Mags: There's Nothing You Shouldn't Wear

In this month's conversation with the program's Magazine Mavens, host Michel Martin talks with Suzan Colon, contributing editor for O, The Oprah Magazine; Tanisha Sykes, a senior editor at Essence Magazine and Angie Romero, entertainment editor for Latina Magazine. The women discuss a wide range of topics including how women should rethink their wardrobe, and the rise in plastic surgery among Latinas.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for our monthly visit with the Magazine Mavens. That's the part of the program where we talk with editors of some of our favorite magazines, and try to get the story behind the stories. Joining us today are Suzan Colon, contributing editor for O, the Oprah magazine; Tanisha Sykes, a senior editor at Essence magazine; and Angie Romero, entertainment editor at Latina magazine. Ladies, mavens, welcome. Welcome back, I should say.

Ms. SUZAN COLON (Contributing editor for O, The Oprah Magazine): Thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ANGIE ROMERO (Entertainment editor for Latina Magazine): Hello.

MARTIN: And Suzan, O talks about, can I really wear that? How did you all come up with that idea?

Ms. COLON: Well, there are certain trends that are happening and, you know, when you're in your 20s, your 30s, your 40s, your 50s, you look at something and you may like it but you think to yourself, can I actually wear that? And the answer is, yes. And thankfully, O's fabulous style director, Adam Glassman, shows us how to accentuate each thing, whether it's bright, neon colors or the slouchy jacket or studs, so that you can own it at any age. And I don't mean own it, buy it; I mean own it when you're wearing it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Was there anything that inspired you that you thought, oh, no there's no way I'd wear that, but that you thought differently about it once you saw it on somebody your age?

Ms. COLON: Absolutely. Yes. I mean, there are things when I think to myself, you know, well, as a woman in her 40s, I probably shouldn't wear that anymore. And you know, O just goes to prove that there are no shouldn'ts, really. As long as you can accessorize properly, you know, you can wear an animal print. It's what goes around it…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COLON: …that makes it age appropriate.

MARTIN: Latina and Essence both have pieces about denim. What's up with that?

Ms. TANISHA SYKES (Senior Editor for Essence Magazine): For Essence, it's our annual denim guide. And what we looked at this year is seven women, seven shapes, and seven styles of jeans. So we really thought it would be great to pair not only different sizes, but also with different budgets and different styles.

MARTIN: Angie, let's bring you into the conversation. Speaking of there are no should and shouldn'ts, Latina has an interesting piece on plastic surgery. No judgments, just facts. What made you want to have this piece in the magazine this month?

Ms. ROMERO: Yeah. You know, we wanted to do something with the approach of, if you are considering plastic surgery, we're not going to judge you. We're just going to help you make the best decision possible. We're going to give you all the information that you need. You know, so the writer actually goes in for a consultation with one of New York City's top doctors, who happens to be Latino, Dr. David Hidalgo(ph), and she learns some things. For instance, if you're going for breast augmentation, it's a lifetime commitment. About 10 percent of those implants, they rupture.

MARTIN: Hmm.

Ms. ROMERO: So you're looking at, at least four more future operations if you get one when you're 25.

MARTIN: Each of the magazines this month - and it's no surprise to me because it's in part what you do; you dig into some issues that might be a little hard for people to face, that they don't particularly want to talk about. Suzan, in O you have a piece entitled "The Praise Drug," and the piece asks, are you hooked on praise? And what exactly is the praise drug?

Ms. COLON: Well, you know, we all like to get a pat on the back now and then, but praise addicts just can't get enough. Being praised launches them into this manic giddiness. And then, unfortunately, there is the coming down after the high, which…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COLON: …as our columnist - as O columnist Martha Beck puts it, troughs of depression that make King Lear look like Howdy Doody.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COLON: So yeah, people can become addicted to praise.

MARTIN: How do you know, though - and, in fact, I've heard a number of women talk about how women are sort of socialized to be more worried about the opinion of others than perhaps men are. You know, it's a debatable proposition. But I think that that is kind of an article of faith. How do you know when you've kind of crossed the line and you're a praise junkie, as opposed to being a pleaser?

Ms. COLON: Right. Right. I mean, there is a difference. Being a pleaser, the person is more focused on their attitude, their performance. You know, oh, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that. The praise addict is more focused on the result. Did I get recognition for this? Did I get enough recognition? Did people say my name? Did I get a promotion? Did I get the pat on the back? I mean, it's all about the external attitude or reaction to the performance. So I think you know you're a praise addict when you really can not do something without the expectation of the result of praise. And when you don't get it, it kind of destroys you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: What kind of reaction are you getting to the piece? I can imagine it's the kind of thing where some people might say, oh, you're just perpetuating stereotypes about women. And other people might say, well, I see myself there. What - any reaction so far?

Ms. COLON: Yes. I think it's more of the latter. I think that this is a very, very subtle addiction. You know, because also it's not something to do with a substance, as we're accustomed to addiction. This is more of a personality trait that can develop over time. And I think it's so subtle that people don't really know that they're doing it.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're having our monthly visit with the Magazine Mavens. Sitting in this month are Suzan Colon of O magazine, Tanisha Sykes of Essence magazine, and Angie Romero of Latina magazine.

MARTIN: And Angie, there's a piece that I think may touch a nerve among your readers. It's called "Racism Among Us." And the piece asks, why is it that we would never tolerate prejudice from another ethnic group, but among Latinos it's okay? What sparked this piece? It's an essay by the writer Natalia Maldonado. What sparked this piece?

Ms. ROMERO: Well, I think that among Latinos, it's sort of fun to play this little game, right? Let me guess where you're from, from that accent, from your appearance, from those mannerisms. And when we're right, you know it can spark a sense of camaraderie. But when we're wrong, sometimes it can really offend people and it's, you know, it's rooted in these stereotypes that we have.

And she talks about how ever since she was little, she's always gotten the phrase, but you're so pretty for a Peruvian. And that's rooted in the stereotype that all Peruvians are indigenous and dark-skinned - as if that were a bad thing.

MARTIN: And speaking of another sensitive issue, Tanisha, Essence has a piece this month that we found so provocative that we're actually having another conversation to dig into it further. The piece is called "Black Women Behaving Badly." And the piece examines why - just reading from the title - why other black women are often our worst enemies, and how we can put aside jealousies to love, support and affirm our sisters.

What sparked this piece? As I understand it, there was so many responses to an editor's note that Angela Burt-Murray had written. Tell me what sparked it.

Ms. SYKES: Yeah. In April, in our April 2009 issue, our editor-in-chief, Angela Burt-Murray, had written a "Between Us" that really talked about how the relationships that we have with black women are often fraught with tension. And the truth is that sometimes, we can be our worst enemy. And so she really asked that question, what ever happened to lifting as we climb?

And so, from there it really sparked our readership bringing us some of the most provocative letters that we've ever seen at Essence. So we said, you know, obviously, this has sparked a nerve.

MARTIN: Briefly, I wanted to ask each of you about your covers this month. Tanisha, your cover: Mr. Fine.

Ms. SYKES: It's Idris Elba. What more can I say?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SYKES: Quite honestly, and we just love this cover. Our readers love this cover. This issue just came out in the last couple of weeks. And again, it's another thing where we're getting, you know, so much amazing response.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Okay. Latina is - Daisy Fuentes is on your cover this month.

Ms. ROMERO: Miss Daisy. I mean, we just loved the concept of somebody who's thriving behind the scenes. So many times we hear about Jennifer Lopez and her clothing lines. But Daisy has been thriving behind the scenes, so this concept of a quiet storm was really, really cool to us. She's really a legend, you know. She's the one who made biculturalism and bilingualism cool about 20 years ago, before it was sexy and before everyone was doing it.

MARTIN: How does she feel now? Does she feel like - that people are finally catching up to her? Is she kind of irritated that she paved the way for so many people and didn't get her due for a while?

Ms. ROMERO: Daisy is having the time of her life. She's never looked better. She's never felt better. She's never been more successful, and I think that really comes across. So we would all like to get there sooner or later. We wanted her to break down sort of her formula for success into little, bite-size pieces. So the cover story is really broken down into five simple rules: How did Daisy get there?

MARTIN: And she's very generous in discussing that.

Ms. ROMERO: Very generous. You know, and this woman is worth millions of dollars. She has a $400 million clothing line at Kohls, and that's not all. She launched a hair care line this year, Wii Pilates came out, you know, is coming out next month.

MARTIN: People might forget that she…

Ms. ROMERO: She's unstoppable.

MARTIN: …she was a weather girl at Telemundo. People may forget that she was a V.J. on MTV Espanol.

Ms. ROMERO: First Latina V.J., and that's what's so great about Daisy. She broke barriers. You know, MTV's first Latina V.J., and then she landed a Revlon contract, another Latina first.

MARTIN: And, of course, we always have the same cover girl on O but…

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: …but…

Ms. COLON: Well, she's - she sells the best. I mean, we have to keep putting her on the cover.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But you did let Michelle Obama sneak on their once but as a dual…

Ms. COLON: Yeah.

MARTIN: …cover.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But what are you featuring on the cover this month, Suzan, on O?

Ms. COLON: This month, it's about eating well. It's one of our favorite issues to do because the subject of food is very close to all of our hearts at O. But what we wanted to focus on, really, is that, you know, there are these buzz words: organic, local, sustainable, slow food. And you know, we hear a lot about them, and it's all about, of course, you know, the politics of food and all of that, that has been covered so well by Michael Pollan.

But what we wanted to focus on, the O angle here, is just, you know, simple, beautiful, good, fresh food. How to prepare it, where to find it, local farmers' markets. You know, eating is one of the great pleasures of life and unfortunately, lately it has become fraught with a lot of questions. And what we're trying to do is get to the point, you know, the pleasure of eating but also to, you know, solving some of those dilemmas of, you know, where did the food come from? Is it sustainable? Is it - you know, who am I supporting here?

Am I supporting a conglomerate, or am I supporting a local farmer? So we're going to answer some of those questions in the eating well issue of O, but we're also going to have a really lovely time with some of the recipes.

MARTIN: Your favorite piece in each of your magazines this month? Suzan, I'm going to start with you.

Ms. COLON: Yes. My favorite piece this month is on a rather serious note. A piece in O called "Why Didn't They Stop Him?" And it's the amazing story of a woman name Vernetta Cockerham, who did everything that the law requires in stopping her abusive husband from getting to her and her family. And unfortunately, restraining orders offer all the protection of a piece of paper unless they are enforced. And after a very tragic situation, Ms. Cockerham is agitating for reform so that what happened to her doesn't happen to anyone else.

MARTIN: It's a very well-reported piece.

Ms. COLON: It is.

MARTIN: And you're right, tough to read. Tough to read.

Ms. COLON: Yeah. It's a tough read.

MARTIN: Tanisha, what's your favorite piece this month?

Ms. SYKES: Okay. So I'm going to go to the lighter side of things and say our obsession with Idris Elba.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SYKES: Because so much of what I do, I'm the editor of Money and Careers, so, so much of what I do is very hard-hitting and a lot of reporting. So it's always fun for me to get away with beautiful specimens like Idris.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Oh, I see.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Angie, what's your favorite piece?

Ms. ROMERO: To me, I have to say Daisy because when I look at her, I really -I'm like, I'm going to be you one day. My favorite quote from the story, she says: I know a lot about myself now in my 40s, but I know I'll know a lot more in my 50s. It only gets better. That's her motto, and I think it's really inspirational, especially in these times when we all have our dreams. There's our readers who dreamt of starting their own business, finally writing that book, taking that trip. Whatever it may be, you know, it can be done.

MARTIN: Angie Romero is the entertainment editor for Latina magazine. Suzan Colon is a contributing editor at O, the Oprah magazine. They both joined us from our New York studios.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Tanisha Sykes is a senior editor at Essence magazine, and she was with us from her office, which is also in New York. Ladies, mavens, thank you so much.

Ms. COLON: Thanks, Michel.

Ms. ROMERO: Thank you.

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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