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Ethnic Magazine Editors Discuss 'True' Beauty


Next, our monthly visit with the magazine mavens - editors of some of the country's top glossy publications. A look at November's offerings means a look at beauty, food, love, and some politics.

Joining us to take it all in are Betty Cortina, editorial director of Latina magazine; Anne Kim, editor-in-chief of Audrey magazine; and Angela Burt-Murray, editor-in-chief of Essence magazine.

Welcome, ladies, mavens.

Ms. ANNE KIM (Editor-in-Chief, Audrey Magazine): Thank you.

Ms. BETTY CORTINA (Editorial Director, Latina Magazine): Hi.

MARTIN: Anne, first, tell me about Audrey. It's a lifestyle magazine for Asian American women.

Ms. KIM: Right.

MARTIN: Who's Audrey?

Ms. KIM: Well, Audrey is exactly that, a modern Asian American woman like myself and my co-workers and all of my friends. It's a magazine we've started about five years ago because we felt there really was a need for a publication that address the issues that Asian American women are going through today.

MARTIN: But what if our other mavens might take issue that there's no other magazines, and I felt like, hey but…

Ms. KIM: (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But we will go there today. We're happy to have you today.

Ms. KIM: Thank you. It's nice to be here.

MARTIN: And talk about taking on social issues, you've got a very interesting piece in the magazine this month called "Never Perfect," about the surgery that many Asian American women are having - or Asian women in general - I think it's an international phenomenon - to reshape their eyelids.

Ms. KIM: Right.

MARTIN: And I find it fascinating, the writer said that within the Asian American world - this is something that's widely discussed - but that when she approached people outside of that community to talk about it, a lot of people were, huh, what are you talking about?

Ms. KIM: For me and, you know, other Asian Americans, this is a very common issue. It's quite a hot topic that's been going on for a really long time. As you know, many Asian people have what we call a monolid, meaning, you know, you only have a crease on your eyelid. And a lot of women decide to go in for surgery to have that crease put in because they feel, you know, for whatever reason, it's more aesthetically pleasing. It's - enhances your beauty or it makes it easier to put on make up in the morning.

But, you know, along with that when you change the way your face looks and if you're an Asian American woman, that brings up a lot of other issues, like, you know, are you doing it because you're not proud of your race or you have self-hate or something like that to yourself.

MARTIN: That's fascinating. Betty, I wanted to ask if any of this rings a bell for you because I know that your magazine covers issues of particular interests to Latinas living in the United States. But you also cover issues that are going on in Latin America, and there some Latin American countries where cosmetic surgery is very popular more than others. Have you written about this?

Ms. CORTINA: We've done a special on plastic surgery. And what we wanted to do was - it is increasing popular, both in Latin America but also among Hispanic women in the United States. And in Latin America, there's an interesting phenomenon where there isn't any sort of cultural taboo. As a matter of fact, many girls, when they turn 15 or 16, this plastic surgery is actually given as a gift from their parents. So it's a really interesting social phenomenon there.

So what we've decided to do actually was just take a real look at what happens in the room when the surgery is actually taking place. And our writer basically accompanied a doctor and a patient in the room to see what really happens because I think that there's certainly a lot of focus on the result and everybody seems happy, but the procedure itself can be - it's still surgery. It's still serious. And if you actually knew what happened in the room, it might make you think twice about doing it. You have to have a strong stomach for sure to read the story, but we thought those details were really important.

MARTIN: I have to tell you my anxiety level is rising just listening to you talk about this, which is a good thing because, you know, Angela, as it happens, has a feature in this month's Essence on relieving stress.

Ms. ANGELA BURT-MURRAY (Editor-in-Chief, Essence): Right.

MARTIN: Thank goodness. I'm going to flip through here and see what I can do. Why was…

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: I think it glee.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: (unintelligible) deal with my situation right now.


MARTIN: Angela, why did you feel this was important?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Well, as the holidays are approaching, women tend to be pulled in so many different directions. We've got family commitments, work deadlines, community involvement. Of course, there's relationship drama and then there's money pressure. So what we wanted to put together in our November issue as we're heading into the holidays are just easy tips to follow so that women can keep all the balls in the air but still breathe every once in a while.

MARTIN: Do you feel that there are particular issues for African-American women or women of color in setting those boundaries because I must say, I hear women of all backgrounds complaining about that.


MARTIN: But do you think that there are certain ethnically driven pressures that make that particularly difficult?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Well, in the African-American community, you have, you know, 70 percent of our households headed by single women so a lot of the challenges that a family may be facing, you know, lies directly at the feet of African-American women. So they're not only having to deal with the money pressure and raising children or dealing with the extended family, but also, you know, making sure that they're, you know, meeting their responsibilities at work, also involved with the community, doing things with their church.

And, you know, African-American women actually have one of the highest levels of volunteerism in the country. So they're more likely to be involved in their community and church in addition to their personal family responsibilities.

MARTIN: That's interesting. If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm speaking with our Magazine Mavens: Anne Kim of Audrey magazine, Angela Burt-Murray of Essence magazine and Betty Cortina of Latina magazine.

So let's turn to love and marriage. And we have to go there, the flip side of both of those: cheating. Betty, you devil you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CORTINA: I didn't do it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CORTINA: (unintelligible)

MARTIN: You sure did. You have a very provocative piece about infidelity in the Latino community. And, of course, the lead of the piece is Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose extramarital affair ended his 20-year marriage and also brought, I think, a great deal of embarrassment not only to himself but to the woman he was involved with who was a newscaster who lost her job over it. Tell me why you pick this piece. Why did you all pursue this topic?

Ms. CORTINA: One of the things that we say in the article is that the issue of infidelity, whether it's a blatant stereotype or true, has always sort of played out in our culture, and it's long been a hot topic. And so here, you know, this brought it back front and center in many ways, in the news, in a very public way, and with an extremely public figure, and one that was really admired. So we decided that we wanted to do a piece pegged to him and pegged to, obviously, what had happened that examined the state of cheating in the community. And we asked some key questions, namely that whether Latinos cheat more or not. Is that a perception? Is it true? Is it (unintelligible)?

MARTIN: Is it? What is true?

Ms. CORTINA: What's true is interesting. I mean, there's a book that we talked about and an author who we spoke to who found that men in Latin America were likelier to admit having extramarital affairs than men in other countries, and in particular in the U.S.


Ms. CORTINA: Now, that really changes among men in - U.S.-Hispanic men. And a lot of that has to do with the empowerment of the Hispanic women in the U.S., but I think it also has a lot to do with the men themselves. And I think men here have chosen to be different and have chosen to really value other aspects of their sort of…

MARTIN: Their identity.

Ms. CORTINA: …long storied machismo.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: It was a very interesting - it's a bracing. I was thankful you got my attention. But let's turn to a happier side of the love story. And, Angela, you also…


MARTIN: …deal with the whole question of love, marriage in this month's Essence, and you highlighted three couples who've been married…


MARTIN: …20, 30 or 40 years, but, you know, we don't really want to talk about that. You just want to talk about that fact that you have - R&B, Usher.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I just had to point out that you were doing the responsible thing and having that…


MARTIN: …good advice and stuff like that. But we're going to skip right on past that…


MARTIN: …and go to see your cover.


MARTIN: …R&B singer Usher and his new bride Tameka…


MARTIN: …who have seemed to have so many issues before walking down the aisle. I have to ask this - that…

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: …we talked about this before. You know, you had Sean Diddy Combs…


MARTIN: …and Kim and the cover a couple of months ago…


MARTIN: …talking about how much…


MARTIN: …in love they were.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: And sure enough, a couple of months later, it's Kim story about after she…

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: You know.

MARTIN: …left, so.


MARTIN: I'm not trying to jinx these fine people, but…

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: No. It's okay.

MARTIN: …but I think a lot of people want to know is how do you know when it's the truth? when you're getting the real stories from folks who are so high profile and…


MARTIN: …who have so much of an interest in protecting their image?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Well, I think that it's interesting when you look at someone like Usher who's been in the business for, you know, since he was a child. And, you know, this is a big commitment for him to make. And I think that when we sat down with him, we really got to see the real Usher, and, certainly, the real Tameka. You know, they talked about some very personal things and were really turning kind of a spotlight back onto the community by saying, hey, why do people have a problem with a man proposing to the woman he loves and getting married? He's actually doing the right thing, and yet people want to berate him for that. So it was, you know, a very interesting and provocative conversation.

MARTIN: And I also do have to give you a shout out about your feature about the people who have been married for a long time. It's a lovely feature, and I think it's very inspiring to people who are very worried about, you know, the state of marriage. But I have to ask you about, again, another one of your high power political interviews with Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson…


MARTIN: …and Senator Hillary Clinton about her presidential campaign.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: And, of course, this follows features that you did earlier on Barack and Michelle Obama.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Mm-hmm. Yes.

MARTIN: But why did you want to do this big take out with Hillary Clinton?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Well, it's important for Essence to really define the cultural discussion as it relates to the African-American community. And we were in particular interested in Hillary because, obviously, you know, the Clintons have, you know, quite a relationship with the African-American community. And we were also wanted to look at her because she is making a play for the black vote in a really strong way that we've never seen any other candidate really do.

And it's really interesting, because I feel like she can do and say things that Barack can't say about the state of black men, the over incarceration rates, the achievement gaps in - that we're seeing in schools, and those are things that Barack can kind of tip-toe around, but it does not seem that he can fully address them head on without alienating, you know, the other part of his, you know, potential voters.

MARTIN: It's a very interesting piece. And, Betty, this is your last segment. You're stepping down from…

Ms. CORTINA: I know.

MARTIN: …Latina magazine. We're very sad.

Ms. CORTINA: I know, after seven years. I'm really excited, you know.

MARTIN: But we're not.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CORTINA: But we're going to stay friends, and we're going to stay in touch.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: So what are you going to do? Are you going to chill on the beach for a bit, or what are you going do?

Ms. CORTINA: I am going to chill for a little bit. And, you know, you get to a point in certain parts of your life where you know that it's time to close a certain chapter, even though you may not knew exactly what the next chapter is going to look like. And I'm just really excited. I feel privileged and blessed to have been here for seven years. So I feel like I'm leaving on a great note, and I'm just really excited about what's coming up.

MARTIN: Well, continued success.

Ms. CORTINA: Thank you, thank you. And likewise.

MARTIN: Betty Cortina of Latina magazine joined us from her office in New York. Anne Kim of Audrey magazine joined us from our NPR West studio. And Angela Burt-Murray of Essence magazine joined us from our NPR New York studio.

Mavens, ladies, thank you so much.

Ms. CORTINA: Thank you.

Ms. KIM: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.