Mags: Girlfriend - a glossy role model?

Guest Glossy Review

Is the term 'glossy role model' an oxymoron? Or, like naughty-but-nice covergirl Hayden Panettiere, has Girlfriend found the perfect balance between the superficial and meaningful? To coincide with the magazine's 21st birthday celebrations, guest reviewer Carla Efstratiou weighs in with her two cents on this girl-next-door teen brand.

Turning 21 is a huge milestone in the life of any girl (or guy), so, like any respectable celebrity entering a new phase of life, Girlfriend's had a makeover. But underneath all the superficial improvements is the same magazine which inspired a whole generation of teens to grow into confident young women over two decades.

Editors of teen mags are in a compromising position: attracting the attention of herds of teenage girls while not ticking off parents and interest groups more concerned with the mental health of our youngsters than what Lily Allen's wearing/Twittering/singing.

It comes down to the familiar ‘money versus morality’ debate, of which Girlfriend has found itself a happy, comfortable medium: the hot celebs, fashion and gorgeous models attract a readership tuned into MTV, celebrity blogs and Australia's Next Top Model, while the positive thinking and confidence building campaigns encourage a positive counterculture telling girls to love themselves for who they are. However, because of this juxtaposition, Girlfriend is still open to criticism about its apparent contradictions.

This month, the Girlfriend Rimmel Model Search finalists are featured, with each entrant given one page to strike a pose and tell the world why she should be Girlfriend’s next top model. These girls are all typical model material: tall, slim, bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked. It’s a sad reality, but in order for Girlfriend’s Model Search to be taken seriously by readers and the fashion/modelling industries, they do need to feature girls who could actually compete in the professional modelling market. And, while there are signs that change is afoot, that market is mostly populated by tall, slim girls with beautiful faces.

Allowing a ‘regular’ sized girl to win this Model Search would compromise the credibility of the competition in the eyes of the readers, because the chances of them capitalising on their win by representing Girlfriend on the catwalk or in international fashion shoots are very slim; that’s just the nature of the industry.

These girls are not, in my opinion, projecting an unhealthy image of beauty. They are not withering away, nor have bones sticking out of their clothing. Their clothes are typical of any teenagers and they are wearing natural looking makeup. The questions asked to them are all very innocent, such as ‘How would you celebrate if you won?’ and ‘What do you think of GF’s Think. Do. Be. Positive campaign?’, with answers just as encouraging and wholesome.

These girls were fortunate to receive ‘pretty’ genes. There have been models before, and there will continue to be models after them. We shouldn't berate magazines like Girlfriend for featuring models in their pages, but congratulate them for presenting them in a manner which retains their innocence, unlike many other mediums which line the newsstands and internet.

Girlfriend also continues its ‘Think. Be. Do. Positive.’ campaign this month. I was surprised when I caught myself intently reading and smiling – definitely a positive sign that the campaign is working! Superficially, the bright colours and happy faces plastered all over the pages immediately transports the reader to a happy place, and the “All the small things” and “Get exercise-excited” articles encourage a healthy lifestyle; not so girls can look like their favourite celebrity, but so they can actually feel more energised and be happy!

The role model of the month, sixteen year old Marissa Gibson of the film Samson and Delilah, also inspires, as she is testament to the ‘You can achieve your dreams despite adversity’ sentiment which the Self Respect campaign is spearheading.

The ‘Girlfriend of the Year’ competition, which is open to enter from this issue, is like the Model Search, but focuses on achievements and aspirations more so than looks. I think this inclusion is great because it balances out the focus on the Model Search, and also shows achievements of an academic, creative, sports and altruistic nature are valued in this seemingly superficial world.

As far as other role models go, covergirl Hayden Panettiere, 20, with her sweet smile, sneaky tattoo and wholesome family values, makes the perfect all-round Girlfriend candidate, as she tells the magazine this month: "I'm kind of a walking contradiction. I have the ability to be wild and calm, loud and quiet, silly and serious... I could easily go and lend my face or celebrity to a million different charities, but it wouldn't mean as much or have as much of an impact. To I've worked closely with The Whaleman Foundation to save the whales and dolphins...".

Some may have a problem with flipping the page from all this very positive ‘be yourself’ stuff, which weighs down the front of the magazine, to the Model Search at the centre of the mag, but I really see no problem with it. Would it not be even more contradictory of the Girlfriend team to deny these models of their chance at achieving their dream, just in case some think the wrong message is being projected? I think that would be wrong.

The good bits:

- Fashion! You wouldn’t think a teen magazine like Girlfriend could get the creative juices flowing to inspire crazy fashion decisions, but after salivating over the ‘Wild Thing’ spread I was ready to go out and buy every animal printed piece of clothing I could find! Special guest fashion editor Jessica Mauboy makes the pages pop with bright colours and patterns perfect for summer and perfect for the tween target market. Is there anything Jess can’t do?!

- Now I REALLY wouldn’t expect Girlfriend to stimulate me intellectually, but this issue has proven me wrong once again. Claire Hooper’s feature, ‘What you can learn from the news’, is a realistic attempt at encouraging an apathetic generation to take an active interest in their world. It’s a great beginner's guide to the news which doesn’t overcomplicate or patronise. Similarly, the ‘Your say; shock radio’ feature on Kyle and Jackie O’s controversial antics exposed some really pertinent issues and indicated that teenage girls do have opinions on these issues, and very mature opinions at that!

- New look: I've always had a problem with the amount of content and decoration they tried to fit on every page, but this month I’m not so bothered by it. I think they have made the colour scheme more consistent and have given the entire magazine a neater feel, with the addition of some sophisticated fonts and more white space, which also makes it seem more mature.

- Damn, Girlfriend, you’ve got me again with the freebies! Who can resist a multi-coloured Rip Curl tote and ‘Think.Do.Be.Positive’ Post-it notes? Both useful and great looking!

The not-so-good bits:

- If I have to hear the term “recessionista” one more time I will implode.

- Celebrity overload! I know it’s the ‘100% celebrity made’ issue, but let’s all just remember we’re not reading Famous or NW. You would be hard pressed to find a page which doesn’t have a picture or words about Hollywood A-listers. If Girlfriend is so intent on giving celebrities so much room in the magazine, why not mix it up and try some lesser known models and It girls – sometimes these girls have the most inspiring and creative styles?

- The 80s fashion revival hasn’t spared one victim in its ruthless pursuit to dress us in crop tops and fluoro make-up once again.

Pretty pages:

- Pretty in pink: Girlfriend has embraced its girlie roots with open arms and given us fairy floss in magazine form. The contrast of pink and metallic silver works well for the cover, with the result being a cute package of girlhood, not unlike cover girl Hayden Panettiere herself.

- Zooey Deschanel looks as cute as a cupcake in the ‘Vintage Beauty’ story. Her vintage-inspired outfits are a nice change from the boring summer shorts and t-shirt combos which are rearing their ugly heads in the summer teen glossies.

- ‘Totally rad makeup’ pages featuring Fuzzy sporting multicoloured feathered eyelashes has the WOW effect.

- Pinky swear: pink feathers and pink beauty products? How could I not include this in ‘pretty pages'? This beauty spread jumps out of the magazine. Plus, the encouragement to support breast cancer awareness by buying ‘pink’ products is always a positive thing to be instilling in young minds.

Glossy Posse:

- So You Think You Can Dance judge Matt Lee answers reader’s woes about cyber bullying.
- Erin McNaught gives us a rundown of her favourite sites on the net (she reveals that she is a ‘tweetheart’ like the rest of the celebrity population.)
- Gracie Otto uses her acting prowess to review some recent flicks.
- The City heart-throb Jay Lyon makes all girls hearts’ melt with his behind the scenes look into his reality TV life (which includes some gorgeous pictures, sigh.)
- Cassie Davis provides some great tips on how to write a #1 hit song.

If I went on, I would have to cover every page of the magazine... but you get the idea. Basically, November Girlfriend = celebrity jam-packed.

Glossy ads: Valleygirl, Jonas Brothers DVD, Proactiv, Hannah Montana Movie, Maybelline, Rimmel, Heaven swimwear, Roxy, Baby G, Silkymit.
Glossy stats: November 2009; 173 pages; $6.95
Glossy rating: 4.5. Still the best girl's glossy around; definitely a must for those teen angels.
Blosses: Sarah Cornish; Pacific Magazines

Yours truly,
Carla @ Girl With a Satchel


Unknown said...

the zooey shoot is gorgeous but it's actually years old...

Style On Track said...

Its so nice to see a magazine that I read as a young girl, still around and inspiring young ladies :)

R said...

Did Girlfriend Magazine SERIOUSLY use the exact same image of Hayden that appears on the cover of this month's CLEO?

Scarlett Harris said...

I've only flicked through this month's issue of Girlfriend, but from what I've seen, I can't wait to dig into it! However, I do have some qualms about the issue. Firstly, I can't stand Hayden and I don't think she's the positive role model everyone makes her out to be. I do love her charity work for Save the Whales, but there's just something I can't put my finger on. Surely her penchant for dating men ten to fifteen years older than her won't resonate with Girlfriend's readers' parents?
Also, did anyone else notice that Girlfriend's new layout is almost exactly the same as Cleo's new look? I noticed Rhonda mentioned they have similar covers, however I don't recall Hayden being on the Cleo's cover also...?

R said...

I agree with Scarlett's stance on Hayden's appropriateness as a role model to tweens/ teens. I should note that I'm referring to NZ Cleo's September issue with the same picture of her on the cover. Follow link here: also the next day after I posted my original comment, I was perusing the magazine stands and saw an identical picture of her(from the article inside CLEO with Hayden in the tuxedo jacket) with the same tag line about "greatest american hero" and almost the same article appearing in GQ Magazine.. by this stage I just rolled my eyes. How can several magazines all effectively use the exact same story, image so unabashedly?