What words come to mind when you think of women’s most famous glossy magazine, Cosmopolitan? I’d hazard a guess that the following might pop up: glamour, power, fashion, sexual equality, fun…blow-jobs. I know! Can’t believe I just said that either – but as a former Cosmo staff girl myself – beauty assistant circa 1986 – I will never forget the hilarity in the office as I listened agog to the features team discussing whether the words ‘blow job’ could go on the front page or whether it would offend. As a wet behind the ears 19 year old, I thought that particular features meeting was so sophisticated and cool and giggled away to my fashion assistant friend about what my mum would think that night when we ate dinner at the kitchen table and she asked “So what did you get up to at work today love?” and I replied nonchalantly “Oh nothing really, just discussing blow-jobs.” Cue choking and much patting of mum’s back.
But, besides the blow-jobs and naked male centrefolds, Cosmo content was a lot more than just sex. It was part of the magic of my youth. When I’d got bored with the cheesy photo stories in My Guy and the lame problem page in Jackie (you’ve got spots? Big deal – pick them like the rest of us!! Don’t know how to kiss? Geek! Practice on your hand dur brain!) Cosmo was the magazine I moved onto and boy, did it leave the other mags limping behind in their out of date platforms and centre partings. I’d be so impatient for the new issue to arrive each month that while waiting, I’d read over old copies again from cover to cover. I was so obsessed that I even learnt the names of the staff from the magazine and imagined and dreamed that one day my name would there too.
When I was due to leave school, the careers adviser pooh pooh’d my ambitions of going into journalism and suggested I take the safer, more realistic route of becoming a secretary. It was the first time I ever walked out of a classroom while an adult was half way through a sentence, but I couldn’t listen to his drivel. And when I got home, flung myself on my bed and opened my new issue of Cosmo, I felt elated at the article telling me that ‘I could be whatever I wanted to be’ . It made sense to me. And as I stared up at my Adam Ant poster, I felt he understood too! So, roll on 3 years after that dreaded career talk and there I was, in the Cosmo office as New Girl.
I had many amazing moments at Cosmo which are great fodder for telling the kids when I want them to think I’m ‘safe’ (for the oldies out there, ‘safe’ means cool.) Like the time I spoke to David Bailey on the phone and it didn’t even register until the beauty editor started laughing when I told her “Erm, a photographer called for you while you were out. I think his name was David Beely?” When she told me that was the David Bailey, I was really glad I didn’t know at the time because I wouldn’t have been able to talk to him! And the time when (and this is Mean Teen’s favourite story) a young model came up to show me her ‘book’ when we were casting for a beauty shoot. I thought she was really different from the other blonde, Amazonian girls that had been preening around the beauty editor’s desk. She had mousy hair, was down to earth, natural looking and really ‘normal’. Her name? Kate Moss. I remember her walking away and thinking. “I know we won’t book her because she’s not ‘glam’ enough for our shoot, but I hope she gets some work somewhere else.” Haha.
I had many, many happy days working at Cosmo. Not only did I learn to write read worthy articles, but it’s where I grew up, got fashionable, and learnt that putting the words ‘blow-job’ on a cover, can give a magazine its biggest sales ever!
Once a Cosmo Girl, always a Cosmo Girl!