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Cosmo's Little Sister

IN PRINT: What young people are reading

Hearst spinoff CosmoGirl! brings beauty and fashion to girls 12 to 17. This and other new teen magazines are facing questions about the mixed messages they send to young audiences.

June 25, 1999|BOOTH MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There's no denying girls are interested in makeup and boys, says Pam Nelson, who started L.A.'s Girl Press in 1997 when she could not find books for her young cousins. Girl Press recently published the bestseller "Girl Boss," which teaches girls how to start their own businesses. Nelson understands teen magazines' conundrum from a publishing perspective and believes tempering beauty and fashion with more meaty issues can be a tool for getting a positive message across.

"You have to package things in a way that draws girls in," she says.

The issues addressed by teen publications of today may not be as heady as birth control and equal rights, which graced the covers of many magazines in the 1970s, but Ms. Editor Marcia Ann Gillespie is still hopeful.

"I am amazed with the political savvy of girls today and with the thoughtfulness they have about who they are in the world," she says. "I see the way today's young women are taking issues of feminism and making them their own."

Perhaps today's feminism, known as "girl power," means not being afraid to embrace and revel in things that are girlie, including fashion magazines. And girls today may not be issue-oriented simply because they feel they don't have to be, which is a victory of sorts.

Nelson says, "A lot of girls don't realize what women in the 1970s did to get them where they are. But I'm almost glad they don't have to worry about those issues."

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Booth Moore can be reached by e-mail at booth.moore@latimes.com.

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