Editorial content, Podcasts, Publications, Social responsibility

Allure editor in chief Michelle Lee on representation in magazines

On this week’s episode, Esther interviews Allure’s editor in chief Michelle Lee about its ongoing efforts to improve representation in magazine media, how diversity can help heal divisions in society, and opportunities around new media.

In the news roundup the team discusses a potential cash-for-coverage scandal at the Evening Standard (and what that says about sponsored editorial and trust), Peter gets extremely happy about new investment in Rolling Stone, and Esther discusses the latest news about news at Facebook.

We’re reading:

In our own words: Esther Kezia Thorpe

Allure’s June covers are bold, brilliant and beautiful. They caught my eye on Twitter, and as well as almost persuading me to get pink hair, the story Michelle told about them in her thread was really touching in its honesty.

The covers, concept and models were all done and dusted before Michelle thought about the last time an Asian woman featured on the cover. When she found out in her research that there had only been two prior covers in the past 28 years, she felt personally sad and embarassed, especially as an Asian woman herself.

In the interview, she talks about how difficult it is to walk that line between diversity and tokenism, as well as the need for people to see others like themselves in mainstream media, whether that be in Hollywood blockbusters or every day in the magazine stands.

It’s easy to throw around the terms ‘diversity’ and ‘representation’ as things we should be talking about, and sometimes we lose sight of why. Something Michelle said about this really stuck with me – that people in America (and, as we’ve seen, all around the world) really don’t understand each other. The divisions this has caused throughout history are still really prevalent today, and showing a wide range of types of people and their stories prominently in popular magazines is one way to combat this and raise more difficult topics.

She also talks about bringing the magazine into the digital era, and how influencers and new media open up a whole world of opportunities for traditional ‘print magazines’. I challenge you not to be infected with her enthusiasm and optimism for the future of the industry, even if we have no idea what it’ll look like in five years time.

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