Archive for the 'Magazines' Category

Seeing Double

I’ve noticed that so many magazines are now doing double covers. It makes sense: with many magazines struggling to stay afloat, publishers and designers are experimenting with new ways to keep their magazine successful, from iPad apps, to charging for their online content, to these double covers. A double cover, er, doubles the chances grabbing a potential buyer’s interest.

The current issue of LOVE has both Kate Moss and Justin Bieber on the cover – haven’t caught Bieber fever yet? Well, surely you must still love Moss. It also offers the opportunity to post twice as many cover stories, without cluttering the front paper. More into London’s electronic music scene than Pittsburg hip-hop? Well, still pick up a copy of Fader’s Spring Style issue because they’re featuring both!

Generally in stores, more than one copy is exposed at a time. But this may be less effective in the many small bodegas dotted along NYC’s busy streets, where usually only one copy of each magazine faces forward. I wonder are publishers losing a lot of revenue by not having an advertisement on the back of the magazine anymore.. Hopefully the increased sales will pay off. I love a good magazine so I hope all these new initiatives work!


Dissecting the Magazine Cover: Rihanna on Vogue

On this month’s cover of Vogue, posing in an embellished lace floral Chanel dress, Rihanna looks like a confident symbol of rebirth. The decision to dye her hair a poppy-red is surely no accident, representing a post-war period in her life, where the battleground has cleared and flowers have been allowed to flourish. Rihanna’s journey after a traumatic domestic abuse attack has played out through her fashion choices at a series of public stages including music videos, award show appearances, and magazine covers.

Floral motifs were present at the beginning of Rihanna’s career, where her fashion choices echoed her Barbadian heritage, giving her a genuine distinction from pop and R’n’B singers already on the market. In her first music video ‘Pon De Replay’ she sports a gold bikini top, a floral patterned dress, large gold hoop earrings and numerous chunky bangles. These Caribbean accents were Americanized by pairing them with casual baggy jeans and Converse sneakers to give her a more relatable look for her target audience. This early public image was certainly wholesome, but had less of the exaggerated girl-next-door quality thrust upon other pop stars like Britney Spears, or what I like to call the “Like a virgin (like we’re all stupid!)” persona.

As her career progressed, Rihanna’s style choices became more unpredictable, modeling an ever-changing parade of fashion choices and shorter haircuts. This new, daring fashion style was a considered, intelligent decision to distinguish herself. Rihanna worked closely with producer Jay Z, and therefore suffered from numerous accusations of simply being a clone of Jay Z’s wife Beyoncé.

In the ‘Disturbia’ music video , she had more gothic fashion style, wearing dark colors, chocker necklaces and mesh top barbed wire motifs. This “edgier” phase in a pop star’s lifecycle usually occurs two years or two albums, whichever happens to come first, into a pop singer’s career. This new fashion persona is usually signaled by the release of an edgy or artistic music video. Britney Spears, exhibited a more gothic look in the ‘Stronger’ video where she sang the infamous line “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more”, a reference to her first single. Christina Aguilera’s ‘Fighter’ was a kind of experimental art video with a convoluted butterfly theme. Whether true of not, these videos gives the impression of a pop star’s increased creative freedom or adult status, and a familiar cry from every entertainment magazine heralds, “[insert pop starlet here] is all grown-up!”

Next along the pop star lifecycle trajectory is an extremely provocative phase which is often the result of a slump in sales or a massive rebellion against their constructed virginal image. Throughout her career Rihanna wore her sexuality on her sleeve – or rather on her hips – using provocative, tight-fitted clothes to accentuate her curves. Animal prints were a reoccurring motif alluding to an animal and instinctive sexual nature. While many mothers of teenage fans may not approve of this highly sexual demeanor, it is certainly a more honest, if not healthier, attitude towards sex. There was never any doubt that Rihanna and her then-boyfriend Chris Brown were having a sexual relationship, refusing to do the usual “oh we’re just good friends” routine followed by a disingenuous giggle.

The next dramatic change in Rihanna’s fashion sense was brought on by tragic event, when she was viciously attacked by Chris Brown. The night of the attack she was wearing a flowing, pastel watercolor Gucci gown; a feminine style that almost completely disappeared in the years following the attack.

Although Rihanna refused to speak publicly about the incident, she spoke through her fashion choices, shifting to an androgynous but still highly sexualized look, alternating between re-appropriated masculine suits and army styles. Rihanna used fashion to cope, building a protective wall of harsher materials including leather, spikes and structural material. Large shoulder pads were her assertion of power during a difficult time, much like how women in the workforce chose them during the 1990s and Reagan-era.

Hairstyles and tattoos also played a huge part in her new look. She shaved the side of her hair, a poignant symbol of entering the army and now possesses no less than thirteen tattoos, including one on her chest “Never a failure, always a lesson” backwards so that she can read it in the mirror.

But Rihanna’s cries through her fashion choices and lyrics, “I, I, I, I’m so hard. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I’m so hard. So hard, So hard, So hard, So hard.” are reminiscent of “the lady doth protest too much. ”, an over compensation indicating that perhaps she was struggling more than she would allow herself to admit in public. Her music videos for ‘Russian Roulette’ and ‘Hard’ were flooded with war imagery and she wore aggressive artifacts revealing top made of bullets, shields and army jackets. There is also a knowingness to her fashion choices; her army helmet is shaped with Mickey Mouse ears possibly making statements about pop star’s constructed identity.

It’s important to note that a pop star can often have little power over what they wear, so there is always the concern that these public personas could be forced upon Rihanna. But I’ll finish with her own words about her personality, and hope for her sake that it isn’t purely constructed by other people: “Brilliant, resilient, fan mail from 27 million”.

Go Kendra, Go Kendra

That former playmate Kendra Wilkinson (one of Hugh Hefner’s ex-girlfriends) has a sex tape really comes as no surprise. But what I have found surprising is her own reaction to the story, as she described herself as “humiliated” and “betrayed” It’s a relatively complicated story; some sources reporting that she was already aware of the tape and others even suggesting that she previously tried to sell the tapes. The blogosphere is full of articles relating to it. But I want to talk about a slightly different aspect to the story that concerns me… Why is she so ashamed?

For someone whose entire career (and I use the term “career” lightly) is based around her sex appeal it is surprising that a sex tape could cause such a reaction. One of Ms. Wilkinson’s main concerns is that her husband or young child may see the footage. This same concern was never expressed about her Playboy photographs. Apparently highly sexual, revealing and pseudo-lesbian photos such as the one below are okay by Ms. Wilkinson standards. She seems to take little issue with her family seeing pictures of her in a state of undress with her mouth open. (A woman’s mouth in pornography, as well as in popular culture usually symbolises her openness to penetration.) But if anyone was to see her actually perform fellatio, well that’s downright disgusting, no? One thing that has always bothered me is society’s obsession with women as “sexy” but never sexual beings. We do not live in Victorian times. We know that women do receive pleasure by having sex. These kinds of reactions also perpetuate the idea that it is acceptable for a grown woman to dress, dance and act sexy, but to actually have and enjoy sex is wrong or shameful.

Her numerous photographs for Playboy serve only as sexual stimulation for men. A women takes no physical pleasure (although she is often encourages to look otherwise) from having her nude photo taken. There is numerous images of women faking orgasm in Playboy and other magazines. But Ms. Wilkinson and her PR reps seem to think that if the public watch her actually orgasm that it could be damaging to her “brand” and “image”.

Just another typically stupid response and double standard from a country obsessed with porn but critical of sex.

Frankie, my dear, I do give a damn

I spent 4 months in Melbourne in the summer of 2008 and during that time I read ‘Frankie’ magazine a lot. And I miss it. So last month when my Melbourne auntie sent me a copy of ‘Frankie’ as a present, I couldn’t have been more grateful. She sent me #34 (pictured right). It was started in 2004 out of a small flat on Brunswick Street (which, coincidentally is very near to where I used to live.)

I have a real issue (haha, issue, get it?) with the majority of magazines for women. I find they patronise the readers with their dumbed-down “news” stories. The content is bitchy and they tell us how to act. Frankie does none of these things.

‘Frankie’ is an excellent magazine for young women. The content or design is never sensationalist so it’s calming to read, which makes it perfect for enjoying on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea.  It somehow manages to strike this perfect balance in all aspects of the magazine. It’s sweet without seeming twee. It’s informative without seeming too heavy.

The illustrations are cute and aren’t afraid to be just a little bit girly. The photography is soft and has a real nostalgic quality. They looks like stills taken straight from a daydream (or ones taken by a Diana Camera). It  also has some fantastic physical qualities. The paper is soft and the magazine is light despite a high page count  so it fits in your bag perfectly without weighting it down (genius!)…

To find out more about Frankie, please visit