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How Joanna Coles Got People To Take Cosmo Seriously

Image via Getty
Image via Getty

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Editor-in-chief Joanna Coles has worked hard to turn Cosmopolitan into a magazine that's about more than just sex. "The pieces feel topical," Coles told The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove. "One of my issues with women's magazines is that you could open them up and you're not sure what decade they're from. I want people to understand that this is a magazine about what we're living through now."

Coles got her degree from the University of East Anglia back home in England, and started her career at English publications. "One of the differences between American magazines and English magazines," she told Grove, "is that American magazine pieces are always supposed to end up positive and upbeat at the end. But I quite like the odd story that doesn't end up positively, but just sort of leaves you adrift…I'm a very unsentimental editor."

Coles admitted that, many years ago, she never would have pictured herself at a magazine like Cosmo. When she was working in England for publications including The Guardian and The Times of London, she was credited with the world's "first extensive post-acquittal interview" of O.J. Simpson.

Now, her day-to-day duties are a little different, but she still remains true to form when it comes to breaking the status quo. "Joanna, right from the start, had a very compelling plan which we now see in its physical form," Hearst Magazines President David Carey told Groves. "It was to focus on relationships, which of course was at the center, but the marketplace has evolved tremendously, and Cosmo should have a stronger political voice, it should connect with some of the great emerging female executives to share their stories and their triumphs, and there was a chance to rethink the mix, based on the contemporary young woman."

Since Coles took the reigns at Cosmo, the magazine has prominently featured Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In movement and got the scoop on Jill Abramson's first interview post-New York Times firing. All that has paid off in a big way: Cosmopolitan celebrated its biggest money-making September issue ever this year. The magazine was also awarded its first-ever National Magazine Award in May for an in-depth guide to contraceptives.

Her biggest regret? Never learning how to play golf. "I do not play golf, and if I could go back and do something different, I would have learned how to play golf in my mid-20s, and I would encourage every young woman to do that," she told Groves. "I kick myself for not having thought of that, because it's a really interesting place to talk to other people in the business sphere—to be part of a conversation that otherwise goes on without you. That's my first advice to young women: Learn golf."
· Joanna Coles: Why Cosmopolitan Does Sexy and Serious So Well [The Daily Beast]
· New Cosmo Fitness Channel Gets Your "Revenge Body" Needs [Racked]
· The Drugstore Scores's Beauty Editor Uses [Racked]