Dream Guardians

Earlier this month a selection of the extremely glamorous (and me) met at the Banqueting House at Whitehall for the Cosmopolitan Ultimate Women of the Year awards.  Cosmopolitan magazine has been a part of female culture for decades now.  You might love it, you might disdain it, you might grow out of it, but you cannot disregard it as no longer relevant.  Together with other magazines of the same status including Vogue, Marie Claire, Elle and more, the publishers should be congratulated for sustaining such vibrancy over the last decade when so much about media consumption and business models has changed.

The press coverage that this particular awards night received in the tabloids was testament to its continued relevance. (Or as The Sun put it “Cosmo Women go to Phwoar”).  One of the highlights for me of the evening was little mentioned in the press.  Justine Williams (aged 29) won the “Ultimate Inspirational Woman” for overcoming personal difficulties (including a prison sentence) to set up a scheme to help young people to train in media and business skills.  In her acceptance speech she thanked the young people who had helped her win this award and indeed an MBE, but glancing round the admittedly gorgeous but undeniably largely over 25 years old audience she qualified her thanks by saying “I can see that there’s no-one young here tonight”. She got a huge laugh for it and I’m sure no-one really minded.  There will just have been a huge rush to buy beauty serums and botox the following morning.

In his speech last year to the PPA conference John Grant gave a rallying cry to publishers to approach magazines as a valued gatekeeper rather than simply as media space.  He talked about their power as not just a meeting place for like – minded readers but as the arbiters of opinions.

Grant further called magazines in the current era “communities of enthusiasm”.    One conversation I had on the night of the Cosmo awards made me think that they are even more than that.  The deputy editor Claire Askew and I were chatting about our first memories of the magazine.  For me it entered my life at 14 when my mum brought me back US Cosmo from her Christmas vacation.  The edition contained a special magazine about your star sign’s love life for the year ahead which passed round my class like wildfire (it was a bit rude).  Claire talked about her first job as a journalist.  She’d been doing work experience in a small office immediately opposite Nat Mags HQ in Broadwick Street and looked often across the road and dreamt longingly of the day when she might possibly be part of Cosmopolitan.

Glossy women’s magazines are not just communities of enthusiasms.  They are about enthusiasms and about possibilities but also about impossible or near impossible aspirations.  They are guardians of communities of dreams.

As seen at Mediaweek.co.uk

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