Life & Culture

Glamour gets a (digital) makeover

You may know Glamour as the magazine that fits in your handbag - but now it's gone digital. We talk to the women leading the revolutionary beauty magazine into a new era


Interviewing the two top women at Glamour magazine is a pretty intimidating prospect. First of all, what will they think of my interview technique? Glamour was a handbag staple for me and accompanied me on many holidays. As a lifestyle journalist, it has always been on my list of aspirational publications.

But and almost more importantly what would they think of my look? I was gratified to see a stylish Condé Nast employee in a pretty similar dress to mine while I was waiting in the lobby of Vogue House, although she’d gone for sandals whereas I’d plumped for Stan Smiths would I be judged? But when I was ushered into the room for our interview, I did the judging. The Glamour team, Newman and Joseph, weren’t quite as fashion forward as I was expecting.

Both women looked lovely, hot-weather-in-an-office appropriate Camilla Newman, Glamour’s publishing director in a multi-coloured Pucci-esque dress and Deborah Joseph, the editor, sporting a bouncy blowdry and silver wedge espadrilles. But nothing screamed ‘fashion magazine editor’ to me. Their makeup did look flawless however although Newman looked surprisingly fresh-faced: the made-up no make-up look perhaps?

So, what propelled them to leadership roles? “I went to a very feminist school,” says Joseph. She is intimidating in a friendly way she smiles and laughs throughout our interview but has the air of a very busy woman. The school in question was Manchester High School for Girls: “It taught women they could do what they wanted.”

Camilla Newman, an ex-North London Collegiate student, chimes in,“Me too. NLCS taught you that you could be the boss.” And now they face a real leadership challenge, taking Glamour in a new direction.

When you think of Glamour you probably think of the monthly magazine that led the way in shrinking women’s glossies down to handbag-size. This was a revolutionary move in 2001 and when Newman took over as publishing director in 2017 she wanted to cement Glamour’s bold reputation — and “switch the emphasis” from print to online.

So now, it’s goodbye to Glamour in your handbag and hello to Glamour on your phone. In particular Instagram, where the Glamour page has a packed schedule of daily and weekly posts, stories and interactive content.

“For me the exciting thing was: how do you take a brand like Glamour that’s been built over 17 years as one of the most successful and well-known women’s brands across the UK, from a print title of 12 times a year and grow it across multi platforms — social, experiential and, obviously, online?” says Joseph.

Glamour readers are millennials, they say — that elusive high-spending market of 18-35 years olds. Newman notes wryly that millennials famously can’t afford to buy a house, but that means that the bulk of their money is disposable. Joseph says that millennials “live and breathe” the internet and social media.

The Glamour team — except for Newman and Joseph who are 44 and 43 respectively are all millennials. Their strategy is very interactive; their 345,000 Instagram followers can vote for their favourite look; every Monday there is a ‘Glam drop’, where a member of the team talks about a new product launch; and Wednesday is ‘Wellness Wednesday’. Coming up next is a seven-day video schedule.

Beauty is having a “moment”. It is the fastest growing sector of the lifestyle magazines owned by Condé Nast, forecast to grow by 21% in the next five years. That’s because, says Joseph, the way we think about beauty is changing. Nowadays it’s all about “body empowerment, inclusivity”.

This affects not only the type of content magazines now produce, but the way they produce it, says Joseph. “In the past, magazines would shoot models but we wouldn’t have considered if they were a healthy size or if we were using Northerners as well as Southerners on our videos.

“Now we really try to do beauty via empowerment. It’s not just about the colour of a lipstick: who is the woman behind that lipstick, why are you making those beauty choices?”

This is a pressing question for them as mothers, Newman of two boys aged nine and 12, and Joseph of a seven year old boy and two daughters aged five and three. “I think as a mother you are more aggressive and more responsible in the messaging you’re putting online”, Joseph says, thinking about her daughters stumbling across Glamour online.

“Our editorial is about no judgement,” she says. “Anything that helps women feel good about themselves is a good thing. I hope that we produce empowering content for teenagers if they do come across it aged 15; I hope the messaging is positive”.

But they were recently trolled on social media for using the word “waistline” in one of their headlines. “And I’m glad we were”, says Joseph, noting that she wants Glamour readers to stand up for themselves.

If you’re mourning the printed product, Glamour will come out twice a year as a larger, more comprehensive and a more luxurious, indulgent coffee-table product. But the brand’s main revenue sources are neither print nor digital.

Instead the money-spinners are the Glamour Beauty Festival, which has run for the past two years and their Beauty Club, which currently has 120,000 members.

Part of Glamour’s message of empowerment is about redefining a woman’s place in what is still a very male world. Joseph, who lives in Finchley and goes to Kinloss shul, says she works hard to maintain a work/life balance and never goes out on a Friday night. “We always have a Friday night dinner; it’s always been a fundamental decision that I leave early on a Friday. I cook Friday night dinner, we have family and friends round and even if the Queen asked me to go for tea, I’d still be at home with my family on a Friday night.

“I think it’s great, especially when you have two working parents, you have one night a week where you sit down together. To make the balance between family life and work life work, I think it’s really crucial.”

Newman agrees that regular Friday night dinners are important to her Jew-ish (emphasis on the ‘ish’) family life, and help keep them “culturally very Jewish” - along with, she jokes, regular bagels. Her eldest son will celebrate his barmitzvah next year in their new community in Radlett.

If you’re in a room with two Jewish women talking about beauty, it’s hard to avoid “big Jewish hair” as Newman describes it. “I joke that I always have a hairdryer next to my desk,” she laughs. “I’ve always had a focus on big Jewish hair! Lots of Jewish women have a real gloss about themselves and how they look is really important.”

“We fight over the hairdryer,” quips Joseph.

This isn’t the first time they have worked together. They first met at Brides Magazine in the early noughties and have stayed in touch ever since. Joseph was on Glamour’s editorial team when it launched in handbag size, and has also worked at Easy Living and the Daily Mail.

Newman worked her way up the ranks at Condé Nast, as publisher of Brides for eight years before taking over at Glamour.

If Joseph needs advice on Glamour’s move to digital, she need only look to her own family. Her sister-in-law is UK Facebook boss Nicola Mendelsohn, while her husband, Adam Clyne, Nicola’s brother, is CEO of digital and social agency Coolr. Their mum, Celia Clyne, heads the legendary kosher catering business that bears her name. Newman is married to New Zealander Scott Newman, who runs his own construction company.

Has being surrounded by beauty 24/7 changed the way they approach their makeup or the way they feel? “I’m certainly putting more things on my face!” says Newman. Joseph agrees: “There’s so much innovation in the beauty market I’m keen to try anything. Every day I find a new miracle product but I am quite loyal to what works.”

And as for products or shades that certain people should stick to? “Anything goes!” says Newman.“You should wear what you enjoy,” adds Joseph, “don’t be restricted by age whatsoever.”

Newman and Joseph embody the new Glamour message of empowerment and making bold decisions. “I hope we can be an example that you can have a really busy and demanding job and make it work don’t think you have to compromise,” says Newman.

Joseph agrees: “It will be hard, but be brave just go for what you want.”

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