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Magazines Empower Women to Succeed


I'm Michel Martin, the conversation continues on Tell Me More from NPR News. Just ahead, scholar Paula Giddings explores the life of Ida B. Wells in her new book "Ida: A Sword Among Lions." And what do you do when offensive comments are made in your presence? It might be as simple as you think. I'll tell you more. But first, every month we check in with the Magazine Mavens, editors of some of our favorite magazines. The April book is on the stands so what better time to check in with Lynya Floyd, Senior Editor for Health and Relationships at Essence Magazine. Damarys Ocana, writer at large at Latina magazine, and Suzan Colon, Senior Articles Editor for "O" the Oprah Magazine. Thank you ladies for taking the time.

MAVENS: Thanks for having us, thanks for taking the time.

MARTIN: Unfortunately, there are almost too many things to talk about this month, so let's try to kind of go through as much as quickly as we can. Lynya, let me start with you. Your magazine had an article titled, "Fear Factor: The Secret Anxieties That Keep Us From Being Who We Really Want To Be." Could you talk a little bit about that? And what are some of our biggest fears?

Ms. LYNYA FLOYD (Senior Editor, Essence Magazine): Absolutely. At Essence we definitely want women to chase after their dreams, and that's one of the reasons why we decided to pursue this topic in the book. We want women to be able to capture what they want to get out of their lives. And one of the first ways they have to do that is by analyzing the fear, analyzing what's holding them back. And so, we definitely want to get women to tap into that and to figure out what is it that's keeping me from what I want from my life. And one of the ways we encourage women to do that was by journaling. It's scientifically proven. Do it. Pen it down, you'll get at the heart of some of those issues that are holding you back and be able to move forward.

MARTIN: What were some of the other tips you offered for overcoming your fears. I was intrigued by some of these that seem to me, and I may be wrong about this, particularly resonant with women, like the idea that if I let myself shine, people will hate me. I'm not sure, I think of too many men as thinking that way. What are some of the things that you suggested to help people overcome these negative thoughts?

Ms. FLOYD: I think that's a really good point that you bring up. And people do worry about the reaction that others will have to them shining, even jealousy is something that can come out. And one of the ways to overcome that is to flip it. You know, instead of thinking about the negative, focus on the positive. Think about the great things that will come out of chasing after what you want in your life.

MARTIN: Wanted to ask the other ladies before we go to some of the issues in your magazines - what are the subjects resonated with you. I think, Suzan, I think "O" has also covered this issue in recent months, this whole question of fear, and fear of success. Being one thing, fear of being alone, did this article resonate with either of you? Suzan?

Ms. SUZAN COLON (Senior Articles Editor for "O" the Oprah Magazine): Well, I think so, I mean, I think it's always about pushing past the fear factor because if you don't do that, you're not really living, you're just sitting in a cage trapped. And you know the spiritual joke about that is that you can rattle the bars of the cage all you want, but the fact is that the door is open. You know, all you have to do is walk through it. And I think all of our magazines, O, Latina, and Essence, every month have a subtle message of, the door is open. Just walk past that fear.

MARTIN: Damarys, what about you? Do you think that readers at Latina experience some of these things also?

Ms. DAMARYS OCANA (Writer at Large, Latina Magazine): Oh, absolutely. We have an article this month called, "Decline and Conquer" all about exploiting your confidence to help you get ahead in the work place, and just getting over fears, getting over anxieties and embracing your fabulocity.

(Soundbite of Laughter)

Ms. OCANA: And making the most of your talents.

MARTIN: In fact, Damarys, why don't you stick with me for a minute and talk about that because all of your magazines have emphasis on helping women build wealth. And Damarys your article this month, "Climb and Conquer" specifically about career tips. Talk a little bit more about that.

Ms. OCANA: We're always to tell women how to get ahead, career-wise, I mean, we try to do that in every aspect of their lives, obviously, but one of the things that we've gotten the most feedback on from readers is they want to know how to get the job of their dreams, how to hold on to it, how to get ahead, so this story really hits on that with 10 tips that can help you do that. Number one tip is to brand yourself and to present yourself in a way that people know your talents, and so, you can't unfortunately get by on just your work alone. You have to present yourself in a certain way, know what your strengths are. You need to sort of be your own PR person.

MARTIN: Do you think that's culturally difficult for some of your readers?

Ms. OCANA: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Exactly, because some people think, oh, you know, this is the American way, get yourself out there, but do you think some of your readers are going to have a hard time saying, gee, I'm putting myself out there, that's not something I'm raised to do?

Ms. OCANA: I think it's true because I think that Latina women are raised to take care of families, to take care of their loved ones, and they take leadership roles in that, and that's not a problem. When it comes to doing that in the workplace, I think we have a little too much respect for authority in a way, where we tend to just put our heads down and work. And that's not really how it works all the time. You really have to be your own best salesman.

MARTIN: One of my favorite tips "Chisme is for tabloids."

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Explain that.

Ms. OCANA: Chisme is gossip.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Gossip, there you go.

Ms. OCANA: And we all do that around the water cooler.

MARTIN: Shh, don't tell anybody.

Ms. OCANA: Well, you, I think that's a really good tip, because you know, you come in and you want to be sort of friendly, and you want everybody to like you and so you just start talking about your life and that might not be such a great idea, you know, and our advice is just to give it a little time, get the lay of the land, understand who is who in the office, who is the superstar in the office and why they're the superstar, and then you can just know how to navigate. And the point also in this tip to leave your personal life at home. I mean, you can be friendly, but you don't get too deep into it.

Ms. FLOYD: If I could just piggy-back for one second, though, because work and wealth in our money column is extremely popular with our readers, and one of the sections that really resonates with them is our Side Hustle Column. Which is basically things that you can do on the side to earn extra cash, weekends, nights, that kind of thing, and that ties back in, because that's another way that you can pursue a financial or a work-related passion that you might have, because it's something that you're doing on the side, you've still got your regular gig going, but you're making room for something for exploring something else in your life, and for hopefully, blossoming that into an even bigger impact in your life.

MARTIN: Well, the other thing that I like about that column is that it breaks is that it breaks it down into steps. This is exactly what you need to do. Suzan, this month's "O" focuses on friendship. What gave you the idea for that?

Ms. COLON: Yes. Well, there - you know, friends are just such an important part of all of our lives, and I think it's so important that sometimes you can even take it for granted. It's just such an integral part of any woman's life, so we decide to honor our friends by exploring all of these different aspects of friendship. And just celebrating them, really.

MARTIN: There was a very interesting article about a very unique set of friendships in "O" this month and that is women who all used the same sperm donor.

Ms. COLON: Yes, yes.

MARTIN: And, developed relationships with each other. You just tell me a little bit about why they sought each other out and how they were able to develop this relationship.

Ms. COLON: Well, this is our story called "The Children of Donor X." And these women, they have children who are all from the same sperm donor, but they did not previously know each other, but they started reaching out to each other because of kind of a scary reason - some of the children are autistic. And there was a previously either unscreened or unscreenable factor in Donor X's sperm, making some of these children predisposed to autism. So, initially these women have sought each other out via the Internet, and they began visiting each other. And they, the good news here is that they have formed a new type of family in this age of sperm donors, they have formed this bond. The women call each other "sister-moms" and their children get together and play together, and they are a new kind of family.

MARTIN: If you are just joining us, this is Tell Me More from NPR News. And we're having our monthly visit with the magazine mavens. Joining me are Lynya Floyd of Essence Magazine, Suzan Colon of "O" the Oprah Magazine, and Damarys Ocana of Latina Magazine. The celebrity interviews, always fascinating. Lynya, your cover woman this month is Erykah Badu. First of all, why did you chose her for the cover, and she really is a complicated person, isn't she?

Ms. FLOYD: She is a complicated person, but she also has a lot of elements of her that will resonate with our readers. And she has a new album coming out, New America, so we definitely wanted to have her talk about that and look at some of the songs on the album, but also delve into her personal relationships and get her views about marriage, get her views about relationships, get her views about motherhood. You know, all those topics definitely hit home with our readers and they're looking for ways to approach those topics in their own life.

MARTIN: Anything about her that surprised you or the folks putting the article together? She seems such like a mysterious character, you know, you just - you know what I mean, just like a woman of mystery?

Ms. FLOYD: Definitely, and we tried to delve into some of those mysterious. I don't want to give too much away. I want people to run out and read about Erykah. She's definitely is an exciting character, but surprises? I think people might be a little surprised when they hear some of her views about marriage, when they delve into that.

MARTIN: Definitely.

Ms. COLON: I'm already wanting to read it.

MARTIN: Exactly.

Ms. FLOYD: Yeah. She is amazing.

MARTIN: Damarys, there are two celebrities in Latina this month that intrigued us. One, your cover woman is Kat Deluna. Why did...

Ms. COLON: Yes.

MARTIN: Why did you pick her?

Ms. COLON: Well, she is this sort of new phenomena that we are seeing in the Latina community. She's got a fantastic voice, a five octave soprano, which is beyond me - you know how she can hit those high C's. She is just extremely bubbly, very talented and great and we think that she's going to do really well.

MARTIN: You made me go check out her video, "Whine Up" and what I love is this little girl at the beginning of the video who says, "Yo, Kat, I hear you can do the opera thing?"

Ms. OCANA: Right.

MARTIN: It is just hilarious. Let's hear some of it.

Ms. KAT DELUNA (Singing): Sense is telling me you're lookin I can feel it on my ski Boy I wonder what would happe If I trip and let you in Don't get shook for my aggressio I just might be the on Let's skip this conversatio Just whine your body up Don't wanna wait no more

MARTIN: That Kat DeLuna is so cute, but there is another celebrity you interviewed in Latina this month, Chris Abrego. I don't know if everybody knows that he is the brains behind a number of the top reality shows, like "Flavor of Love," and "The Surreal Life." I have to tell you, I did not - I didn't know whether I wanted to salute him or slap him for this?

Ms. OCANA: Yes. We kind of felt the same way. We kind of felt the same way, but I mean, it is a moment, I mean, you know, he has just had an enormous impact on VH-1. It was a channel that wasn't doing all that well, and then he came up with all these crazy, you know, not necessarily very intellectual shows.

Ms. COLON: It is not PBS, but it that way.

MARTIN: They are popular though. There are people who say that these shows are extremely demeaning to people of color, that they show the worst stereotypes. It is just really interesting to hear how he addresses this question, which you ask in the piece, so, you know, I recommend this piece also. Suzan, you - "O" this month has an article this month about a woman who was very much in the news last year, C. Vivian Stringer...

Ms. COLON: Oh, yes.

MARTIN: Coach of the Rutgers Women's Basketball team.

Ms. COLON: Go Scarlet Knights.

MARTIN: Just a very different side of her than I think people - you know, they see her, this aggressive coach out on the court...

Ms. COLON: Yes, yes. The other side of her though, that people got to see, I guess a more national level was this extremely poised soft spoken and not very bitter, considering the circumstances, woman during the Don Imus scandal last year. And the reason she was able to be this incredibly soft spoken and just very, kind of, together woman was because she has been through so much worse, prior to this and in her excerpt from her book, "Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph," she outlines one of those days, where you just think you don't have anything else, you just don't have a shred left, and somewhere she dug deep and rallied and you know, she is an amazing woman. Her composure is incredible.

MARTIN: It is very moving to think, particularly somebody in a sport where you think aggressiveness is what it is all about, showing that you're tough.

Ms. COLON: Yes.

MARTIN: And to be able to be able to show that vulnerability, it is quite a moving piece, just as you said, so, ladies, I'm going to put you on the spot, as always, did each of you have a favorite article this month and what was it? Suzan?

Ms. COLON: Yes, I do have a favorite article, and it is this wonderful piece in our Friendship Package called, "The Music of the Night," by Sara Broom. She is just one of the most lyrical writers I have read recently. She used to work at "O," and then she ran enough to Burundi to work for African Public Radio. She recently returned home to New Orleans, and I'm just stunned by her writing. I mean, you know, I just can't believe I knew this person, and I just - she wrote about - "The Music of the Night" is her feature about her poetry parties that she used to throw in her apartment in Harlem, where she thought is was a shame that all of her great friends did not know each other. And so, she not only invited them to come over to her house, but challenged them, bring a piece of poetry, bring something that you want to read to everybody else. People - her guests would do soliloquies from Othello and read "The Prophet" by Khaleel Jubran and sing, you know, Edith Piaf songs and all of this and you know and all of this and you know, it is just an incredible piece. It really is just so lovely.

MARTIN: Suzan, you didn't mention your article.

Ms. COLON: No, that is not my favorite. I do like it, but, you know, oh, my favorite piece is mine.

MARTIN: Damarys, what about you? What was your favorite article this month?

Ms. OCANA: Well, I mean, I did love the cover a lot, just because it showed this young girl who has so much desire and exhibits so many of the qualities that our young people have, as far as, you know, they want to pursue their dreams. They don't always have the means, but they always have that desire. She has just been singing since she was knee high to a grasshopper, and that was her dream to do it and you know, she talks about staying indoors, when all the other kids were, you know, playing outside and she would stay indoors and practice on her karaoke machine, and you know, and all this stuff. And you know, not the least reason is that she wants her family to be all right, financially, to be OK and that is part of chasing her dream. That is a big part of it. So, that was very impressive to me.

MARTIN: That is a lovely piece. Lynya, what about you? Your favorite article this month?

Ms. FLOYD: I am delighted that you asked, because I have to give a personal plug to our health section because I am the health and relationships editor, and we have a recurring feature in the magazine, where we give best advice from black doctors, and this month we are giving readers best advice from black doctors on cancer, all types of cancer, actually the top ones that affect African-American women. We talk about not being a passive patient which, I think, anyone can fall victim to, especially our readers do sometimes fall victim to. And just ways that you can be a little more aggressive, and a little more involved in your health care, whether it is talking to your doctor about prevention, whether it is seeking out a specialist, and because African-American women, or African-Americans in general actually, are lagging so behind in terms of health care, we really want to give our readers all the tools that they need to keep themselves in the best shape possible.

MARTIN: Can we go to the web for the other tips?

Ms. FLOYD: We do have information on Essence.com.

MARTIN: OK. Lynya Floyd, Senior Editor for Health and Relationships at Essence Magazine. Damarys Ocana, writer-at-large for Latina Magazine and Suzan Colon, Senior Editor for O, The Oprah Magazine. Ladies, Mavens, thank you so much.

Ms. COLON: Thank you.

Ms. OCANA: Thank you.

Ms. FLOYD: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Coming up, author Paula Giddings on her new book on the life of Ida B. Wells. A civil rights champion and courageous journalist. It is a special Wisdom Watch and it is next on Tell Me More.

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MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin and you are listening to Tell Me More from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.