July 28, 2005,
What does a girl need to get ahead these days? The three B’s beauty, brains, and blogs. Case in point: Nadine Haobsh, an obscure associate beauty editor at Ladies’ Home Journal, delighted that she was allowed to write the magazine’s monthly makeover page. Nadine, who is a pert, photogenic 24-year-old was also excited about being offered a one-step-up job as beauty editor at Seventeen magazine.
On the side, energetic Nadine was also writing a blog called “Jolie in NYC” that was telling insider tales about the beauty industry. “The blog, at first, was mostly celebrity gossip,” Nadine told me. “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.” She continued: “Really, I only did a few postings about editors and PRs. I really lo-o-ove the beauty industry.” But it was the inside dish about the cat-eat-cat world of beauty that made the blog take off, garnering up to 50,000 hits a day.
What was Nadine saying? What everyone knows about but rarely reveals, like the lavish gifts that beauty companies hand out almost daily to beauty editors. For example, she wrote, “My boss regularly gets Marc Jacobs wallets and coats, plane ticket vouchers, iPods, overnight stays at the Mandarin Oriental, year-long gym memberships, and, of course, all the free highlights and haircuts your poor, dyed, straightened and styled hair can stand.”
She also lectured beauty PRs 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. She gave advice for getting ahead: “Be insanely connected, discreetly wealthy, or pretty-in-a-Ralph Lauren-kind-of-way and always super slim.”
In truth, Nadine was just exposing the basic dirty little secret about the relationship of magazines and the companies that manufacture make-up, skin-care, and hair-care lines. Even though hundreds of new products are produced each season, they are all pretty much the same as the old products, no better and no worse. But tons of money is spent by the beauty companies to get editors to give those new products an enthusiastic mention. That means, as Nadine wrote, “events, thrown. . . at clubs, hotels, museums or restaurants, and designed to make a big enough splash that you'll have fun and think, ‘You know, I think I will write about this completely ordinary and not-at-all innovative beauty product.’ That's the only possible explanation, since events are getting more and more lavish (think jungle motifs, hot male models acting as waiters, private museum viewings, day trips out-of-state and even cross-country or overseas press trips).”
But who wants truth in beauty? When her identity was revealed, Nadine was dressed down by her employer for “lack of professionalism” and being “disloyal.” Thinking she had another job, she resigned and gave two-weeks notice, but was told to leave 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.’” Hearst, Seventeen’s parent company, did not feel the same way. Hearst’s H. R. department rescinded the offer.
Where does that leave the suddenly out-of-work young blogger? No problem: Since her identity was revealed, she has appeared on CNN, (“My first TV appearance! It was exciting!”) has been photographed and interviewed by People, and 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. Miss Haobsh now even has her own publicist, a friend from college.
Being revealed as a blogger turns out to be a very good career move for those who are both young and cute. Last year Jill Sieracki, another magazine staffer, 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 also promptly fired by Hearst. 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. That’s because the former editor in chief Michelle Zipp was reportedly fired for publicly admitting she was a Republican. (Dear reader, do all these stories convince you women’s magazines and those who run them have absolutely no sense of humor and take themselves too seriously?)
Nadine told me she had a sympathy call from Jessica Cutler, the Capitol Hill staffer who wrote a blog about her sex life called “The Washingtonienne,” and then after being fired by Senator Mike DeWine turned her experiences into a novel, published by Hyperion.
To keep up her spirits, Jolie in NYC has kept right on blogging and revealed (Extra! Extra!) that beauty editors rarely wear make-up. As she notes: “Fashion editors wear clothes, do they not? Chefs eat. . . . And yet, beauty editors soldier on, eye shadow and foundation-free.” So true.
Maybe she’ll get gutsy enough to reveal the deepest, darkest secret of all: that the make-up that the model is wearing for a cover picture is rarely the make-up that is credited with in the magazine. Make-up 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. Revealing something like that would sort of be like outing Valerie Wilson.
Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness and Liberalism to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.