As crazy as this may sound, Cosmopolitan was one of the first magazines I remember reading. I knew I was far too young to be reading that stuff, but I couldn’t stay away. Those primary colored covers featuring super glamorous women — especially in the Eighties when supermodels seemed like a breed apart. I was riveted by the grown women’s magazines my mother was reading while we waited at the hairdresser, and Cosmo proved to be an education in itself. Helen Gurley Brown edited the magazine in those days and it was bold and brash and sexy. The world famous writer and magazine editor passed away today, at age 90. What an incredible, inspiring, long, lush life she led.
Cosmopolitan began in 1886 and went through major transformations. First it was a family magazine. Then it was a literature magazine. It became a women’s magazine with the advent of Helen Gurley Brown in 1965. And today there are 64 versions of Cosmpolitan magazine, according to this New York Times article.
The New York Times got it right in this headline. HGR was the original Carrie Bradshaw. She was a self made woman. Born in a small town in the Ozarks, she rose to become a pioneering author and magazine editor whose rallying cry was sexual agency and the belief that women could indeed have it all. She taught women like myself that our opinions more than mattered — our perspective on beauty, fashion and life, when written and shared, could be influential and important and inspiring. I learned a version of womanhood from Helen Gurley Brown’s Cosmopolitan – and it’s undeniable that her magazine had an effect on generations of women. Cosmo made me want glamour and fun and freedom. It made me aware that my own sensuality and desire were not feelings to be suppressed or feared. I know I’m not the only one who went through a period of yearning to be a Cosmo kind of girl. The kind of woman Helen Gurley Brown was, and wanted the rest of us to be.
Here are my favorite quotes from Helen Gurley Brown.
“People think chutzpah is in the genes. It isn’t.. it’s in the needing and wanting and being willing to fall on your face. It isn’t fun.. who wants all that rejection, but life is sweeter if you make yourself do uncomfortable things.”
‘Never fail to know that if you are doing all the talking, you are boring somebody.’
“Beauty can’t amuse you, but brainwork — reading, writing, thinking — can.”
“My success was not based so much on any great intelligence but on great common sense.”
“Nearly every glamorous, wealthy, successful career woman you might envy now started out as some kind of schlepp.’
“Get up and do it if it needs to be done, even if you hate it!”
That last quote was her motto, as revealed in this fascinating Vanity Fair Q&A.
Thank you for helping to create the template, Helen Gurley Brown. Your legacy will live on forever.
RIP, Helen Gurley Brown.
Photos via Tumblr.