This Month In Lady Mags: Starting Anew In January

So it is almost 2011 and it is time to accept that. The lady mags have already done it, ringing in January earlier than the rest of us. And it looks like they must have made some New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, because all the issues have slimmed down this month. We’re talking about almost comic book proportions. That means it is extra important that you read on and check out which reduced-size mag is worth your cash. Because no one wants to start the new year by spending foolishly. Elle
This month’s Elle is all about making a better you, which—you know—is such a novel idea for a New Year’s issue. Sarcasm aside, Sarah Jessica Parker serves as cover girl and spends most of her interview chatting about taking over the role of president and chief creative officer of Halston. SJP sounds devoted, sweet and grounded, but if you aren’t familiar with the language of fashion, like myself, it can be alienating. Parker also shares that she made a vow to herself to never read a single “Sex and the City 2” review, which, in hindsight, was very wise. The more accessible and entertaining interview is for sure Winona Ryder—not only do you get an overview of all the awesome movies she’s been in, but you learn she is quite a Luddite. Apparently, Winona abstains from the internet except for the email she gets on her Blackberry, opting for collecting novels instead. The story is accompanied by photos of Ryder in a wide range of styles, some a little bit “Little Women” and others a sampling of her goth days of “Beetlejuice.” The rest of Elle has some good filler, but they are mostly pieces that will appeal to the smallest sliver of the population. As for fashion, it has been proclaimed that the year 2011 will a battle between bold brights and redefined neutrals. It seems to me that Elle is on the brights side, offering up spreads of the Mexican Rivera and primary colored clothes, as well as giving the weird hair trick of powdering your part with a colorful eye shadow. They also claim platform sandals are practical, which while sitting in two sweaters in 24 degree weather, is a statement I take issue with.
Grade: B+

Essence doesn’t usually disappoint, but this time it did. The content is just lacking, making the issue seem like a composition of afterthoughts and scraps left over from this year. The cover story about comedian Steve Harvey was too complimentary. The article mainly focuses on how he over came his 2005 divorce and is now a better man for it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice story, but the man is treated as a saint for getting through what a thousand people go through everyday. Where the magazine shines, as it usually does, is in fashion. Essence has the knack of putting together outfits that are realistic to the season, style, and pocketbooks. “Active Imagination” feels like cool high school senior portraits, but with a wardrobe that can be catered to anybody, like playfully patterned blouses, dresses, and skirts—hello blue leopard. “America’s Next Top Model” alum Toccara also makes an appearance modeling subtly sexy workout wear. Apparently, she is a contributing style editor for the mag. Regardless of her formal role, she still has a full-time job in looking good.
Grade: B -

Glamour hits the right notes this month. It’s true that not one of their supposed nine “smile-inducing” outfits even made me smirk and I don’t I want to rush out and buy their “8 Key Pieces For 2011.” I just have an adversity to fringe bags. All that aside, I am still loving this issue because it contains things like a poll of guys and girls on what they call their partner’s private parts. The answers are hilarious, like “Ham Wallet,” “Chewbacca,” and “Digital Underground.” I like it because Glamour has the balls to dress cover girl Reese Witherspoon as a classy cross between a groupie and prosti-tot, and then deal her a big girl interview about growing older and being obsessed with romantic comedies. On a more serious note, this issue also gives you some content that can actually improve your life in more ways than giving you a case of the giggles. There are fixes for the short term, like how to rock and enhance your hair’s natural look with less than five minutes of effort. And then there is long term advice like bundles of tips on how to stay calm, happy, and stress-free from a barrage of professionals that sounds like they are talking more than text-book jib-jab. As an added bonus, you can even feed your inner Tiger Beat reader by taking the five quizzes about your love life. Yeah, it’s pretty wonderful.
Grade: A

Marie Claire
Amy Adams is on the front of Marie Claire saying, “The world thinks I’m so innocent, but it’s not true.” And she is backing up that claim, boosting her va-va-voom factor in a deep-V dress on the cover and conducting her interview while taking a pole-dancing class. The new mom shares that she has always been a bit of sex kitten, claiming she was a “hot mess” in her 20s and that when she grew up, she thought sexiness was a what a women looked like in a White Snake video. Overall, Adam’s interview shows that she is a real person and not the precocious, squeaky, and adorable princess/blogger/nun that her movies make her out to be. The rest of this issue is also keeping it real, asking tough questions like: “What if you have no game?” and “What if your boyfriend turns out to be gay?” The answers are, respectively, “stop freaking out, fate has its ways and, well, that sucks.” MC also has the guts to call out upcoming designers of our times and, by the looks of the photo shoot, I think it will be a pretty fashionable and sporty future with designers like Ohne Titel, Rag & Bone, and Preen. Also make sure to read the story about one of “America’s Most Wanted Women,” Rebecca Rubin, who is still at large for arson and mass animal releases in the name of animal and environmental rights. While what she did is wrong, the article leaves you to decide if releasing a company’s 2,000 live minks or burning down an empty barn makes her a terrorist on the same ranks of Osama Bin Laden. I told you it got real.
Grade: A

Since most mags have a theme this month, Allure’s would have to be transformation, both good and bad. The bad part is very brief, but maybe the most interesting. In the “Beauty By Numbers” section, the issue breaks down how people have been adjusting images of themselves long before Photoshop came about, including a less complimentary bust found of Egyptian queen Nefertiti and 1930s actress having their photos retouched with paint. Now for the good side of transformation, Allure challenged their staff to make some major changes to their looks, like going blond to brunette, getting bangs, or getting lash extensions. And in my opinion, everyone looks better in a pretty big way. The best part is that all the participants offer tips on how to make the same changes yourself. Leighton Meester is also celebrated for making the leap from “Gossip Girl” queen to movie star. The girl we all know as Blair will be playing quite a different character, acting with Gwyneth Paltrow in “Country Strong.” Meester will also be in the upcoming dark comedy “The Oranges” where her character gets to have sex with the significantly older Hugh Laurie. Leighton admits it wasn’t too hard to pretend to have a crush on the “House” doctor. The other star to check out is “True Blood“‘s Deborah Ann Woll who takes on almost a dozen different looks, showing off the transformative power every lady has with a little makeup, confidence and a wardrobe change. I guess it is time to haul butt to my cocoon and start my metamorphosis.
Grade: B +

Once again I find myself in a weird place with Vogue. Parts of it enchants me with its careful poise and other parts of it make me feel like I am so uneducated in their eyes that I should just shut the magazine and go back to watching “SpongeBob SquarePants.” This issue is the usual mix of both. For example, the article “The New Front Row,” about the important new ladies going to fashion shows, flies so far over my head that I only felt a light breeze. The talk of what famous people are sitting at famous places and watching other famous people while wearing clothes made by famous people got me lost. And these articles don’t try to ease you in. But it is when Vogue blends their exquisite eye for fashion with dynamic content and an accessible appreciation for beauty that I get intoxicated with what I am reading. This happens again with an interview with Natalie Portman, who is such an enviable, talented and genuine person to begin with that it is hard not to get transfixed. Portman offers another carefully vulnerable interview where she shares her depression in college, her struggles with “Black Swan,” and her interest in making female-centered pot comedies. The interview is matched with eerily gentle pictures that capture her and her most recent role in “Black Swan” without shoving it in your face. The rest of the mag balances the usual haughty analysis of fashion and alluring stories with equally stunning photos.
Grade: B