Lots of you read the letter I wrote to Now Magazine this week about their recent cover. In fact, more of you read it than I could ever have imagined… so far it’s had 35,127 views! You lot really are incredible, and I’ve been astounded by the response I’ve had. Thank you all. This is quite clearly an issue that many of you feel strongly about, and rightly so. In an unexpected turn of events, Sally Eyden (Editor of Now Magazine) replied. Below is a copy of that reply, followed by my own comments (because you didn’t REALLY think I’d have nothing else to say, did you…?)
Thank you so much for getting in touch. I have read your blog and was moved to email you. I have also written a response to Kate Taylor, who wrote an incredibly frank and emotional open letter to me.
I am so sorry our cover offended and upset you. It absolutely wasn’t our intention. When we put together our 24 December Shocking Bodies cover it was actually with our readers’ feelings in mind. We wanted to say: ‘It’s normal to have lumps and bumps and wobbly bits’. Because, let’s face it, we all have.
At this time of year it’s usually customary for magazines to feature models with unattainable bodies on the cover telling you how you can look just like them. The fact of the matter is it’s impossible; as we all know, only a small percentage of the world’s population is blessed with a perfect body, and I certainly don’t want to make my readers feel bad about the fact they haven’t got one!
I, along with my heads of departments (women of all sizes), thought long and hard about using the word ‘normal’ on the cover but, after a LOT of debate (and believe me – there was a LOT), we felt our readers, many of whom look up to celebrities, would rather see pictures of stars looking less than perfect, therefore reassuring them about their own perfectly ‘normal’ bodies.
I don’t know about you, but after spending the Christmas holiday on the sofa eating roast potatoes and chocolate, the last thing I want to see in a magazine is pictures of perfectly toned women in bikinis making me feel bad about my cellulite and stretchmarks – of which I have myriad by the way!
The Now team comes in all shapes and sizes, from size 8 to size 18. We are normal women, with the same insecurities as everyone else. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, friends. We battle with our self-confidence and feel a trickle of dread each time we have to break out the bikini – and we know we shouldn’t eat the office biscuits, but do anyway! I completely understand your concerns as a mother. Which is why at Now we are proud of the fact we don’t airbrush our cover stars to make them look thinner and are one of the very few magazines to use plus-size models in our fashion shoots.
The same week we sent our Shocking Bodies issue to press, we also signed off the magazine that’s on the shelves right now, featuring reality stars Gemma Collins (a size 20) and Chanelle Hayes (a size 14), with the headline “Screw the diet”.
Their interviews are empowering, uplifting and send a strong message to our readers that sexy absolutely does NOT equal skinny. I know many people on Twitter have perceived this as a backtrack for the previous cover, but I can promise you they actually went to press at the same time because of our Christmas holiday deadlines.
As a magazine editor I am acutely aware of the responsibility I have when it comes to the messages we send our readers – and promoting a positive and realistic body image is something I believe in very strongly.
Your blog is passionate, well-written and oozes the sort of empowering attitude we always aspire to have in Now; I would love to invite you to our office to meet the team and share your thoughts. As mentioned, I have also invited Kate Taylor too.
If we’re getting it wrong or not representing our readers, I want to know. While I understand this cover has upset you, I hope that something positive can come out of the important conversation your blog has started this week.
So, the explanation from Now magazine is that they were keen to reassure their readers about their own perfectly ‘normal’ bodies. Surely that’s to be applauded? Maybe, but not if other women are shamed in the process. And shamed they were.
As Sally says in her letter, the latest Now cover proclaims “Screw the diet!” and features celebrities of various sizes posing cheerfully for the camera, having apparently spent a fair whack of their visit to Now in hair and make up. In stark contrast, the photos featured on the cover in question mainly features seemingly oblivious women were snapped as they did their own thing on the beach. If they’re anything like me, their biggest concerns were how to unwedge their bikini bottoms from their bum or dust the sand from their cleavage without drawing the attention of everyone on the beach. These pictures weren’t of women who’d rocked up at the Now studios to feature in a piece about how comfortable they are with their size. There was no trip to hair and make up for these ladies, just a paparazzi-type shot of them relaxing by the sea oblivious to the judgement about to be unleashed upon them.
Then there was the language. If anyone said to me “Yikes! You’ve PILED on 8 stone. Look at your shocking body” then I wouldn’t be thanking them for their support and solidarity. I’d be pretty flipping gutted, if I’m honest. None of that language screams “Sisterly solidarity” to me, it screams “Ha! Look at the state of you, fatso!” Nor does it support Sally’s message that we’re all fine as we are, post-Christmas bodies and all. As a result, the “This will make you feel normal” comment reads as a snide and sarcastic dig.
If this really was an attempt to reassure women about their bodies, then it fell as flat as one of my sponge cakes. If it wasn’t, then I hope Sally and her team have taken on board what you’ve all told them about the effect of this kind of message on women and girls.
The prospect of a visit to the Now offices gives me some idea how Daniel felt when he was heading for the lions’ den. If I’m honest, having my bikini plucked with tweezers in the middle of Sainsbury’s seems a more appealing option, but visit them I will. I’m going to take my shocking body down there and tell them what you’ve all told me. I bloody hope they have cake…