I do believe our strength has come from the level of service journalism we provide, where not only do you see the home but also, for example, find out what floor stain they have used. We know our readers are at a very active stage of homemaking and we cater for that interest.

How has the GFC affected the magazine's editorial direction? It hasn't changed it fundamentally because InsideOut has always reflected the shopping spectrum, from Space to Ikea, but you would be crazy not to respond. InsideOut's tag line is 'inspiring homes with heart' and to that end we tend to feature houses where the personality of the owners is evident. Often it is about collections and ideas where money spent isn't the primary driver and that sets us apart. I am very conscious of the price of things and have briefed the stylists to consider whether the things they use are value for money, even at the higher end. The magazine needs to stay inspiring and reflect the energy and excitement of products in the marketplace, but we don't want readers falling off their chairs when they see the price tag.

How is InsideOut holding up against competitors? In the up-market, bimonthly section of the market, InsideOut is the market leader. Our circulation took a small drop last period but I am pleased to say we have had strong sales this year which will be reflected in the next audit.

The interiors category is almost as big (if not larger) than fashion. How does a magazine stand out in a crowded market? Australia has a tremendous selection of interiors magazines that I believe are amongst the best in the world. Lifestyle and home is something we are good at. All the titles have their own spot, their own readers and community, and at present there seems to be room for all. InsideOut has carved a niche where it is up-market but approachable. We do not assume that our readers will know all the latest designers — we are happy to tell them. We do the research and tell our readers where to find pieces and what they can expect to pay for them. We put great emphasis on detail and information — and the hard work shows. Our readers know they are buying a quality, well-considered product.

Has the proliferation of design/interiors blogs and websites affected your readership, or are they more of an accessory? In the redesign we have increased the amount of blog and web contacts and references. It is a great source of further information and we are keen to embrace the potential and service it can be to our readers. I don't think it is a threat, more of a parallel resource.

InsideOut has its own blog: has this been an important part of brand extension/connecting with readers? Doing the blog has been great fun. Our deputy chief sub, Lee Tran Lam, runs it and it is there for staff enthusiasms and things that we think are great but aren't compatible with our deadlines. The blog helps give all the staff on the magazine a voice and an opportunity to highlight what interests them. While we are exploring a broader online presence, the blog allows us to connect with the readers in that space.

How do you manage the balance between supporting designers/the industry and delivering value for readers? Are there strict guidelines in terms of pushing product? At the end of the day it just has to be about the readers, and they are fairly savvy about when magazines cross the line. I guess my role is to police that. I do, however, realise what a hard job the ad department have and if they suggest something that, for me, goes too far I try and make an alternative suggestion that they can take to the client. There is usually a compromise. Fortunately, most of our advertisers have a natural fit with the magazine.

What got you and the team thinking about a redesign? It is always tricky. We last redesigned when we went bimonthly in 2004 and while we haven't stood still since then, we just felt a bit of a refresh was due. We have endeavoured not to throw the baby out with the bathwater — and there are lots of things we have left the same. I think it is about constantly engaging the reader, feeling that the pages are cared for and considered. The magazine is the result of a dedicated, happy team and that shines through in the redesign.

Do your readers appreciate change or do you anticipate a backlash? You never know with readers, and some might be very attached to the previous treatment, but I think that they will enjoy the refresh. It isn't too radical. When we redesigned Country Style some readers were upset but wrote back a couple of months later to say that they had come to terms with the changes and continued to enjoy the magazine. It is more dangerous to ignore change and fall behind.

What are some of the key changes in the redesign? We have concentrated on changing the upfront news pages to capture more of what is going on in the areas of design, shops, books, blogs and creative people, be they artists or architects. Again, working into the notion of 'inspiring homes with heart' and that sense of personal connection. Creative director Tracy Lines has used hand-drawn lines, textured paper, handwriting and a typewriter face to warm up the pages.

What's your hope for the future of InsideOut? InsideOut has forged its place in the magazine world through a distinctive editorial positioning and an adherence to quality in everything we do. We place a great deal of emphasis on being good to deal with, whether it is with editorial contributors, advertisers or marketing partners. As a brand we will have been going for 10 years next April, and there are plans afoot for various brand extensions and creative partnerships.

Let's hope readers and mag-stand browsers embrace the new look. Congrats to the team!
*March 2009 ABC audit results

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Notes: The blogger laid bare (in Cosmo!)

While Kyle Sandilands appears to have got his career comeuppance, I'm coming out of the closet via Cosmopolitan with a wee cautionary tale about a girl, a blog and an aversion to cake...

A few months ago Cosmo contacted me and asked if I'd care to pen some words about my body issues for a compilation feature called 'The Secret History of My Body'. Editor Bronwyn McCahon had picked up on some sentiments I'd expressed via the blog and her features director, Caelia (a good friend of mine) set about sensitively broaching the subject. The story is in the September issue, on sale today.

I was extremely impressed with the care taken in commissioning and editing the piece, as it represents a sort of "coming out" for me via more mainstream media (on that note, I really feel for celebrities like Home and Away actress Jodi Gordon who might not have an opportunity to explain themselves – or fashion a first-person piece about their struggles – before the tabloids get wind of a controversial story).

Of course, it's hard to articulate a very complicated matter in 500 words. There's no opportunity for contextual background information – family history, medical history, life experience – so what you get is a digested part of the whole story: my annus horribilus, if you will (and one GIANT photograph – gee, thanks, Cosmo!).

I was and am VERY wary of the potential impact of the piece. Having criticised "eating disorder stories" in the past for their potential "enabling" content, I didn't want it to be "thinspiration" for girls teetering on the edge. Thankfully, the story is more geared towards the impact the disorder had on my life and my recovery (a W.I.P) than my whacko behaviour, though I still question my introductory reference to the size of my skinny jeans.

The story might go some way to explaining my hyper-sensitivity about diet, health and food stories – as well as the countless images of "thinspiring" models, celebrities and fashionistas – in magazines. It's also why I applaud editors like British Vogue's Alexandra Shulman, former Cosmo editor Mia Freedman and any magazine brave enough to eschew the diet story standard in favor of more wholesome, nourishing editorial (Cosmo included, as well as Dolly and GirlfriendDolly, I do think you're doing great; you've come a long way since I started reading in the '80s!).

While I represent the extreme end of the disorderly eating scale, I'm fully aware that many women exist in a world where restriction, guilt, compensation, treadmill devotion and calorie counting are a daily reality – particularly in industries, like media and entertainment, where there's pressure to look like a picture of control and perfection while you're climbing the ladder. Anyone, or any glossy, who does something positive to counteract this mentality and suffering is a winner in my books.

Like Sarah Wilson, whose body story also appears in this issue, I've had to learn to be kind to my body, or, as Gwyneth would say, "nourish the inner aspect". I'm actually really grateful to have experienced the disorder, though it wrecked havoc on my life for a year (strained relationships, a stifled career, not a lot of smiling or laughing or new experiences), not to mention my body and, superficially, my looks.

It's taught me that I need to feel at peace, rather than in control; that I don't have to exercise like mad to maintain a healthy weight; that variety in food and routine is the spice of life; that focusing your energies on others is the key to liberation; that solace cannot be found in the pantry; that good friends will stick by you no matter what; that a good Husband won't run the second the going gets tough (and sex dries up); that family is everything; that sometimes you have to ask for help; that your brain cannot function without adequate nutrition; that self-inflicted punishment is not redeeming for a troubled soul; that suffering leads to perseverance; that God is gracious and forgiving even when you suck; that if you mess up and 'fess up, a new day awaits; and that it's more than fine to indulge in a little cake.

And, on that note, what a treat it is to be a finalist in the blogger category, alongside Mia, Sam and Helen, in the Cosmo Fun Fearless Female Awards! I'm like the Jodi Gordon/Jackie O of the bloggy bunch! While I admire Sam and Helen (you go, girls!), I'd really like to praise Mia for her amazing support of GWAS, especially during my annus horribilus (when I was anything but a fun, fearless female), and truly excellent blog (which has an active and passionate commenting community to rival Jezebel) and would be super-happy to see her win. Go vote!

"If people are bound in chains, suffering for what they have done, God shows them their sins and their pride. He makes them listen to their warning to turn away from evil. If they obey God and serve him, they live out their lives in peace and prosperity. But if not, they will die in ignorance and cross the stream into the world of the dead." Job 36: 8-12

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel