I cut my teeth on Cosmopolitan magazine. When I saw my first copy, I thought it slightly very scandalous and definitely titillating. For a pre-teen girl it was pretty heady stuff. Sexy women on the covers with provocative articles that I could only imagine related to someone else’s life. Someone more sophisticated. Someone more daring. Someone I secretly envied as I was busy at piano and ballet lessons.
With titles like, “I Was An Overage Virgin“, what young woman wouldn’t be curious to read more? And the cover photos! This man appears at her mercy, being stroked like a pet.
On the same cover, “Make This Bikini Yourself“. Really? Titles that grab attention from all angles. The wanna be femme fatale and the industrious young woman who might actually try to make her own bathing suit could both be enticed by these covers. I found them irresistible.
“Cosmo Girls” seemed as mystifying as “Playboy Bunnies” to me, which was an interesting dichotomy in retrospect.
Helen Gurley Brown, the original Carrie Bradshaw died at the age of 90 yesterday.
60 years ago she wrote Sex And The Single Girl. An advice book that encouraged woman to become financially independent and experience sexual relationships prior to and without marriage. Scandalous thoughts at the time. She told women they needed men “to compliment them and not take over their life”.
The early Cosmopolitan covers before Helen took over were quite different. It was a family magazine aimed at the homemaker which was struggling to succeed.
She transformed the antiquated magazine into a must-read for many young, sexy or what to be sexy girls. She told us we could do it all, have it all, and openly express our sexuality.
40 years ago she produced the first nude centerfold with Burt Renolds which led the way for Playgirl magazine. There was not one of my girlfriends who was not frantic to see that centerfold. Tame by today’s standards, it was explosive at the time.
Some of Helen’s more famous quotes :
“Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”- Maybe
“What you have to do is work with the raw material you have, namely you, and never let up.” – True
“Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort.” – Funny
“Never fail to know that if you are doing all the talking, you are boring somebody.” – Gospel Truth
“Nearly every glamorous, wealthy, successful career woman you might envy now started out as some kind of schlepp.”- Perhaps
“If you’re not a sex object, you’re in trouble.” – Not true
Today it’s possible to upload your own photo to their website, “if you’ve ever dreamed of being a Cosmo Girl”. Sort of like at the County Fair where you can get your picture styled in vintage clothes. You make your own cover and do what with it? Hmmm.
Helen was a feminist in quite a different way than Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer. She encouraged women to “own” their own sexuality and careers. She helped empower a generation of women who were at the forefront of the sexual revolution.
Did you read Cosmo? Did it influence you?