Ashlee’s Nose Job Is Last Straw for New Editor of Marie Claire
Ashlee Simpson appeared on the July cover of Marie Claire magazine extolling the virtues of appreciating one’s body as it is — then she had a nose job.
Marie Claire readers erupted in fury at what they said was Ms. Simpson’s hypocrisy and the magazine’s “cluelessness.” They wrote 1,000 letters in protest to the magazine, according to Joanna Coles, the new editor of the magazine. And she agreed with them.
In the first issue (due Aug. 15) over which she exercises full editorial control, Ms. Coles gives expanded space in the letters column to readers to vent against Ms. Simpson. Ms. Coles adds in a note: “We’re dazed and confused — and disappointed — by her choice, too!”
Rare is the day when the editor of a women’s magazine will openly criticize a celebrity. But Ms. Coles is planting a flag: A new Marie Claire is in town and it is making a clean break with its past. No girly goo, no teeny-bopper covers, no blind obedience to the traditional rules of the road.
“It has always been the smart girls’ book,” Ms. Coles said last week in an interview in her airy perch in the new Hearst building in Midtown Manhattan. “But it drifted off-brand, partly due to the assault on the newsstand from celebrity weeklies. It happened to everyone, not just Marie Claire.”
The magazine’s paid circulation was up 3 percent, to 970,000, in the last six months of 2005 compared with the same period in 2004. But the number of copies sold on the newsstand has been flat, an indicator that the magazine is not winning over impulse-buyers, who pay full price, as opposed to home subscribers, who pay discounted rates.
Marie Claire announced in April that it was seeking a “fresh perspective” and was not renewing the contract of its editor, Lesley Jane Seymour. Instead, it hired Ms. Coles, who was the executive editor of More magazine, which is geared toward women over 40.
Ms. Coles, who was a foreign correspondent for The Times of London and The Guardian, is hoping to revitalize Marie Claire by giving it attitude and orienting it toward confident, professional women.
For example, she said, a growing number of women are earning more than their husbands, and she wants Marie Claire to be a place where women discuss such matters. Maggie Gyllenhaal, an actress who Ms. Coles said was not typical magazine cover fare, is the subject of the September cover.
Inserting attitude and offering higher-end articles could be risky for a magazine that many women turn to for fashion and beauty information.
“It’s not easy to get at that market,” said Robert S. Boynton, director of the magazine program at New York University. “In the women’s category, we haven’t seen any new magazines that are ambitious editorially in that way in a long time.”