Chillin' with Myrna Blyth
A few people have emailed asking me to post The New York Sun piece that ran yesterday. (The Sun, lovely paper that it is, is one of those unfortunate cases where a registration is required to access online articles. Bad move, guys! The internet is supposed to be free.) And for those of you unaware of this very interesting tidbit, the woman who interviewed me, Myrna Blyth, was the editor-in-chief of Ladies' Home Journal for many, many years...
BY MYRNA BLYTH
July 27, 2005
Secrets of The Beauty Industry Exposed!
Women's magazines, and those who run them, take themselves very seriously. And, as Nadine Haobsh has discovered, can sometimes have absolutely no sense of humor.
Last week, Ms. Haobsh was an obscure associate beauty editor at Ladies' Home Journal, a magazine I once edited, pleased with the opportunity to write the monthly makeover page. The pert 24-year-old Barnard graduate had just accepted a job offer to be beauty editor at Seventeen. But she had also been producing, for the last few months, a witty anonymous blog she called Jolie in NYC.
The site became a must-read for others who toiled in the beauty departments of women's magazines and the beauty publicists who entertain these editors and their assistants at lavish press events. Then, last week, a mass e-mail from a publicist disclosed that Ms. Haobsh was Jolie in NYC. Ms. Haobsh, who had already accepted the job offer at Seventeen, gave two weeks notice to the Journal. Her bosses told her to clean out her desk that day.
"When I told the person at Seventeen who offered me the new job about the blog and what had happened, she said, 'Wow, that's cool.'" But Hearst, Seventeen's parent company, did not feel the same way. Hearst's human resources department rescinded the offer.
So just what was it that bothered the powers that be so much? "The blog, at first, was mostly celebrity gossip. My opinion about Tom and Katie, stuff like that. I did it in the evening and only during lunch hour at work. And I would e-mail it to friends and they would e-mail to friends," Ms. Haobsh told me. "Really, I only did a few postings about the beauty industry. I really love the beauty industry." Still, the inside dish about that cat-eat-cat world made the blog take off, garnering up to 50,000 hits a day.
On her blog, Ms. Haobsh said she was just telling some truths that insiders all know but are rarely publicly revealed. For example, about the many gifts from beauty companies her boss receives daily, she wrote: "[She] regularly gets Marc Jacobs wallets and coats, plane ticket vouchers, iPods, overnight stays at the Mandarin Oriental, yearlong gym memberships and, of course, all the free highlights and haircuts your poor, dyed, straightened and styled hair can stand."
She also lectured beauty publicists and dissed her editorial colleagues for being too cheap to spend a dollar at a sale of deeply discounted beauty products, even when the money went to charity. "I didn't name names and I was just writing what everyone knows," she said. "But I realize now I should have told my bosses about the blog. That was my mistake."
To keep up her spirits, Jolie in NYC has kept right on blogging and this week revealed yet another dirty little secret: Beauty editors rarely wear makeup. As she notes: "Fashion editors wear clothes, do they not? Chefs eat. I can only assume that music writers do actually listen to music. And yet, beauty editors soldier on, eye shadow and foundation free." So true.
Personally, I'm hoping Ms. Haobsh will get gutsy enough to reveal the deepest, darkest secret of all: that the makeup that the model is wearing for a cover picture is rarely the makeup that is credited in the magazine. Makeup artists use whatever they want, usually little-known brands that do not have advertising budgets, then the beauty editor gives credit to the magazine's biggest advertisers.
But maybe she won't get the chance. "I may never work in the beauty industry again," she said. "And that makes me sad." But her spirits should be lightened by the publicity she has garnered this week. She has meetings with four top literary agents, including agents from ICM and William Morris. "I have been working on a novel. I already have about 150 pages," she said. And, yes, the heroine is a young woman who comes to New York to work in the beauty industry.
In the past, being exposed as a blogger has turned out to be a good career move. Last year another magazine staffer, Jill Sieracki, an editorial assistant at Good Housekeeping, sent in a rant complaining about her boss to Mediabistro.com. A brief excerpt: "I'm half your age, make a third of your salary, and after babysitting you for over a year, could do your job and still have time for a manicure." She was promptly fired by Hearst and worried she would never work again. But she soon got a job as an associate editor at Playgirl, moved up quickly to managing editor, and, a couple of months ago, became editor in chief. Her first issue as editor in chief of Playgirl is on the newsstands right now.