An Open Letter to People StyleWatch Magazine

Oh, People StyleWatch.  Or StyleWatch.  Or whatever you’re being called these days.  We need to talk.

What are you doing?!  What.  Are.  You.  Doing.  I know I don’t exactly do well with change (ask me about my 2015 in its entirety; it’s not even finished yet), but the editing, formatting, and content changes that your team are currently making to one of my most beloved magazines are, I believe, a mistake.  Or maybe I’m completely off and the changes you’ve set in motion aren’t a mistake and will cause People StyleWatch (PSW) to skyrocket into the stratosphere of newsstand success against all the odds that print publications have working against them these days.  Or maybe I’m just sad, and I need to vent.

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PSW, I know you ousted your founding editor in chief, Susan Kaufman, back in January of this year after Ariel Foxman was promoted to editorial director of both InStyle and PSW.  I know you felt that the magazine needed to hit the refresh button as issues have gotten slightly slimmer over the past two years or so, having peaked around 2013 from what I can tell.  It happens.  I mean, we’ve watched once-adored fashion magazines starve, implode, and literally go to the grave over this past year (RIP Lucky magazine) so I get it.  I really do.  We’ve all been watching Self magazine struggle through a similar quest for self-realization for about year now.  The need for a comeback, the need to secure more ads (which, for my readers, is how magazines basically make their revenue [and not newsstand sales as you may think]), the need for a lifeline.  I get it.

I also know, however, that as of 2015 you’ve decided want to change your longstanding focus of celebrity fashion to street style, because bloggers and street style stars are getting everyone all hot and bothered these days.  I know you have decided that the magazine needs an increased focus on inclusivity, the younger kiddos, and their “millennial passion for discovery” (and just so we’re clear, I’m a millennial).  I know you’re aiming for something close to a brand overhaul, with younger cover stars (hello Gigi Hadid, good bye Jennifer Aniston?), trendier language (You so fancy!), and changing the cover design (three cover stars instead of one), with the intent of “dirty[ing] up the magazine’s design a bit”.  Again, currently watching Self do the same thing, about a year or two in front of you guys.  Ahem.

However, I humbly submit that these changes you are making are a frightening case of lost identity.  The new content, the new language, the new focus- none of it is in line with the long-standing brand of People StyleWatch magazine.  This new direction the magazine has taken is so vastly different from the original vision that it’s beginning to feel a bit bait-and-switch, with a nearly unrecognizable product once you turn past the cover.  And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that choosing to drastically toy with your brand and identity can either resurrect you a’la J.Crew under Jenna Lyons (and even that era has come to a close) … or it can start dragging you toward the point of no return, straight to Lucky land.

You, PSW, are the magazine that I have been reading faithfully since the summer of 2006.  I remember my mom handing me an issue with Jessica Alba on the cover that summer, and anxiously anticipating each issue since then.  I had never thought fashion could be so easy, so consumable.  You featured fashion and beauty trends with a main focus on what celebrities are wearing.  You were unique for your “Get the Look” feature, showing desirable outfits on our favorite celebs and then where to purchase similar pieces at a fraction of the price.  You were an expert at spelling out the trends for the season in an easy-to-comprehend way that used celebrities as models, but never expected the reader to have a celebrity budget.  Love Katie Holmes’ outfit?  Great!  Here’s where to find a look-alike item for half the cost.  Want jeans like Beyonce’s?  No problem!  Here are ten different options in a variety of price ranges.  Oh, and here’s a list of petite sizes for types similar to Eva Longoria, some great finds for plus-sized girls like Rebel Wilson, and styles that work well for tall girls like Charlize.  Everyone wins, no matter size or budget.

This was all done in an extremely straight forward way without being verbose and silly, with plenty of beautiful pictures and close-up images of great celebrity makeup, hair, and outfits.  Because that’s what we want- we want pictures of great celebrity makeup, hair, and outfits and we want to copy them.  We can get everything else online or in a different magazine.  Helping you achieve that celebrity look at a better price- that was your niche, PSW.  And no matter how much of a sheep it made me feel like, it was really, really fun.  People StyleWatch, you had a well-established niche that was all your own and you inspired nearly a decade of nonstop shopping and inspiration.

Now, did your magazine pretty much show me exactly what to buy?  Sure.  Was I really thinking for myself as far as what I wanted to wear?  Not really, or at least not for the first two years of reading until the “style training wheels” came off and I could discern for myself what I liked and didn’t like.  But that’s exactly what you helped so many readers with- to learn which celebrity’s style we enjoyed most, what pieces worked for our bodies and preferences (never again, bubble hem or overalls), and how to keep our eyes peeled for items that looked similar to expensive ones that we liked.   You were not simply a magazine; you were a shopping experience.  You were a very fun, very helpful, and very unique shopping magazine that provided a niche experience for your readers.

So what do things look like now?

Well, for starters, the new covers and font change-ups are lovely.  I like them, I really do.  The continued use of a single cover star in a predictable smiling shot was admittedly feeling tired, and so the change-up of three cover celebrities, whether shot on the street, red carpet, or runway, is a refreshing and welcome change.  The graphic design and font changes look modern, as well.  No problem.  However, I believe there are greater problems at hand.

1) Cut the millennial nonsense and stop limiting your readerbase.

Let me describe my first major issue with your editing changes (and readers, there are two).  I think the first tip-off that something was definitely going wrong with the tone of the magazine was the change in cover language.  Readers, notice the difference between saying “Amazing Outfits for Every Body and Budget” circa 2013 and “15 Ridiculously Cool Ideas!” just this month.  Which one feels straight-to-the-point and relatively ageless? Which one feels juvenile?  I mean, “ridiculously cool“?!  Who else says stuff like that with a serious face?!  Derek Zoolander.  And maybe Miley.

Below, I’m listing other phrases found in a couple of these new issues since the editing change-up.  This new kind of tone and diction has been creeping up in the content since this past April.  Now tell me if they make you feel your age … or if they make you feel sixteen with a melting frappuccino in your hand while drenched in Ariana Grande’s new perfume that smells like candy and Treasure Trolls:

  • “street swagger”
  • “Stress city!” (in reference to trying to find the right outfit for a Tinder date … yes, PSW is now referencing what to wear for Tinder-versus-Grouper-versus Match.com-date)
  • “Go for a look that’s as hot as your profile pic”
  • “Talk about a #tbt!”
  • “Even good girls have a naughty side!”
  • “Don’t be scurred– it’s way more wearable than you think!” (in reference to colored mascara)
  • ” … pick a vibe, any vibe!”
  • “Designer duds minus the ka-ching price? Score!”
  • “Girlfriend is busy” (in reference to Jessica Alba)
  • ” … the pimple struggle is real
  • “You so fancy!”
  • “Yep, it’s pretty badass” (referring to graphic eyeliner)
  • And just a generous use of hashtag(#) phrases in general

I don’t know about you, but I can’t read any of this verbage without gagging.  Maybe it makes sense on Kylie Jenner’s Instagram, but not in print, attempting to make a true sales pitch.  What’s more, this is the kind of language we read in teen magazines such as Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour (yes, I consider those teen mags because their target readership is teen-based).  It changes the mission of the magazine from that of informing and showing, to oh-girlfriend-high-fiving and telling.  I also personally feel it overlooks the intelligence and adaptability of millennials when we’re forcing the use of every buzzword, buzzphrase, and pop culture trend to try to “connect” with them.  It’s busy, dreadfully unsophisticated, and borderline condescending.  But more than that (and perhaps more importantly), it excludes every other age category from being able to relate to your content.

I can guarantee you that language like this will severely alienate readers from about 33 years and up.  I feel alienated and I’m more than five years behind that.  However, from what I’ve researched, I understand that “twenty somethings” are now the official target age for PSW, so if that’s the case then I guess you’re doing your job correctly (even though, again, I am a twenty-something and I find this type of print language a nails-on-chalkboard kind of irritating).  I guess I just lament the fact that you’ve decided that the magazine is no longer meant for those outside of that age bracket.  PSW, you are severely limiting your range of readers by changing the tone to what it now is, and that means loss of potential revenue over time.  I don’t have to graduate from this magazine if you don’t force me, you know.  I could keep reading for another ten years and continue to be a loyal customer, along with my friends in their thirties, and my mom and mom-in-law in their sixties.  Get rid of all the millennial-obsessed pop culture lingo and reach out to younger readers by simply including younger stars on your covers and in your content, continuing your use of interactive music and shopping apps, and stepping up your own game on Instagram and Snapchat.

2) You are trading in what made you unique for what I can find anywhere else in the digital world.

Again, let me reiterate why we all started reading PSW in the first place- celebrity style.  Descriptions of celebrity style.  Pictures of celebrity style.  How to get celebrity style.  There was a clear mission- bringing celebrity style to the reader at a price that suited the reader.

Now, however, celebrity sightings are becoming much more scarce within your pages.  This October’s featured denim section?  Not a single star in sight.  In fact, all of the faces featured in this denim section are bloggers.  The September Fall Runway Report?  While typically showcasing celebs modeling their own interpretation of the latest trends, this feature now merely showcases runway shots.  And in your “Cheat Sheet” section this month, images are one-hundred-percent comprised of street style shots.

Right, because I can’t look at street style photos, looks from the runway, or hear the thoughts of bloggers anywhere else … except maybe on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, and on the bloggers’ own blogs.  You’re putting content in your magazine that’s already accessible digitally, which is a much, much faster way to get it as opposed to waiting for a monthly.  In the case of bloggers and street style, I get the desire to bring the “normal girl” to the forefront but that’s not what your brand has been.  Your purpose was to uniquely connect the reader to the celebrity in a way that other media avenues didn’t.  I don’t want to come to you for what bloggers are wearing and recommending.  I don’t want to come to you for what’s come directly off the runway.  If I want to read up on those things, I’ll go the digital route where the content is available at a millisecond’s notice (or in the case of runway shots, I can also read any other magazine that you’re competing with like Elle or Marie Claire that has been doing features like this for years).  Why read your once-a-month publication when I can have the same content everyday, at a moment’s notice, on my iPhone?  Why purchase a once-a-month magazine when I’ve already seen everything in it during the past thirty days I spent waiting for it?  As stated earlier, you had a unique way of providing a niche experience for your readers, and now that is being lost.

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Notice how in the first picture from a 2013 issue, celebrities are modeling their interpretation of trends.  In the second shot from this month’s issue, there isn’t the same kind of unique experience for the reader because there are no celebrities in it.  Notice the juvenile language and font in the second picture, as well.

Additionally (and I feel silly for confessing this so openly, but it’s true), I’m not nearly as compelled to purchase anything I see on a non-celeb girl.  I remember when picking up a copy of PSW was the equivalent of getting a shopping list ready, largely thanks to the excellent way the magazine marketed to the reader via celebrities.  I see Kate Mara wearing a certain sweater; I’d like to find that sweater.  I see the picture of Sienna Miller’s pants; I want those pants (or at least the cheaper option you provide).  Perhaps others work differently than I do, but bloggers and other “street style snaps” aren’t a selling point for me.  They’re just not; the same part of my brain isn’t tapped into as a long-time reader.  Or at least, I constantly see blogger and street style images on my digital feeds and I count on PSW to point me to something different.  There are still fairly affordable options featured in the magazine, but what has changed in a negative way is the strategy you are now using (or not using) to market these options.  I might buy the dress if PSW features Kerry Washington wearing it and it looks good; I probably won’t buy the dress if PSW features some unknown wearing it and it looks good.  I don’t think I’ve been inspired to purchase an item seen in PSW since May of this year, and I used to purchase something from nearly every issue.  At least I’m saving money.

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See the difference between 2013’s beauty feature with Emma Stone, and 2015’s that just pictures still shots?  What makes the older feature unique and compelling is how it associates the makeup with a celebrity.

Because I know this is totally a TL;DR post, let me wrap it up- I’m pointing out that the current team at People StyleWatch magazine is trading in what once made it special for a look and feel that is both alienating and reminiscent of almost everything else that’s out there.  I was excited for the changes at first, but I no longer believe that this new vision is a sustainable one, and I am sad to predict that it will tire out quickly.

I used to take a good twenty minutes for myself to carefully scan the pages of PSW for great finds; now I’m done in twenty seconds.  I have kept every issue that I’ve collected over these past nine years and have re-read many of them over and over.  I have not picked up any of the past five issues of PSW beyond a single browse-through.  And finally, I’m not sure why such a drastic amount of changes have been employed during such a short time, even with an editor change-up.  Last year’s September issue was only down ten pages from the year prior, while this year’s September issue was down a full sixty-two pages from 2014.  Maybe there’s a good reason for that that I’m overlooking or failing to understand, but it’s lost on me and the rest of your readers.

People StyleWatch, choose small-but-powerful changes over a brand modification.  Keep your unique purpose and keep your readership that has the potential to span across generations.  I know you can do it.  xo, MR 

Magazines: The Good, the Bad, and the (Rarely) Ugly

So, magazines, right?  I mean, some people are way into them, and other people consider nearly every one on the newsstands to be pure garbage.  Let’s cut to the chase- I love them.  Not all of them, and not all of them equally, but for those that I do love, I am fiercely loyal.  And I specifically love print magazines.  None of this newfangled download-it-to-your-iPad nonsense.  No.  No way.  It’s the freshly-pressed pages of a glossy in your hands, or nothing.  Of course, I do blogs, and while I understand that those are frequently referred to as “online magazines”, you’re kept at the nice pace of about one or two new articles a day .  A blog doesn’t bombard you with hundreds of pages per month, complete with ads, with the expectation that you click or scroll through all of them on a screen, in one sitting.  No, that kind of reading commitment is saved for the glossies, as it should be.

So which ones do I read?  Well, a lot.  I’ve only subscribed to a couple in my lifetime because I’ve found subscription services to be somewhat untrustworthy, but boy let me tell you that buying mags off the stands is a real money pit, especially when you buy multiple titles every month like me.  But that’s just the price you pay (literally) for the fun.  And I will say that for about one week each month, I go into a sort of frenzy trying to uncover the coming month’s cover stars, and I then go on a week-long hunt trying to locate each beloved mag as soon as possible (and here’s a pro tip:  Wal-Mart is the first to get the newest issues, usually about two days before they’re scheduled to “hit the stands”).  And once I’ve obtained all my desired issues for the month, I’ll admit that I go through a sort of let-down phase for a couple days where I cope with the reality that there won’t be any new magazines for at least three weeks.  A whole three weeks.  Yes, it’s that bad, and yes, it makes time fly super fast (because think about it, when you’re holding the March issue in your hands on February 13th, YOU’RE BASICALLY LIVING IN THE FUTURE).

So which ones do I read?  Oh wait, that was the question I meant to answer in the last paragraph.  Welp.

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More than just these pictured here.

But let me provide you with a brief (sure, uh huh) discussion of the magazines that I’ve interacted with in my short lifetime.  I haven’t dealt with 100% of the ones you see on newsstands (for instance, hipster mags such as Foam and Vice remain a relatively untouched territory for me … can’t deal with the heavily-filtered pretentiousness … and YES, I judge them as pretentious).

Marie Claire:  This magazine is for the Power Woman.  It encourages and assumes workplace success, frequently discusses the advancements, plights, and contributions of women around the world, and seems most fit for the “independent woman”.  I absolutely adore the publication’s fashion and beauty features, but Marie Claire can also be quite politically charged and favors discussion of hot-button social issues.  When I read magazines, I honestly don’t have much interest in this type of subject matter.  I mean this not in the sense that I prefer to remain ignorant (which my friends and family hardly allow me), but it’s simply not relaxing or entertaining for me personally.  I will also be honest and say that the writers often assume a consistent political point of view, and if you don’t find yourself in the same frame of mind it can feel a bit like the journalist’s equivalent of “You can’t sit with us!“.  But that’s life, and at least the content seeks to be informative and educational.  I can hardly resist the magazine’s beauty sections, anyhow.  I have a strange affinity for beauty product still-life shots, and Marie Claire always seems to have some of the best.  So, sometimes I pick a copy of MC, and sometimes I don’t.  But either way, it’s pretty quality.

Lucky:  You might recall a very old post of mine in which I veritably bashed Lucky magazine a year-and-a-half ago.  I had become extremely frustrated with the publication for its awkward attempts at being relatable, its trend-slave taste (do beware that this magazine is about shopping and really nothing else), and its drone-like tone as it insisted that flash-in-the-pan items like gold lame’ jeans are an “OMG MUST HAVE”.  I’d also been unimpressed with its inability to stay on the cutting edge with its covers, which had become sort of predictable and boring, and lacking in anything that really set them apart.

However, the replacement of Brandon Holley with Eva Chen as the new EIC this past September has brought a sort of uptick in the quality of Lucky.  Chen (with the formidable Anna Wintour right by her side as the Conde Nast creative director) has overseen a new batch of better styled and more luxe-looking covers with photographers like Patrick Demarchelier, a more aspirational price range (read: higher prices means a richer, more desirable feel for the magazine), and a little more substance over just plain salesmanship in content.  I will admit that Kerry Washington’s December cover had to be one of the worst cover shots I’ve ever seen (it seriously does the Scandal beauty absolutely no justice), but I will admit that I’ve seen large improvements in Lucky since Chen has taken the helm.  Lucky is still all about shopping, still draws heavily on a street style aesthetic (so if you do the street fashion thing on Pinterest, it’s totally your gig), and it still sometimes feels like it’s talking a little too much more than showing, but I have to admit that I’ve purchased nearly every issue since this past September.  I give this one a thumbs-up and say it’s now worth a try.

Allure:  I love Allure.  I love love love love Allure.  I actually subscribed to this magazine in high school, clearly demonstrating the beauty department to be my first love. The entire magazine is dedicated to all things beauty, which is seriously my dream.  Whole articles are dedicated to discussing and illustrating breakthroughs in hair mousse, “romantic makeup”, the latest trends in braids, how to find the really quality stuff at a drugstore, the best Oscar hair-do’s of the past ten years, false lashes, or the newest research in sunscreen and skin protection.  Whole articles for this stuff!  And don’t even get me started on their annual “Best of Beauty” issue … I just gobble that stuff right up.  There are little bits of fashion features sprinkled throughout so you get just enough of that, but give me a four- or five-page feature on eyeliner, and I’m good for life.

The one downside to Allure is its focus on the aspects of the beauty department that are sometimes not as interesting, such as lasers, peels, and the latest procedures beneath the knife.  There’s a lot of plastic surgery and weight loss discussion, and with all the talk about the procedures that can lead us to supposed “perfection”, it can sometimes feel awkward and disingenuous when reading the article on how to play up your own “unique” features on the very next page.  I’ve had no problem just tearing out pages I don’t want to read, though.  Aside from the some of the bodycentric stuff, Allure‘s a keeper.

Vogue:  Let me confess that I’ve purchased maybe three issues of Vogue in my lifetime.  It’s honestly just beyond my realm of living.  Oh sure, there’s fashion aplenty, but its also a lifestyle magazine with the the assumption that you’re part of a privileged crowd with the ways and means of living the life that’s discussed in Vogue.  There’s discussion of high society, politics, the arts, the media, and all kinds of other perfectly good things, but I just don’t feel at home reading Vogue.  And with my budget, I don’t think I’m meant to, either.  And that’s okay!  I’ll read it for the celebrity cover stories and glorious fashion spreads (which can be done in the grocery line), but I tend to leave the rest.  However, it is still maintains its eternal reputation (and in spite of anything I have to say) as “the fashion bible”.  Vogue remains queen, and though I don’t have much interaction with her, I respect her.

Elle:   I occasionally pick up a copy of this magazine depending on how meaty the beauty section looks, but I’ve always sort of felt like Elle was the younger, sexier sister of the older, more sophisticated Vogue (though they’re in competition with one another).  The brand itself is huge globally, with around 40 international editions in over 60 countries and it supposedly being the world’s “biggest” fashion publication (probably meaning it has the most editions around the world compared to any other).  This publication has had some of my favorite cover shots ever, and that alone has at times been enough to convince me to purchase an issue.  Elle is a lifestyle magazine, so it will speak into many areas, like Vogue, including politics, the arts, and entertainment along with a primary focus on fashion.  I like Elle a lot, but I think it’s also just a bit overwhelming for me.  I just find myself sorting through so many other sections until I get to the fashion and beauty that it’s just a sad waste of paper to purchase  more than about three issues a year, personally.

Harper’s Bazaar:  If you’re looking for a quality education in the world of high fashion without all the extra lifestyle features of Vogue or Elle, Harper’s Bazaar should serve you well.  In my opinion, it’s for the die-hards who just want to talk about the clothes and the shows.  Of course, it can feel a bit highbrow, but I feel the publication does such a good job at just showcasing as much clothing and design as possible that I rarely feel overwhelmed or annoyed by any highfalutin discussion of the who’s-who on the Upper East Side.  Harper’s Bazaar has truly been my guide to the trenches of the fashion world.  It’s been my textbook for names, history, superior trend forecasting, and the collections of the season.  If you’re truly passionate about the world of fashion with a desire to understand every cog in the machine, I recommend Bazaar for you.

People StyleWatch:  Consider this the junk food of fashion publications, the anti-Vogue, and I mean that in the best way possible.  People StyleWatch is delicious, it serves its purpose quickly, and it doesn’t bother with heavy text.  It’s like fashion training wheels, and it’s for anyone who’s ever cried JUST TELL ME WHAT TO WEAR, WHERE TO BUY IT, AND HOW MUCH IT’LL COST.  This magazine’s concept is seriously that simple.  It’s almost entirely based on celebrity style, and often demonstrates how to replicate a star’s expensive look for a fraction of the cost, down to the very accessories on their hands.  I’ve been a faithful reader of this publication since 2006, and it’s honestly just good clean fun.  I’ll admit that it can inspire quite the frantic shopping spree (and seriously, do be careful if you have spending issues because this magazine lists the price and location of every item featured on its pages, making it very addictive), but there’s no condescending advice, there’s an extremely generous budget range (like, the $50-and-under crowd are highly welcome here), and it showcases nothing but pictures, pictures, pictures.  My passion for clothing came to life with this magazine, and I have it to thank for starting me down a path toward my own, personal style.

Glamour/Cosmopolitan:  Really not a fan.  Like, really not.  Any magazine that focuses so heavy-handedly on “how to tell if he’s really into you” or “100 Sex moves that will send him into the stratosphere” deserves a minuscule amount of attention.  Oh, you say there really isn’t that much sex and relationship content in these magazines as it may appear on the cover?  THEN STOP SPLASHING IT ALL OVER YOUR COVERS  AS THE NUMBER ONE HEADLINE.  I’ll also be honest and say that a lot of the “advice” given in such features can be fairly objectifying of women (which is just so funny considering we’re the ones reading it), ridiculously repetitive, and horribly misleading and inaccurate.  But seriously, no truly insightful advice on such important things as your friendships and relationships is to be gained from one page of a magazine with some photoshopped version of Miley Cyrus on the cover (and yes, I’ll backpedal and state that all magazines are guilty of digitally retouching their covers).  I mean it!  Now, the fashion and beauty features in these publications can be fun, I’m sure.  But why not just pick up a magazine devoted entirely to those things and bypass the “Impress your dude” junk completely?

InStyle:  If I could only recommend one fashion publication to all women of any age, size, or income, this would be it.  InStyle is my favorite magazine.  If you enjoy fawning over the latest gorgeous dress worn by Cate Blanchett, this is for you.  If you want to know the best kinds of shapewear for your own size, this is for you.  If you aren’t sure how to incorporate more exciting color into your wardrobe or in makeup, this is for you.  If you like keeping up on the latest runway shows, this is for you.  There is nothing discussed in the magazine other than fashion, beauty, personal style, and a bit of home decor with a couple recipes thrown in.  I find it to be the most universally appealing publication of any that I’ve mentioned above.  There’s no specific income or social bracket targeted (so you’ll see both budget and luxe pieces featured all over), and InStyle seems to stick to the philosophy that style is something that anyone can have, develop, and enjoy, without trying to hold your hand too much.

This magazine is helpful.  There are so many features dedicated to showing you exactly how to find, wear, or try something new that you find yourself interacting with the issue on top of just reading it.  InStyle has inspired me to take action with my own style countless times, and I can’t name how many different beauty tricks or trends I’ve tried because of it (i.e. orange lips, victory rolls, an at-home blowout, the “wet” look, you name it!).  If you go for just one fashion publication, choose this one.  And I’ll also mention that I’ve been a subscriber for over three years and the service there has been great.

So in conclusion, I write all this not so much with the intent that you’ll like which magazines I like (because that would be stupid), but simply because I like talking about them.  I’ve often said that if I could do my education over again (or for a second time?), I’d get a degree in journalism, intern for a magazine somewhere, and would pursue a career at a fashion publication.  Because yes, I love doing makeup (and fashion, which we refrain from fully discussing here), and I love playing with makeup, but I really love talking about it more than anything.  And that’s what magazines are for, right?  xo, MR

P.S.  A quick word about advertisements: I’ve sometimes heard folks complain about how many advertisements there are in magazines (especially the larger ones, like Elle and Vogue).  Do you know why those ads are there?  It’s not simply page-filler that the editors have chosen to scatter on every other page to annoy you.  Magazines are actually paid by all varieties of companies to have their advertisements placed in them.  This is a large portion of a publication’s  profit (and customer subscriptions and newsstands sales are actually a lesser portion).  So, a thick issue full of advertisements is actually thee sign that a magazine is doing quite well.  When you see all those Chanel, Revlon, H. Stern, and Vince Camuto advertisements and you keep having to flip your way through like a maniac to get to the meat, just know that they are a big reason why the magazine in your hand is circulating in the first place.

The Best of 2013!!!

How does one introduce a post like this?  I have a theory that you really shouldn’t even try, so I’ll just go with this- the following consists of my favorite and most significant beauty moments of 2013.  Some involve me, some don’t.  But this is what made the year fun, exciting, and especially peaceful when it came to beauty and all that it involves.  Enioy!

 

#1  Hitting my hair stride.

Last year, as regular readers know, I cut my hair into a blunt long-ish bob and colored it a deep, ashier shade of brown.  I did it as an inaugural celebration of autumn, but the problem is  … autumn ends.  And having dark, ashy hair during winter just did not suit my mood.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure when it will suit me.  I came to the conclusion in 2013 that I am a brunette with spackles of light, and my hair, at this point in my life, is meant to be long.

Growing it out has been a fun, exciting exercise in patience.  There has been many a “good hair selfie” (at least according to my taste), but it’s just been too fun documenting the growth of it.  I’ve used my favorite hydrating and restorative conditioners by Davines and Sachajuan along with my trusty Rahua shampoo just twice a week for extra health insurance.  Little scalp massages, just enough protein, and plenty of moisture have allowed me to avoid the dreaded in-between phase of uncertainty, accompanied by a desperation to just cut it.  It’s been a long journey, and I’m gunning for one to two more inches, but whew … I think we’re just about there.  And you have to understand, I know the hair fixation has probably been a bit much for you readers, but this has been a long process of really choosing to like my own hair.  I’ve always been okay with my skin, and I’m decently handy when it comes to makeup, but when it has come to hair, I had always wanted anyone’s but my own.  I feel that within the past year or so, I can finally say that’s no longer the case (even if I’m crazy about everyone else’s hair, still).

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#2  This person existing

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I don’t know where this person came from, what she was doing before 2013, or how she managed to fly under the radar for this long, but Lupita Nyong’O is Thee. New. Thing.  Her role in Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years A Slave managed to catapult her into the spotlight literally overnight, and once I laid eyes on her, all I could say was OHHHH MYYY GAWWWDDDD THE MAKEUPZZZZZZ!!!  Whatever makeup artist that took hold of this girl before her first appearance (or who knows … maybe she did it all on her own?) seriously put their foot down and must’ve said, “GO BRIGHT OR GO HOME.”    Lupita’s makeup has been nothing short of showstopping in nearly every picture I’ve seen of her (and I seriously pee my pants just thinking about awards season).  You know those ridiculously obnoxious, acidic shades of NARS eyeshadow or MakeUpForEver lipsticks or Illamasqua blush that have made you wonder who could wear this and why is this here?  Lupita Nyong’O, ladies and gentlemen.  That’s who, and that’s why.

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#3  Finally making peace with this haircut

Premiere Of Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" - Arrivals

You may recall that last year, I was somewhat traumatized by the amount of hair-choppage that had been occurring among celebrities.  I felt frustration over seeing girls with long locks deciding to go the way of the pixie.  Of course, this had much to do with the fact that I felt I could no longer identify with them, as I so strongly identify with longer hair.  However, this year presented me with a few challenges involving liking and enjoying people that aren’t like me.  What a bloody novel idea, right?  So anyhow, the lessons and growth within these challenges trickled down to even the most seemingly meaningless things, like the acceptance of short haircuts on celebrities.  So when Jennifer Lawrence chopped her locks this past November, I made the conscious decision to like it.  Get over the fact that you’ll probably never do it yourself; a damned haircut on someone else doesn’t have anything to do with you.  Lessening one’s focus on oneself enables you to actually enjoy others, to actually be happy for them.  And so this is why I like Jennifer’s haircut.  Because honestly, it looks good and I just need to shut up.

 

#4  Going luxe with these babies

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This year was a year in which I chose to invest.  It probably wasn’t always necessary, but Sephora gift cards and some celebrity makeup inspiration will do that to you.  And honestly … I just love makeup.  It’s fun.  I’ll save on clothes, use the same laptop that I’ve had since 2007, but when it comes to beauty, I’m a sucker.  So what’ll happen is this- I’m an introvert in the sense that I tend to recharge with alone time.  On an afternoon where I’ll be feeling especially antsy, I’ll head off to Bloomingdale’s or some place like that and I’ll just wander through the beauty department (NK Space is particularly dangerous for me).  I’ll mess around with the Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray, play around with the Kevyn Aucoin, put some Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat Foundation at the YSL counter, and try on the most expensive moisturizer I can find.  The SK-II “Try me” jars are especially exciting (at $250 per jar of “everyday” moisturizer).  Of course, I buy very, very little of it, but sometimes I’ll splurge.  These Dior 5-Couleurs Palettes are a couple of those splurges.  For the record, “Earth Reflection” is my favorite.  And they’re all seriously more fun than a box of kittens.  And if you know me, you know how I feel about boxes of kittens.

 

#5  Discovering this picture

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With all things being said about the acceptance of others’ hair, it’s still an admittedly good thing to find some true inspiration for your own.  For the longest time, all I could think about in terms of hair was Olivia Palermo, Olivia Palermo, and more Olivia Palermo.  Something about her hair seemed so wholly unattainable though, almost surreal.  I imagine that she gets blowouts every week, as many New York socialites do, and that kind of thing is just discouraging to us layfolk.  Comparing oneself with the privileged (or anyone, for that matter) can truly wreak havoc on your appreciation for what you have.  And so, I tried for a good while to give  up my Palermo obsession.  I had to really fight to love my own hair, you know?  And while on the road to recovery, I discovered this shot of Italian-French-Egyptian actress and model Elisa Sednaoui.  What struck me was the fact that I didn’t want her hair, but instead I felt that I sort of already had it.  Hers was just a little longer, but the texture, color, and thickness of it just seemed right on the spot.  Suddenly, I didn’t want someone else’s hair, but instead I was even more excited for my own.  Instead of comparison, this felt more like encouragement.

 

#6  Finally finding a home for my Hobbit feet

Fact: Mani-pedis give me anxiety.  I’m not kidding.  I can’t say I understand fully why, but there’s this- I have a fear of language barriers.  Real talk.  I get anxious when I fear that I won’t be able to understand someone, that the aesthetician won’t understand me, and that we’ll ultimately just have a shared, awkward experience full of silence and clinched teeth.  This has happened before during a nail service experience (or at least, it’s what I perceived to be happening, but it may just have been in my head which is so frequently the case).  When it comes to beauty services, be it massages, pedicures, or blowouts, I want the professional and I to feel comfortable.  Coming from the service industry, I get that the most fun, worthwhile interactions with customers are ones where you feel like you’re both human.  So consequently, I’ve avoided mani-pedis for fear of the awkward and for fear of looking like an idiot.

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The problem, however, is that my feet get kind of, um, janky.  See those remnants of polish?  This photo was taken in December, and that polish is from … the beginning of August.  Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.  And I know I could take care of it myself, but honestly, I let it get to the point where my feet literally need to be left to the hands of trained professionals.  It’s bad.  And that right big toenail is really as jagged as it looks.  Like, Matterhorn kinds of jagged.  I mean, it’s easy to let your feet go in the autumn seasons because you’re wearing close-toed shoes and all, but sometimes, around late November, I worry that I’ll take my boots off and my feet will have sprouted bushes or something.  But the only place I’ve ever gone to have my nails taken care of is the place out by my parents’ home, just out of sheer fear of trying a new place.  However, on the day I took this photo, I decided something needed to happen now.

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So where did I take my little Hobbit feet?  Oh, just the place right outside my apartment complex that’s literally steps away from my front door and that has awesome Yelp reviews.  Hi-Tek Nails, folks.  If I could slap a sticker on that place’s window that says “THE BRIGHT BLUSH SEAL OF APPROVAL!”, I would!  But that sticker would probably look more like a piece of masking tape with my writing on it.  Anyhow, the pro that helped me out that day is Christy (not sure how she spells it, so we’ll go with this).  She was amazing.  She was a human.  And I acted like a human.  We talked.  We laughed.  Like humans do.  I saw so many regulars coming in and out of the place with Christmas gifts for all the ladies working there; you can tell Hi-Tek has a loyal clientele.  And they were playing The Andy Griffith Show and Flipper on their TV!  I mean, can you imagine watching an episode of The Twilight Zone and getting a pedicure at the same time?!  That’s like, my heaven.

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Thanks, Hi-Tek!  I’ll be back, now that my Hobbit feet are out of their hole and on off on an extremely unexpected journey in some Birkenstocks.  And properly painted a glittery black.

 

#7  Teal eyeliner EVERYWHERE

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Talk about a fast and easy way to change up your look.  I don’t know about you, but I saw teal eyeliner in every magazine, of seemingly every month, on almost every celebrity this past year.  We were adding it to our upper lids, our lower lids, or all around our eyes.  We were wearing it on more formal occasions, and on casual Saturdays.  We wore it as an edgy statement, or as a haphazard, last-minute add-on to spice up an everyday look.  And I loved it.

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I especially love that this shade seems to work well on everyone.  It’s so flattering, and it’s so unexpected.  There’s a girl that I work with who wears teal eyeliner almost every day, and I love that it’s the first thing I notice about her.  It’s like this extra little punch of personality in your look that feels so free-spirited.

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Even just the slightest touch of a darker shade of blue can work magic.  I love that the teal eyeliner is almost unnoticeable on Marion here, until you get a closeup look.  It’s like a hidden secret that just adds that extra half-inch to the whole package.  I can’t encourage you enough to give it a try, especially the next time you’re about to step out the door but still feeling blah.

 

#8  Reaching the end of my face makeup journey

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This is it.  This is the stuff.  I don’t really care about finding anything else.  I don’t wear all of this at once (obvi), and sometimes I only wear that little guy over there to the left (sunscreen/moisturizer), but mostly, I’m just happy with what you see here.  When I want to go the extra mile and give myself a little brightening mask, I reach for Clarins Beauty Flash Balm for a tightening and cooling effect.  I then immediately apply my loose BareMinerals if I’m going out and need a bit of coverage.  Sometimes, if I’m feeling a bit dry or want an extra glow-y look, I’ll mix Weleda’s Skin Food with Boscia’s B.B. Cream and forget the Aubrey moisturizer altogether (as the B.B. has SPF in it).  And typically I’ll apply my NARS Creamy Radiant concealer because my dark circles are pretty much Mordor kinds of dark (inherited from my dad’s side), but if I want something lighter in coverage and consistency I’ll go for the Yves Saint Laurent Touche’ Eclat, which I’ve also used as a highlighter.

And that’s it.  I don’t want any more searching.  I’m good.  My only skincare goal for 2014 is to add a serum into my regimen so I can start taking those first baby steps into the world of aging prevention and damage recovery (which for me comes in the form of dark spots and scars from years of picking zits).  But other than this, I’m done!  Achievement unlocked.

 

#9  Remember this person?  Yup.  She showed up to the Cannes Film Festival this year.  And you wanted to be her.

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This, ladies and gents, is Aishwarya Rai.  She’s an Indian Bollywood queen with a huge fan-base, a former Miss World, and once cited by 60 Minutes as the “world’s most beautiful woman”.  Unless you’re a weirdo that’s only attracted to goldfish, it isn’t hard to see why.  The buzz about Miss Rai seemed to reach a peak in the mid-2000’s (from what I remember in the States).  But she then decided to go off and do the stupid, dum-dum thing called getting married and having a kid.  Ugh.  So not modern.  And then she stated that she wanted to take some time off from work so she could “simply enjoy motherhood”.  Um, excuse me?  What tomfoolery is THIS?!  You can’t take time off and ENJOY motherhood!!  That is giving away your independence!  You are MISS WORLD!!!  You get yo’ butt back to WEEERRRRK, Miss WORLD!!  No dumb baby should stop Miss WORLD from being Miss WORLD!!!!!

If you don’t sense the sarcasm here, I can’t help you with life.  And I mean it.

So anyhow, post-baby Aishwayra chose to take some time off from Bollywood, and in the process of pregnancy and enjoying motherhood, proceeded to gain some weight.  Like most child-bearing humans.  But what happened then wasn’t so human- she received widespread criticism from her fans and the media for not losing her baby weight immediately and getting back to WERK.    A commenter on the Daily Mail claimed, “She is a Bollywood actress, and it is her duty to look good and fit.”  Another said, “She needs to learn from people like Victoria Beckham who are back to a size zero weeks after their delivery.”

Yup.  That happened.

So fast forward to the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, a couple years later.  Aishwayra had been invited to appear at the glitzed-out affair of international cinema royalty, and the pressure to show up in her former supermodel form was ON.  So how would she look?!   Like the skinny actress she was just BORN to be?!  Would that baby weight be totally gone?!

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Nope.  Oh sure, the baby weight wasn’t gone, but instead, she showed up looking like a FREAKING GODDESS WITH A TOTALLY NORMAL PERSON’S BODY.  BOOM.

See, this is what I’m talkin’ about.  She isn’t nearly as thin as in her earlier days, but can you seriously even argue that it matters?  I’ve never been so stunned by Ash as when I saw some of these photos of her at Cannes.  She’s glowing; she’s regal.  Her face, body, and hair are full, and it just looks divine.  And I’m sorry, but that face is just unbelievable.  I’m not comfortable with the word ‘exotic’ to describe a particular look, mostly because we can’t truly seem to define what exactly it means other than ‘you are a desirable, tan object hailing from the tropics’, and so to describe Ash’s beauty, I tend to favor the word ‘global’.  She’s full Indian, but her features appear as if to be a mix of all kinds of ethnicity.  She’s got that all-over-the-world look that’s so interesting and different.  Pretty fitting for Miss World, no?

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Yeah, that right there is seriously your quintessential HATERS GONNA HATE face.  Eat your heart out, critics.  And you enjoy that baby, Miss Ash.  Treat yo’self 2013!

 

#10  Making peace with no makeup on weekdays.

I have no image for this because the last thing any of us needs is another selfie #nomakeup.  So I’ll just use my words for this one.  I used to whine and complain about not being able to get my fanny in gear to the point where I could put on a full face of makeup for work every morning.  But I’ve finally arrived at the point where I’m okay with saying that that’s just me.  Makeup is for weekends or when I have the time.  Makeup is for when I can enjoy it.  Makeup is not a necessity (though the concealer, eyebrows, and lip balm can’t really be compromised).  Makeup doesn’t have to happen everyday, and that’s what makes it special.  Nice, freshly-washed hair isn’t a necessity either.  Sometimes a topknot and sunscreen is all you can ask of a Monday.  Or Tuesday.  Or Wednesday.  Or Thursday.  Or Friday before 5:00PM.  And that’s okay.  Just enjoy it for what it is, and don’t be a slave to it.

And these, my friends, are my favorite moments in beauty for 2013.  It’s been a good, challenging year of acceptance and learning to enjoy the routines I have rather than ache and yearn for ones I don’t.  I’m not even compiling a “worst of” list this year because there’s wasn’t anything that got me too irked anyhow!  It’s been a great year, and let’s keep in up in the one to come.  xo, MR

P.S.  Oh, and a total bonus #11- Thanks to new editor in chief Eva Chen, Lucky Magazine is totally on the comeback trail.  Remember how last year I wrote an entire post about how terrible it had become?  A year-and-a-half later and I’m thinking just the opposite.  Can’t wait to resubscribe and see Zoe Saldana on the February cover!  Woohoo!

Why I’m giving up on this magazine, and why you probably didn’t like it in the first place.

While this blog remains dedicated to beauty, one thing you should know about the, um, blogger of this blog is that she is obsessed with fashion publications. I refuse to simply say ‘magazines’ because I don’t want you thinking Cosmopolitan or UsWeekly. I want you thinking Elle, InStyle, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, and People StyleWatch (can’t say I’m a regular Vogue-er yet … it’s still just a leeeeetle too highbrow for me). So let’s get this straight- when I say that I like ‘magazines’, I specifically want you thinking of fashion publications, and the easiest way for me to communicate that is to, well, say it just like that.

Bottom line: I am a fashion publication-aholic and I will be writing various posts about said fashion publications because I am a fashion publication-aholic. They may be related to my greater topic of beauty, but they may not be. Nevertheless, I believe you will find them highly useful. Deal? Deal.

So anyhow, I also must admit I have a thing for reviewing stuff. What do I mean? I mean I’ve got a TripAdvisor account, Yelp account, and Amazon account, and I use them all to write pointlessly extensive reviews of places and products. I enjoy it. It’s a thing.

Here’s where it all comes together- my latest adventure in online-reviewing has consisted of baring my soul regarding the fashion publication known as Lucky.

Now, I’ve been a very faithful reader/subscriber of this magazine for three to four years. It’s been fun and has inspired many unnecessary purchases. However, I’ve recently decided that I’ll be quittin’ ole’ Lucky once my subscription runs out this December, and I feel I’m quite justified in doing so. Care to know why? Well, just help yourself to reading my full Amazon review I’ve posted here entitled “It’s time I put ole’ Lucky out to pasture. Let me tell you why.” ……

‘LUCKY’ IS IN NEED OF A SANDWICH …… in other words, it’s getting thinner and thinner and isn’t looking too healthy these days. In fact, it’s been kind of a junky for a while now.

I keep up with magazine and publication news, and for a couple years or so ‘Lucky’ has been the sadder part of the news. Its numbers have been going down, and this current September 2012 issue is one of the thinnest September issues I’ve seen in a really long time. This isn’t for nothing, though- I’ve subscribed for about four years and I’ve got to say, ‘Lucky’ is really no longer worth subscribing to. Come December, I think I’m done.

Ever since they switched up their editor-in-chief (used to be Kim France), things just haven’t been as strong for the magazine. Don’t get me wrong- I’m a die-hard, so-badly-wish-I-lived-in-NYC trendy hipster fashion slave. I love it all and I read almost all fashion publications on a monthly basis. But I really feel like the editors at ‘Lucky’ think its readers are robotic numbskulls. It’s become almost nothing more than a glorified catalog, and there’s barely any meaty content now. I understand that instant gratification is the name of the game these days in fashion publications, and that it’s kind of a genius strategy to tell your readers exactly what to buy (with the item styled in a cute editorial shoot on the same page!). ‘People StyleWatch’ employs a similar technique. But I feel ‘Lucky’ has pigeonholed itself into catering to one specific kind of reader- someone who WORKS IN FASHION, LIKE THEMSELVES.

It’s like the folks at ‘Lucky’ are working to create a publication simply for people EXACTLY like themselves! Same looks, same sense of taste and style, SAME PAYCHECK, same type of job, same type of living conditions (hip, urban), etc. Any time they do a feature on a ‘Lucky girl’ or some ‘real person’, they always seem to work in fashion, advertising, or are the owner of some fabulous salon. Oh, or perhaps they’re a recording artist showing this year at Coachella, or they’re the star of a film out this month. They always seem to live either in New York or Los Angeles. There are no teachers, no office workers, no folks from the mid-West, no one that just knows how to shop and dress damn well and WITHOUT the million-dollar budget or high-profile career. And AGAIN, don’t get me wrong- I am a fashion fanatic. However, my budget is, well, budget-ish. I can’t identify with the ‘Lucky’ reader anymore because she doesn’t seem to have a budget and she doesn’t seem to be able to say “No” to advertising. I’m sure I could still subscribe to ‘Lucky’ for another year and suck the juice out of it, but I am just at the point where I feel insulted doing so. EVERY SINGLE PAGE is listed with attractively-styled items and their given prices, along with a sometimes-ludicrous description of each. Example- “Bonjour, Cleveland! Rose-gold jeans feel so French rocker.” I mean, ok. I get it, I like to write too. But you just feel like they’re trying SO HARD to convince you to just BUY. Not to be inspired, but to buy. And they will shamelessly pitch that item to you, no matter what the price tag may be (frequently upwards of $500 … BUT YOU’LL LOVE IT FOREVER!!!).

While some may argue that ‘Lucky’ is trying to provide fashion inspiration, let’s face it- the point of ‘Lucky’ is to inspire SPENDING, and almost nothing more. Each month, I at least find myself at the drugstore buying some new body wash they recommend in each new issue, and I just don’t need that right now. I understand that ‘People StyleWatch’ has the same thing going but I feel they do a much better job of catering to lesser incomes and helping you restyle your own wardrobe. They have their niche with their specific focus on celebrities, and everyone can name a celebrity whose style they like. ‘Lucky’ just leaves you feeling overwhelmed and as if you need to be one of the “cool girls” in order to relate. Your evidence of this problem lies in the fact that their issues have been growing increasingly thinner; they’re losing readers and they’re losing ad pages.

If you’re not Olivia Palermo, pick something else to subscribe to rather than ‘Lucky’. You’ll enjoy it more in the long-run.

p.s. I do like their “City Guide” feature, with a shopping guide to a different major city each month. I tear all those out and keep ’em. Oh, and an extra star for Jean Godfrey-June as their beauty editor.