“Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”
Helen Gurley Brown
If you thought “Sex and the City” was the original formula for the “new” Gal Friday, think again! Helen Gurley Brown, who wrote the 1962 best seller, Sex and the Single Girl, was the voice of women of the “new generation” in her role as editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine for 3 decades. She made women’s issues a cash bonanza for Hearst Publishing, at the same time allowing women to freely speak about their sexuality.
Don’t believe us? Cosmo is still today one of the most successful magazines in history the world over! It is written in 32 languages, printed in 63 international editions and distributed in more than 100 countries globally. Move over Haper’s Bazaar and Vogue, the Cosmo Girl still got her sass and is not afraid to flaunt it!
Yet, it might seem difficult to believe that today, in the age of the internet, the emancipated woman needs Cosmo to help guide her through life in the big city or be advised on dating men. But in retrospect, Ms. Brown did bridge the feminist radical take on gender roles by forging a sexy diplomatic message… SEX is good and so are both women and men.
As it happens, quite the irony in and of itself, Cosmopolitan magazine was first published in 1886 as a family magazine – one tenured by Ivy League men who weren’t exactly beacons of feminist thoughts themselves. By the time Helen Gurley Brown took over in 1967, she turned the famed serial into a ‘naughty but nice’ literary tool for the modern woman about town. Her brand of feminism had its critics, but she believed in a woman’s career, financial independence and control over her own life.
In fact, the magazine was so popular over the years that, as Playboy magazine did with its interviews, Cosmopolitan attracted luminaries and influential figures of the day (anyone from actors, politicians, athletes), while documenting major world events and news stories that held public attention. With Cosmo, the woman was in the driver’s seat!
The Cosmo Girl was, and still is, drenched in complexity. As démodé as Cosmo might feel to some, it isn’t about to go anywhere, rather, it is simply evolving into its next chapter. As retro as Helen Gurley Brown might seem today, she was, and remains, by all accounts, a true pioneer.
Rest in peace, Helen, you have earned your place in history!