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 

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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.

That one time I asked Maria Menounos a question. And that one time she answered.

So, I have a thing about healthy hair, right?  And I’m a fanatic about checking for split ends and all that junk to keep it in good shape, right?  And I always get fooled into thinking celebrity hair is otherworldly and somehow magically immune from all these problems, right?  And I’m a sucker for almost any hair product recommendation, right?

Right.  Mostly.

So, when given the opportunity to ask a celebrity any question related to beauty (with only the possibility that she may respond, not a guarantee), I figured what’s the harm in asking her what products she uses on her decently awesome hair?

The celebrity I’m referring to in this case would be T.V. personality Maria Menounos, who is most well-known for her role as a host on Extra and is the youngest person to ever host Entertainment Tonight.  Am I positive that everyone reading this knows who she is?  No.  Do I really care?  No.  You see, I try not to worry myself with some kind of quest to ask the biggest celebrity out there about their hair, because really big names like Beyonce, Gwen Stefani, or Sarah Jessica Parker tend to be sort of, well, taken care of when it comes to appearances.  Mega-watt celebrities commonly have endorsement deals, and are frequently serviced by hairstylists that offer them products and treatments sometimes at no cost.  I mean, you know how it is:  Jennifer Lopez has a deal with L’Oreal, so of course she’s going to claim that she uses their products (of which she probably has a lifetime supply), and because of how big-time her income is and how high-profile she is, she probably gets her hair blown out at least once a week and has an arsenal of stylists constantly at her disposal.  That’s not someone I want “hair tips” from.  Who can relate to that?  Could she even keep up the condition of her hair without her gaggle of beauty slaves doing it for her?  Does she know a life outside of a perfect weave?  Perhaps I’d ask J.Lo’s stylist about what products are used on her, but you’ve gotta figure that with all the hands that have touched her head and all that L’Oreal running through her veins, it would be hard to get a straight answer.

So to summarize, all of this is why I find it more valuable to seek the product knowledge of a slightly lesser-known celebrity.  Such information just stands a better chance of being more reliable and true to word.  Sure, Maria might be what you call “medium profile” status, and I’m certain she has her hair done for the camera, but she has no current endorsement deals (though she … *gulp* … was the face of Pantene at one point long ago).  She’s not on the pages of every magazine.  So I figure, why not ask?

And so ask I did.  I believe the exact phrasing of the question I submitted was something like, “Your hair always looks healthy.  Outside of regular trims, what products do you use to keep it in good shape?”  Of course, my question got majorly snipped down, but I’ll take whatever!  And so, I received my email from People StyleWatch stating that they’d like to use my question, and to expect it in an upcoming issue.

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Seen this one on stands lately?  It’s the August issue, so it may not be too visible now what with September claiming its monstrous stake on newsstands.  But here it is nonetheless!  And so I believe if you turn to page 58 …

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 … you’ll stumble upon my question and Ms. Menounos’ answer!  Letting it air-dry?  CHECK.  Wash just three times a week?  I’LL ONE-UP YA, MARIA:  I CLOCK IN AT TWO WASHES PER WEEK.  CHECK.  Varying products according to what your hair needs and not just obsessively using the same ones in all seasons?  Smart girl!  CHECK.  And naturally, two suggestions from Maria for two very reputable products: Alterna’s Caviar Anti-Aging Overnight Hair Rescue treatment and Frederic Fekkai’s Brilliant Glossing Sheer Shine Mist.  Not bad.  This girl seems like she knows what she’s doing.  Now, have I purchased either of the aforementioned products since reading Maria’s response?  Nope.  Will I ever?  Maybe, but I’m good for now.  You see, what’s fun about exchanging beauty advice and suggestions is that you get to a point where, hopefully, you’ve found what works for you and the rest is now just optional.  It’s sort of fun just to know what folks use, right?  You don’t have to hop on their train if yours is already heading in the right direction.  But seriously, if I can ask someone like Maria what she does with her hair with the chance that she’ll respond back in a nationally-distributed publication, why not?  xo, MR

Spring Blahs: What’s exciting, what’s frustrating, and what Ben Affleck did for my beauty routine.

It’s been a while since I posted last- over two weeks!  It’s hard to write about something like beauty and hair and the latest trends when you’re not feeling particularly inspired, and I haven’t been so much lately.  I’ve been dealing with a lot of what we’ll just call blah these days, and that’s okay.  Beauty and fashion are constant and probably won’t ever really “go away” so to speak, but sometimes I peek into the lives of people in these industries and it’s like they try to rely on these things to keep calm, stay happy and escape from the reality that life deals them … and that’s called self-medicating.  I don’t want to fall into that cycle, and so I’ve been allowing myself to accept the fact that there are times when I will feel “meh” about hairstyles, colored eyeliner, and CC creams.  There will be times when the things I typically enjoy won’t bring me joy, and that’s okay.  It’s a season, and the joy will come back.

This doesn’t mean, however, that I cannot practice joy in makeup, beauty, and hair.  I still see the goodness in identifying something that I really, really like and expressing how much I like it, even if it feels functional and not as interesting as other times.  And so here, in the midst of blah, I’m listing what I’m currently excited about (or perhaps what I’m not excited about) in beauty.

1.  Early one morning before taking off for teaching, I attempted to do this seemingly easy slicked-back hairstyle.  I thought I had the right product for it, and I had planned to wash my hair that afternoon so it seemed like a good chance to use plenty of gel.  I ended up looking more like a wet Pekingese than anything, or like a cow got really friendly with me and decided to lick me and just not stop until the cow’s tongue turned to sand.  I’ll try it again later when I’m not planning on standing in front of teenagers all day, susceptible to their scathing criticism and underappreciation for the avant-garde in the classroom.  Such peasants, they are.

2.  I’m excited for these.

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Every year, InStyle comes out with an issue that’s just about hair (awesome) and People StyleWatch‘s May issue always features a big beauty section covering skin, makeup, hair, and the works (awesome).  InStyle‘s main edition also features a “Best Beauty Buys” section in it’s May issue (more awesome).  I think I just like pouring over up-close shots of celebrities with inspiring hairstyles and makeup shown in hi-def, and issues like these are loaded with them.  I swear my hair gets healthier and prettier during the week after reading a new magazine like this.  I also swear that the longer you stare at a picture of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s hair, the more likely you are to grab a curling rod and get to work on your own.  It’s this thing I call “envy”.

3.  I got through my whole bottle of Lancome’s La Vie Est Belle!  It’s a miracle, I tell you!  I never get through a whole bottle of perfume in just one season (because I frequently forget to put it on, in the first place), and I am so proud of myself for finally doing it.  I can officially call that my Fall/Winter 2012/2013 scent and I can now move on to bona fide summer fragrances, like my beloved D&G 3 L’Imperatrice, so I can smell like an unmistakably rich juicebox.

4.  I acquired the supposed shade of lipstick that was used on Jessica Alba in my post here (Avon’s Totally Kissable Lipstick in Lovey Dovey Pink, as my reputable resources tell me), but I proceeded to find that the shade was in fact a frosty pink that had me feeling more like this than anything.  I’ll be needing to do a little more research on that shade of Jessica’s.  I’m not convinced.

5.  I’m not at Coachella looking so impressed with myself that my eyes are rolled into the back of my head.

6.  But I WAS impressed enough with myself AND my hair one night to shamelessly Instagram this selfie.

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But come on, cut me some slack.  My hair was behaving like a voluptuous attention hog, I’d had an extra twenty minutes that evening to do a perfect smoky eye, and my bathroom lighting can get weird to the point where you can leave some photos unfiltered and they’ll still have a nice, flaw-concealing sheen to them.  And lest you believe this is a common occurrence, here I am, as I exist, right now:

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No filter, IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING.  Now if you’d excuse me, IMG Models is calling and I’m replacing Miranda Kerr in the Victoria’s Secret Angels lineup.  This is the face that will crush Gisele.

7.  I had my hair color refreshed recently, and I’ve found that since then my hair texture has slightly changed.  It dries much straighter, and each strand seems, I don’t know, perhaps a bit more wire-y or thick.  My friend said she’s seen it happen particularly with dark shades, and so I’m not really worried.  But I am prepping myself for going lighter in less than a month, I’d say.  I have relatively no layers in my hair at this point (what I’ve wanted- mission accomplished).  It’s weird though, I’ve had layers basically for the last ten years up until now.  I’ve finally grown them all out (and had them cut to one length) and now I’m now sure how I feel about it.

8.  I watched Argo the other night and proceeded to bite off all of my nails until each finger started to burn with pain.  No nail polish now for nearly a month.  Thanks, Ben Affleck.  You and your movies make a crap manicurist.

Alright, I’m done.  Time to go sleep on a satin pillowcase to keep my hair and skin smooth and to prevent split ends and breakage.  Yes, I obsess over breakage even in my sleep.  xo, MR

Stop looking at me with your GIANT EYES! Or, a post on the right eyeshadow for your peepers.

I’ve often overlooked the fact that makeup, as a skill for many women, doesn’t come easily.  I mean this not in a condescending way, but what I’m saying is that I take for granted the fact that I’ve been seriously messing around with the stuff since early middle school.  And that I read all of Kevyn Aucoin’s books cover-to-cover as a freshman in high school, and have since read literally countless amounts of information on makeup through blogs, books, and magazines during college and beyond.  I’ll sometimes have friends or acquaintances ask me a question or two on how to apply concealer, or what shade of lipstick they should look for, and in a moment of complete ignorance I’ll think to myself, “They … they don’t already know this?”  Stupid, I know.  I should also probably remember that people are busy with other things besides makeup, and I should be grateful that I’m even thought of as a source of helpful information at all.

One common area of interest that I’ve encountered in many of my friends or acquaintances is the question of what color eyeshadow to use on their eyes. Now, you may have seen those Almay i-intense eyeshadow kits at the drugstore tailored specifically for each eye color, but in my humble opinion I think they suck.  I don’t find them user-friendly (as you have to understand how to apply the three colors for proper contrast, etc.), and I’m totally not into the color combinations offered.  Blue eyeshadow is a tough sell to blue-eyed folks considering they’re typically told from day one to not wear blue eyeshadow, and who wants to be limited to three shades anyhow?  Especially when they’re meant to be worn together?

So, I wanted to share an article with you that I’ve had saved in an issue of People StyleWatch from October of 2007.  It’s a feature on the most flattering shadow shades for every eye color, and you only need to worry about wearing one at a time.  There are even recommendations on specific shadows to buy and try.  It’s by far one of the most useful articles I’ve ever encountered in a magazine.  I realize I save every issue of People StyleWatch (and am running out of places to put them), but I have to encourage you that if you’re ever feeling you lack a certain degree of aptitude regarding makeup, browse through some magazines!  I know you may not find an answer to your particular question immediately, but seriously- get off Pinterest and give print magazines a chance!  This coming February issue of InStyle features a full how-to article on contouring.  Contouring!  That’s some advanced stuff there that even I’ve yet to get a good grip on!  Don’t take the easy way out and Google it.  Go the paper route!  Anyhow, here’s our first page for brown eyes:

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As someone who has brown eyes, I have to confess that I’ve loved their neutrality because it’s enabled me to use pretty much any shade of eyeshadow I like.  PSW suggests using champagne and gold, intense greens and purples, and rich, smoky gray for the best results on brown eyes.  These are, indeed, all extremely flattering choices.  However, another great method for figuring out the best shadows to use on your eyes is checking out the color wheel and figuring out what the opposite of your eye color is (identify your eye color on the wheel and your opposite is whatever’s directly across from it).  The opposite hue of your natural eye color is typically a very complimentary choice.  Now, there isn’t exactly an opposite of brown, because it isn’t on the color wheel.  But in most brown eyes there tends to be found quite a bit of yellow, and the opposite of yellow is purple.  So, I often like to add my own recommendation for brown-eyed folks and suggest trying navy or even electric shades of blue, as they’re somewhat near the purple family.  You’ll see these appear later as a good choice for hazel eyes.

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Here’s our section for blue eyes.  Now, you may notice the options tend to just range within different shades of brown, but this is because brown tends to have some yellow in it, which contrasts quite well with blue.  Additionally, other colors tend to clash with blue eyes because they aren’t as neutral, but don’t get discouraged.  The article suggests gunmetal gray, golden rose, and pretty much any shade of brown will look great.  Again, most anyone can pull off any color if you consult a professional and find the right shade, but these will be the most flattering options for you.  Additionally, if you’re feeling bold, try a subtle shade of orange shadow as orange is blue’s direct opposite.

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I love doing makeup on green eyes because the opposite of green is violet-red, which tends to manifest as purple when it comes to eyeshadow.  I love me a smoky eggplant-hued eye.  PSW suggests golden beige, pale purple and smoky plum, and burgundy for your more dramatic occasions.  There are a number of incredible shades of purple shadow that MAC features, including Sketch and Embark, which is more of a deep brown with plum undertones.  Oh, and note the color suggestion made for everyone on the right- gold.  And yes, I concur that this is true.

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I love the options that hazel eyes have.  I’ve often felt that too many people shy away from navy blue shadow (and if you’ve got brown eyes, you should be working it!), so please just know that if you’ve got hazel eyes it’ll look awesome.  Tawny pink (think more of a warm shade as opposed to baby pink), dusty violet, and gray-blue and navy are all suggested for hazel eyes.  If you’re going for a smoky look (and this is the case for most all eye colors), playing around with hues other than black can bring some amazing results.  I’ve been forgoing my common black-brown shadows lately in favor of a deep navy, and I’ve been loving it.

Let me know of any other questions you may have regarding shadow, or any recommendations you may like on a color to purchase.  I’ve got oodles of know-how for you!  And I promise to not snap at you for not doing your own research.  That would be far too Christian Bale of me.  xo, MR

IT’S SO SPARKLY!!!!!

Every year, the issues I look forward to the most for almost every fashion magazine out there are the December issues.  The September and March issues, while amazing, are just a little too overwhelming for me, and though I do really love the summer issues of June and July, I always love the December issues because they’re all about dressing up, dramatic party makeup, and trying something fancy with your hair.  It’s glitter, sequins, lame’, metallics, brocade and jewel tones, and if there’s anything I love more than casual autumn style, it’s festive holiday style, because it’s … sparkly!!!

So, what do I do for makeup when it comes to holiday festivities?  There are several options I tend to choose from- smokey metallic eyes, glittery nails, perfected skin, red lips, and shimmery gloss.

I know it’s been quite the year for nail art, but really psychedelic  nails don’t seem appropriate to me until the party invitations start rolling out for Christmas.  I haven’t done real honest-to-goodness statement nails yet, but I do love to indulge in a special, sparkly varnish around December that evokes nothing other than Christmas lights!  Chanel’s Le Vernis in Black Pearl for their Spring 2011 line is kind of a bluish-greenish-silverish shade that I found mysterious and different.  Butter London’s Wallis is a blackish-gold glittery polish that does a good job at giving my nails disco fever.  I’ve often passed by some really cool shades by Deborah Lippmann at Nordstrom, and I’m contemplating picking one up in Let’s Go Crazy.  We’ll see.  I have to add here that my dear friend Hailey snuck a Christmas treat for me right under my nose while shopping together on Black Friday, in the form of Deborah Lippmann’s Forget You.  I love it even more than Let’s Go Crazy because it has a black base color rather than purple!  Perfect New Year’s polish!  Thanks Hailey!

During the holiday season, I tend to make greater use of items like my MakeUpForever HD MicroFinish Powder because photo-taking is more frequent (though Instagramming your photos is kind of the sad, cheap cure for any skin imperfections now).  I also like using shimmery highlighters on my face and chest more during this time, because it suits the festivities and stands out at night.

For lips, I know it could be easy to go the deep bordeaux route in honor of fall, but nothing seems to scream “HAVE A HOLLY JOLLY CHRISTMAS!” more than a classic red lip.  I get that they’re kind of a year-round staple that are here to stay these day, but red lips just feel so right against a formal, decorative ensemble paired with that faux-fur vest and those killer boots.  The key to a red lip is finding the right shade for you.  I have to admit that it really, really bothers me when I see ladies wearing the wrong shade of red.  If you have fair skin with cool, bluish undertones (check your veins), go for more blue-based reds.  I hear that Revlon’s Fire and Ice is a good choice, along with MAC’s Ruby Woo.  Whatever Dita Von Teese wears will work.  My NARS Velvet Matte lip pencil in Cruella seems to fit the category for medium shades, and if you have warmer or more olive skin, try for something more orange or brownish-based, like a tomato red such as MAC’s You Say Tomato or Revlon’s Orange Flip.  The shade that seems to get the most buzz for being universally flattering is MAC’s Russian Red, but I also hear plenty of good things about the NARS Velvet Matte lip pencil in Dragon Girl.  Take the time speak to a cosmetics consultant about finding your best shade of red, or do some true online or magazine research.  It’s worth it.  And if you’re going without the red lip, at least go for glittery gloss a la’ Givenchy Gelee D’Interdit in Icy Peach.  Yum.

And lastly, my favorite part- the eyes.  I love a smokey eye any time of year, but making them a little more special with metallic shades of gunmetal or gold jazzes them up just enough.  Sometimes I like to add a little color too, like with this Revlon palette in Sultry Smokes.  I was drawn to it because of the deep navy blue shade it featured; it wasn’t just different shades of black.  Or you could go for a plum smokey eye like Mila Kunis, or an all-over silver wash.  And of course, don’t forget to line the inner rims in a black, inky kohl pencil.

With Thanksgiving just days away, I’m excited to begin adding in little bits of sparkle into my makeup routine here and there.  It’ll have to come with my everyday look, because I honestly don’t have that many parties lined up for December.  Cheers to glittery nails on work days!  xo, MR

P.S.  People StyleWatch magazine used my comments for their “Are You Loving …” feature … again.  See what I had to say in the December ’12/January ’13 issue with Taylor Swift on the cover- it’s a whole six words long!  Although I am disappointed they didn’t use my mention of the word ‘avant-garde’ … must’ve been too high-brow for the demographic.  Whatevs.

The junk food of fashion magazines … and I’ve been eating it forever.

I have kept every single issue of People StyleWatch magazine since December of 2006 . I don’t know why I’ve done this, but I have.

This was the first magazine that I gravitated towards when I started taking style seriously. I can’t say I was taking fashion seriously yet, because I didn’t really care about designers, pushing the boundaries of fashion aesthetics, and craftsmanship (this all came later), but I did begin to truly care about style.

This magazine afforded me the opportunity to look at the clothing that celebrities were wearing and to then try and recreate the look for myself. It was certainly a cheaters way to build my own taste, but there’s no need for shame. I had no clue who I was in terms of style six years ago. I had to start somewhere, and you may as well start by finding out that you love how Jessica Biel dresses and then attempting to replicate her looks. It’s a way to initiate and to shop with intention, to begin looking for specific pieces on your shopping trips as opposed to just mindlessly heading for the mall and hoping you run into some random garment that you like. From that point I began to branch off. I began to choose pieces that I felt Jessica Biel may perhaps wear, but that I would definitely wear. And from that point, things have just continued to evolve. I can tell you with all certainty that People StyleWatch magazine changed my life. It may sound cheesy, but it is, without a doubt, true.

Even today, I continue to purchase every issue of this magazine. Admittedly, it’s kind of the junk food of fashion publications, but I don’t care. It’s fun. And it sure does balance out my hefty Harper’s Bazaar reading. The September issue will be on stands at Wal-Mart this Wednesday! Woop! xo, MR