S3 E6. From Beauty Ideals to Empowering Stories: A Conversation with Glamour's UK Editor-in-Chief, Deborah Joseph

[00:00:00] Section: Podcast introduction

[00:00:00] Anna Stoecklein: Welcome to Season 3 of The Story of Woman. I'm your host, Anna Stoecklein.

[00:00:05] Anna Stoecklein: From the intricacies of the economy and healthcare to the nuances of workplace bias and gender roles, each episode of this season features interviews with thought leaders who provide fresh perspectives on critical global issues, all through the female gaze.

[00:00:20] Anna Stoecklein: But this podcast isn't just about women's stories. It's about rewriting our collective story to be more inclusive, equitable, and effective in driving change. It's about changing the current story of mankind to the much more complete story of humankind.

[00:00:37] Section: Episode introduction

[00:00:38] Anna Stoecklein: Hello, and welcome back. Thank you, as always, for being here. So for today's episode, we've got another guest host taking over. And not just any guest host, but the fabulous Joanna Cummings, who was The Story of Woman's first official hire during the very busy time that [00:01:00] was season two. You know, the one that featured Hillary Clinton, Cherie Blair, and a few other powerhouses that you may have heard of.

[00:01:09] Anna Stoecklein: Joanna was absolutely crucial to that series. Number one, just for providing me support and helping with my sanity through the craziness, but also in all things visual that came with that season, most notably the lovely social media images you saw and the incredible newsletter, which featured news about women from around the world, a woman of the week and a killer quote.

[00:01:35] Anna Stoecklein: She absolutely crushed that newsletter, and based on the feedback, I know it was a crowd favorite, but sadly, it's since had to go on pause because, uh, well, I'm back to being just one person, and there are only so many hours in the day. But hopefully, with the help of Joanna, we can get it going again one day in the future.

[00:01:53] Anna Stoecklein: But anyway, Joanna has been a friend, first and foremost, and always a fierce advocate for [00:02:00] women. I was thrilled when she had the idea of getting Deborah Joseph, the UK editor in Chief of Glamour Magazine, on the podcast, and given Joanna's background is in magazines, Um, I mean, get this, she's literally created a magazine for people who create magazines, I thought it only made sense for her to be the one to do the interview, and I'm glad she said yes because she absolutely smashed it.

[00:02:27] Anna Stoecklein: But I'll let Joanna tell you more about Deborah and what they get into during their conversation. I hope you enjoy!

[00:02:33] Joanna Cummings: Hello, my name is Joanna Cummings. I'm a freelance writer and editor, an editorial director of the Grub Street Journal, a magazine for magazine people. As a magazine person myself and a previous collaborator of the Story of Woman, it was my very great honor to guest interview Deborah Joseph, European editorial director of Glamour Magazine.

[00:02:55] Joanna Cummings: Deborah is a personal hero of mine. She's an incredible [00:03:00] editor who's really changed the face of Glamour and is an outspoken promoter and defender of women's issues. As well as heading up the Glamour team, on a more personal level she's spoken honestly about motherhood, body image, violence against women and more.

[00:03:16] Joanna Cummings: Plus she's incredibly kind and a real champion of women in the media. You don't need me to tell you that when it comes to female empowerment, women's magazines don't have the best track record. For decades now, they have been almost a symbol of internalised misogyny, encouraging women to shrink and starve their bodies, succumb to unattainable beauty ideals, pursue unsustainable consumerist behaviour, and cast aside their own pleasure for the sake of the men in their lives. And they are only a few examples.

[00:03:49] Joanna Cummings: But as you'll hear from my chat with Deborah, that could be starting to change. Glamour, ostensibly a beauty first brand, has now, with thanks to Deborah, positioned itself [00:04:00] more as an educator of women, a valid news source that shows the world's events through a women's lens, even a tool of empowerment for its readers.

[00:04:09] Joanna Cummings: Here, Deborah tells me more about Glamour's aims, its two way relationship with its nine million followers, and some of the projects the team is working on to change the lives of women in the UK and beyond. I hope you get as much from it as I did.

[00:04:23] Section: Episode interview

[00:04:25] Joanna Cummings: I'm joined today by Deborah Joseph, Glamour UK Editor in Chief and European Editorial Director. Deborah for the very few people, I'm sure, who have not really encountered Glamour, could you tell us a little bit about the brand and its aims?

[00:04:42] Deborah Joseph: Sure. Well, firstly, Jo, thanks so much for having me. I'm really honoured to be here and excited to talk to you about this. So Glamour is a really amazing brand. It launched in America in, I think it was 1939 and it launched in the UK about 22 years ago. I was actually on the [00:05:00] launch of the magazine.

[00:05:01] Deborah Joseph: It was my third job. And I joined as entertainment editor and I was so excited because it was the first magazine ever to have a smaller size. So, you know, the idea was that it fitted into your life and into your handbag. And it was always about a reflection of women's lives and where they were, and although the world has changed drastically in the last 22 years, I think it always stood up for women allowed them to be independently minded and to question the way society treated women, and I think it's always done that from day one.

[00:05:33] Deborah Joseph: In America, it was the first magazine for women who work and that was in the 1940s. So, you know, it's always had female empowerment at its heart and if anything, I'd say it's probably the original female empowerment brand. When I took over and came back as editor almost six years ago, I was asked to make it digital first. So we were moving away from it being a print brand and to go into a digital future, you know, on web, on social,[00:06:00] and that, that was a huge challenge in itself. But what we realized was that the majority of the Glamour audience were accessing its content on their mobile phone.

[00:06:08] Deborah Joseph: So I always think, you know, it's still, in your handbag, but this time it's on your phone rather than in a magazine. So when I started, I really wanted to make the female empowerment element of it the heart and center of absolutely everything that we did. And at the same time as I was doing this, the editor in America, Sam Barry, was also taking American Glamour into a digital first future and also had female empowerment at the heart.

[00:06:32] Deborah Joseph: So, about two years ago we globalised the brand and it was such an interesting conversation because Sam and I had come to the same conclusion, which was Glamour is first and foremost a female empowerment brand. We rebranded it for women reshaping the world. And everything we do, every touch point, whether it's across the conversations around finance or beauty or fashion or lifestyle or body image, it's got women's lives and interests at the heart of everything we do.

[00:06:59] Deborah Joseph: When someone [00:07:00] new starts at Glamour, the thing I always say to them is, Glamour is, it's the women's story behind the news. So we're not just reporting on the news, you know, the newspapers report on the news, we're one or two days later when the human interest stories start coming out and the women's lives and the way the women's lives have been affected from a scenario, whether it's war or a financial crash, whatever it is, we're there to report on the women's, on the way that women's lives are affected. And that's very much where our heartland is.

[00:07:28] Joanna Cummings: I love that, I love that lens, that way of looking at the news and helping women in particular process that news uh, seeing it in a way that's relevant to them.

[00:07:38] Deborah Joseph: Yeah, women's stories quite often are hidden, right? We know that from history. And it's very much, we see our role as making sure that those stories come to the surface and come to the forefront.

[00:07:48] Joanna Cummings: So so, I mean, you've touched on this, I wanted to ask you how the brand has changed. You've talked about Glamour really always being an empowering magazine, an empowerment magazine. [00:08:00] How do you think that's shifted in the last couple of decades?

[00:08:02] Deborah Joseph: I mean, the magazine reflects what's happened in the world and to women's lives generally. So I think the conversation around, you know, I think 20 years ago, even just the word feminism was a dirty word. Even if you believed in equal rights for women, you were, you wouldn't necessarily say that you're a feminist.

[00:08:19] Deborah Joseph: And I think now that word has been owned and appreciated in a way than it never was. And I think a lot of the conversations around the shaming of women, language has changed so much for women like I talked sometimes on my team to some of the Gen Z and young Millennials and say even words like slut shaming for example just didn't exist 20 years ago. So we knew there were scenarios happening, but you couldn't quite put your finger on it and couldn't give it a word or a language.

[00:08:46] Deborah Joseph: I think social media has given a voice to women to be able to speak up for themselves in a way that we've never been allowed to before because we might've been, you know, kept quiet by institutions and systems. And actually now we've just [00:09:00] got the voice to speak louder.

[00:09:02] Deborah Joseph: And I've always wanted Glamour, since I came on board, to very much be a platform for women's voices and marginalized voices, for people to feel heard and for us to reflect the conversations that are really going on out there and the experiences that all women have had that maybe they weren't talking about before.

[00:09:21] Joanna Cummings: That touches on something else I wanted to cover, big a role do you think women's magazines, or Glamour specifically, should or do play in women's journeys as feminists or into that kind of coming into knowledge around feminism?

[00:09:39] Deborah Joseph: Well, it's interesting. I think because we take quite a newsy stance on things, in some cases we are actually people's news source. So a lot of, readers, friends, say to me I, I didn't know about that story until you wrote about it. And we often have such a strong opinion on things. You know, we use a lot of great feminist writers and they [00:10:00] really put forward strong points of view on what's going on in the world.

[00:10:03] Deborah Joseph: And I think we help shape people's views. We unlock taboos that people previously maybe didn't want to talk about around periods and body image and shaming. And, you know, motherhood shaming and body shaming and a fear of asking for more money at work. Or, you know, I think the Me Too movement opened up a whole new dialogue and we very much covered that kind of conversation every single day. And we're not quiet. We're not quiet. We jump on conversations that I know maybe in the past have been quiet.

[00:10:35] Joanna Cummings: And, obviously you talked about feminist writers etc, how do you ensure that Glamour remains diverse, intersectional? How do you make sure it embodies those qualities that are really, really crucial to modern day feminists?

[00:10:53] Deborah Joseph: I don't think that as a, obviously we're a business and we're a platform and I don't think that any business [00:11:00] can be truly diverse unless you have a diverse team. So as much as possible, I hire diversely to make sure that we have as many different opinions in the meetings, in the newsroom, so that when topics come up, we're not speaking on behalf of other people too much.

[00:11:15] Deborah Joseph: So, quite often a conversation will come up and someone will say, well, actually I'm from that community and that's not my experience. And that's not the way my community see things. And I've learned a lot from all my team for that reason, because we really do have people from all walks of life and from very different political backgrounds and different ethnic heritages. And for me, that's how you make sure that your brand is diverse. You have to start from within.

[00:11:45] Joanna Cummings: And I know you've spoken before about what it was like as a Gen Xer working with Millennials. Could you tell us a little bit more about that and how that's kind of crossed over into that kind of more diverse magazine landscape?

[00:11:59] Deborah Joseph: I'll give you a [00:12:00] story that happened when I first started here that really made me understand just how different, certain viewpoints are based on the generation that you come from. So we had a conversation about Kylie and I referred to the fact that Kylie had had breast cancer and the team said to me, she never had breast cancer.

[00:12:19] Deborah Joseph: And I was like, yes, she did. And they're like, no, no, she didn't. I was like, yeah, she did. I, she absolutely did. And then I very quickly realized that I was talking about Kylie Minogue and they were talking about Kylie Jenner. So, you know, reference points differ....

[00:12:31] Joanna Cummings: Oh, god.

[00:12:34] Deborah Joseph: ...based on the generation you're born and actually again, you know, when I talk about diversity, I also mean diversity of thoughts and experience and age diversity is very much part of our conversation.

[00:12:44] Deborah Joseph: So, I love the fact that, Gen X women, sometimes I tell them about the experiences that I had at work when I was younger or in society and dating and they, they just cannot believe the things that women my age used to have to manage and deal with that they just wouldn't tolerate on any [00:13:00] level whatsoever now.

[00:13:01] Deborah Joseph: And they're more vocal, they have, as I said, I think Gen X and young millennials have developed a language to reflect their life experiences. And I'm personally very thankful for that because even just words like gas lighting never existed in my time when I was younger.

[00:13:17] Deborah Joseph: So, I think that feminism is a much more comfortable conversation for the Gen Z and young millennials. My generation were huge feminists, huge, huge feminists, but we didn't have social media. We didn't have the platform to be able to speak about it in the way that they do now.

[00:13:35] Joanna Cummings: I was gonna say, do you feel that there is a lot more openness talking about these issues that you mentioned earlier? Sex, sexuality, money.

[00:13:46] Deborah Joseph: Oh, Totally. Totally. 100%. You know, for example, I would never have discussed my salary with even my best friends. I just wouldn't have discussed it. And that meant [00:14:00] that the fact that so many women were being underpaid was shrouded in secrecy. Whereas now, the next generation of women, all our audience, our readers are more comfortable talking about finance and money. Maybe they'll call someone up before they go for a job interview and say, well, what's the ballpoint, salary bandwidth that I should be asking for. And this is all ways that women are empowering themselves to make sure that they're paid equally. So that's just one small example of a shift in openness and confidence. thing.

[00:14:28] Joanna Cummings: That growth in confidence I'm even more aware of. I'm an old millennial, which is the least sexy, uh, category, I think. Uh, and even I'm taken aback by, uh, by the way that people talk about it. I did, um, I did a feature recently for Grub Street, I interviewed a 32 year old journalist, and she was telling me so frankly about her sex life. I was really, really blown away and I, I felt like I was clutching my pearls in a way.

[00:14:57] Joanna Cummings: Because I thought, oh my god, I would never have spoken about it like [00:15:00] this. But at the same time, I was full of admiration for her to be able to speak like that to someone she'd just met for the first time. And I thought, there's something really heartening about that.

[00:15:08] Deborah Joseph: I I mean, isn't, isn't that, amazing? That openness and sharing of stories empowers all of us.

[00:15:13] Joanna Cummings: No, I agree. Obviously, Obviously, when you're running a magazine, talking about messaging around feminism and, et cetera, but you've also got to be commercially savvy. You've got to sell the magazine, you've got advertisers and things. How do you balance that kind of need for commerciality with the empowerment, you know, when we're talking about things like diet culture, obviously beauty. I would say which one was a beauty first publication.

[00:15:41] Deborah Joseph: I think it's really important that the advertisers that we work with reflect our values and it's something that we discuss when we're doing a partnership with a brand. We very much speak to the brand directly and say what's your history in this, in this topic? You know, what's their history? How have they shown up for women? How have they shown up for women in their [00:16:00] past? And how are they showing up for women their present? You know, a lot of brands are changing or also becoming more aware of the need to support women publicly. And, you know, sometimes they come to us and say, we want to change.

[00:16:13] Deborah Joseph: You know, we want to work with you. We want to be more open and empowered. and we want to make sure that it's an authentic partnership. I think the word authenticity is what's key here.

[00:16:22] Joanna Cummings: And also, as a very big women's magazine, have you managed to have an impact in terms of representation, in terms of the way advertisers create material, etc. Do you think you've managed to kind of shift things as a brand?

[00:16:41] Deborah Joseph: Absolutely. Yes. I mean, we talk to beauty brands and for example, if they bring out a range of foundations, if they're only bringing out a small range of foundations, we won't cover them. If they're not showing that they can cover every type of skin color, then they're not right for us because we want to be fully diverse.

[00:16:58] Deborah Joseph: We want to make sure that [00:17:00] any woman who comes to Glamour feels, feel seen. And if you come and we start talking about a foundation range that stops at like a light brown shade, then that's not representative of our audience. So yeah, we absolutely talk to brands about that kind of thing.

[00:17:14] Deborah Joseph: Um, In other ways, in terms of imagery, we're very strong, you know, if people send us brand imagery and there isn't a diversity in body shape, for example, that's also something that we'll feed back to them and say, I'm sorry, we need more diversity in body shape. That's not reflective of, all women's bodies. So yes, we have very strong conversations with advertisers about that kind of thing.

[00:17:35] Joanna Cummings: Thank God for you. It's what we need, I remember watching, um, I don't know if you ever saw Advanced Style, which was about women in the 70s, 80s and even 90s who were incredibly into fashion. And they were approaching magazines trying to get them to represent older models. And they were just being turned away left, right and centre.

[00:17:56] Joanna Cummings: And I think things have definitely shifted not just in terms of age, [00:18:00] but in, in representation generally, do you agree that's across the board or do you still think there's a long way to go?

[00:18:06] Deborah Joseph: Oh, there's still a long way to go. I mean, even, you know, I think there is still an element of tokenism, in some areas and I mean, look, I think small steps are worth celebrating, you know, it takes brands, it takes companies time to fully transform. You can't expect people to necessarily change dramatically overnight, but as long as people are showing a willingness and an awareness and want to have that authentic conversation, then I think you should support them.

[00:18:35] Joanna Cummings: You obviously, well, you're defined as a beauty first brand, right? How would you define women's current relationship with the concept of beauty? Obviously as a general concept, but also in terms of beauty product. And how would you say that's changed from, say, when you were there at the launch?

[00:18:56] Deborah Joseph: I think that beauty is no longer just about lipstick. [00:19:00] It's about a woman's journey to how she ended up buying that lipstick. So often, you know, if I think about my journey with beauty, for example, I'm very much influenced by my heritage. You know, my mum's from Iran and, the way that Iranian women were very westernized in their beauty. You know, I've got curly hair I straighten every single day. Because that's what I was taught was, you know, Western standards of beauty was very much what I was taught was the right thing to do. And I think a lot of women are questioning why they feel the way they do about their beauty routine or the products that they buy.

[00:19:32] Deborah Joseph: We often talk about, for example, hair removal. You know, hair grows naturally on women, it grows naturally on men, but women feel that we're disgusting in some way if we show our natural hair growing on our legs or under our arms. And I think those are things we just accepted blindly in the past work that we're really starting to question, that internalized misogyny that a lot of us feel when it comes to conversations around beauty.

[00:19:56] Deborah Joseph: And one thing I changed, for example, in the past Glamour never used to cover[00:20:00] treatments or plastic surgery. And I understand absolutely why that was, but the fact is women are having treatments and they are having plastic surgery. And I think that it's our role at Glamour to ensure they're educated, to make sure that they do it safely and well, and that I don't want to judge them, you know, I want them to come again to feel that they're not being judged and whatever you decide to do, whether it's wear makeup, don't wear makeup, have tweakments, don't have tweakments, straighten your hair, leave it natural, that you, there's a safe space to help you do what you want to do, well. And I think without judgment is probably the main conversation around beauty for us.

[00:20:37] Joanna Cummings: Do you think it's possible to do that and still talk about seeing things through the male gaze or because of internalised misogyny? Is it possible to tread that balance, do you think? And how well do you think Glamour does that?

[00:20:53] Deborah Joseph: I think we do it really well. I think the fact that we acknowledge our own internalized misogyny and question [00:21:00] why we feel the way we do about things and just even just having that conversation, I don't think it's been had that frequently in the past. The fact that it's happening and our writers are questioning themselves and the society around us and the pressures we've always felt, the ones that we still feel around beauty and aging, I think it's a conversation we have every day.

[00:21:21] Deborah Joseph: Ad break

[00:21:22] Joanna Cummings: We've talked, you mentioned earlier body image as well. And I think that's a particularly loaded issue, right? You've got on the one hand, diet culture, which we know has been there for God knows how long, then we've got body positivity, now we're getting a pushback against that, body neutrality, etc. And I know you've spoken about dieting in the past and that kind of damaging messaging. How would you summarise what's going on in that kind of body image landscape and how Glamour's choosing to cover that and represent that?

[00:21:55] Deborah Joseph: Well, I think, you know, I wrote an article about it recently in the Daily Mail about my own [00:22:00] experience of body image after having three children. And I think for me, America Ferreira summed it up in the Barbie movie, you know, when she says that you just can't win, you, you know, you're not allowed to diet, but then you have to be thin, but don't be too thin because then you'll be judged.

[00:22:15] Deborah Joseph: And I think there's like a very small slither of acceptability when it comes to, what women are allowed to look like. You're not allowed to be too thin because then you're too thin and that's not good. And you want to be thin, but you're not allowed to say that you want to diet. And if you, if you don't lose your baby weight, then, oh gosh, that's terrible.

[00:22:34] Deborah Joseph: And if you're, you know, if you're above your BMI, then you're unhealthy and just the messaging is, is so negative towards women and it's very, very difficult to love your body when you're surrounded by this kind of messaging from pretty much from the day you're born and some of it comes from your mother, some of it comes from your friends, some of it comes, you know, from images.

[00:22:55] Deborah Joseph: I think magazines and media in general have had a big part to play in that in the [00:23:00] past. I've talked in the past, you know, early on when I was an editor, you know, a shoot came in and the model was so thin, so painfully, painfully thin that I asked the retouchers to make her arms look bigger because I didn't feel it was responsible to print a shoot with a girl that was so painfully thin. I was worried she wasn't well.

[00:23:19] Deborah Joseph: And you know, you just can't win as a woman. You just can't win. So to some degree, really, you have to just do what you want to do and find a way to love yourself without taking on all the negative messaging. But good God, it's a lifelong journey, isn't it? I think every single woman has their own journey.

[00:23:37] Deborah Joseph: And it changes, you know, our view of our bodies changes through time. You know, certainly for me, having children changed my body. unrecognizably and coming to terms with that, it's a journey. It's a journey, right? And I just, you have to be thankful to be healthy, really.

[00:23:55] Joanna Cummings: I was going to ask, because I know, like you said, you've spoken about it, or written about it for the Daily [00:24:00] Mail. And you've touched there on, you know, straightening your hair and how you felt about your body after children. What else could you, or would you be happy to share with us about your journey with body image and kind of where you're at now?

[00:24:15] Deborah Joseph: Yeah, I think when I was younger, I was quite sporty and I was naturally slim. I was always naturally slim. I played tennis. I did a lot of sports. And I think after I had children, I had three children very quickly, one after the other, after the other, I think I had three and a four at one point.

[00:24:31] Deborah Joseph: And I'd had years of IVF before that, you know, and I'd been put on steroids, which really makes you really bloated. And I came out of a situation, you know, looking at my body, not really recognising what I saw in the mirror. But equally, I was so thankful to have been able to have children, which wasn't a guarantee by any stretch of the imagination, that didn't really focus on my body.

[00:24:52] Deborah Joseph: And then when I took on the role of Glamour, you know, a couple of people have said to me, Oh, I really admire the fact that you don't adhere to the size [00:25:00] zero magazine editor aesthetic. And I was like, Oh, okay.

[00:25:05] Joanna Cummings: No.

[00:25:06] Deborah Joseph: Is that, is that how you see it? You know, and it just really is just.

[00:25:10] Joanna Cummings: No one wants to hear that either,do they?

[00:25:12] Deborah Joseph: Well, it was just, it was just interesting because I hadn't necessarily thought of myself in any way, in particular.

[00:25:18] Deborah Joseph: And I started thinking, Oh God, I really need to, you know, maybe I need to lose weight. Maybe I need to be thinner to be a magazine editor. So I started down this ridiculous journey of, you know, in the office, someone was saying, oh, there's Ozempic, and then there's natural Ozempic, and then there's this, join one of these exercise groups where you have 1, 300 calories a day.

[00:25:36] Deborah Joseph: And I just went down this crazy route and then stopped myself and thought, what on earth am I doing? You know, every single day on Glamour, we talk about the need to not be influenced by external messaging. And I'm doing exactly the thing that I'm telling everybody else not to do on Glamour. So, that's why I wrote the article. I thought maybe it's time to stop and think and realize that maybe I'm doing all the things that I'm kind of, you know, on Glamour every day we advise [00:26:00] readers not to do, which is be, you know, be influenced by the judgment in society around you and your body and the way you feel about yourself.

[00:26:05] Deborah Joseph: And that's why I wrote the article. And also, you know, I've got two young girls and I don't want them growing up with that negative messaging. I don't want them seeing me struggling with the way I feel about my body and then feeling that they have to do the same. So that's really kind of what triggered that conversation for me.

[00:26:24] Joanna Cummings: Do you think you experienced that messaging from family or whatever when you were growing up?

[00:26:29] Deborah Joseph: Um, I don't think particularly around weight, but I certainly did in beauty, you know, I think Iranian women, their value is their beauty in society. Um, you know, it's an unequal society for women and their ability to marry a man, to marry somebody who can look after them is key to their role in a society where a government, as we all know, treats women as second class citizens. That's very much how my mum was brought up. So I definitely had the messaging that you really have [00:27:00] to always have a beautiful blow dry and always make sure that your makeup is perfect and always make sure that you look as attractive as you possibly can. But as I said, I didn't really struggle, weight wasn't my insecurity when I was younger.

[00:27:13] Joanna Cummings: Well, that's something. I'm happy for you. Also, you talked about the size zero editor thing. It's funny because I was watching...

[00:27:21] Deborah Joseph: Which by the way is a nonsense also because, you know, I'm friendly with loads of other editors and you know, I very few now that adhere to that size zero aesthetic, it's not really a thing. Maybe it was in the past but it certainly isn't in the present. You know, most of the other women's editors that I know and, you know, regularly meet for lunch and breakfast, you know, we all feel the same, a lot of us have got young children and they feel the same as I do.

[00:27:44] Joanna Cummings: That's a really important shift. Um, but yeah, I was watching Devil Wears Prada at weekend and how Andy's judged because I think she's something like a, I don't know, size 10 or something and she is proud of herself for going down to a size 6. It's[00:28:00] like she's, she's made it. Um, but, what I was going to ask you about that was...

[00:28:05] Joanna Cummings: Oh yeah, from a beauty point of view, do you think, as the editor of Glamour, or the editor in chief of Glamour, should I say, do you think that ever makes you feel under more pressure to look a certain way, and, I mean, I've never ever seen you look anything but glamorous. Do you feel any pressure in terms of, of, of that, that beauty representation?

[00:28:28] Deborah Joseph: Well, I think there's a level of professionalism, obviously, if you, if you're coming to work every day and you're walking to Vogue House of all workplaces, then I, I, I really try hard not to be too influenced by what other people think of me. Like I do it for myself. I like clothes. I like, you know, I blow my own hair straight.

[00:28:45] Deborah Joseph: I don't really go to the hairdresser that often. I blow dries. And you know, the reason I love coming to work is I like getting dressed, putting my makeup on, putting on some high heels and going to work. I feel good. You know, the weekend I'm usually in a tracksuit bottom, taking my dogs for a [00:29:00] walk and hanging out with my kids.

[00:29:01] Deborah Joseph: So I love the fact that I can come to work and have that kind of more glamorous persona. I don't, do I feel the pressure? Not really. Not really. No, I don't actually. I kind of pretty much do what I want, wear what I want, you know, say what I want. I've always been that kind of person.

[00:29:18] Joanna Cummings: Such a hero. We need more people like you. You've obviously done some quite, as well as generally covering empowerment and feminism and some really, really key societal issues, you've obviously also done some really impactful projects on Glamour, like special projects such as the, the self love, you do the self love issue, don't you, every year?

[00:29:43] Joanna Cummings: And you recently did the Transparenthood cover, which had quite a few articles, didn't it, about trans and non binary experiences. Could you tell us a little bit more about those projects and any others that you feel were kind of game changers?

[00:29:57] Deborah Joseph: Well, they're probably the covers I'm most [00:30:00] proud of every year. So every January or February, we've done a self love cover for the past few years. And every year we look at people from marginalized communities that maybe aren't often represented in society and aren't seen on magazine covers.

[00:30:14] Deborah Joseph: And we talk about how can we make those women be seen. And I was actually talking about this yesterday, I think one of the most incredible moments of my whole life and career was when we had Ellie Goldstein on the cover about three years ago. And I think she was the first woman with Down Syndrome to have ever been given a magazine cover.

[00:30:35] Deborah Joseph: And I got a letter from a woman who I've never met, I don't know who she is, she just contacted me on Instagram and said, I just want you to know that I've got a baby who's got Down Syndrome and I've printed out your magazine cover and it's on her wall. I'm going to keep it on her wall so that she knows that when she grows up she can be whatever she wants to be.

[00:30:54] Deborah Joseph: And for me, that made coming to work every single day worth it because if you can [00:31:00] give women power in that way, through representation and change their future lives, then wow, it was a good feeling. That was a great feeling for me.

[00:31:09] Deborah Joseph: More recently we did the Logan Brown cover, which was the first women's magazine cover that had a pregnant trans man on the cover. It was for Pride Month, we discussed it as a team, what did we want to do, how did we want to show allyship for the trans community, and we just feel, you know, sometimes there is division between the feminist community and the trans community, and we wanted to show the unity that, you know, trans men and women have around childbirth.

[00:31:36] Deborah Joseph: And it was an incredible cover and we had so much amazing positive response. We had some negative responses as well, which I was expecting. But again, I think if we can open the mind of even one person, then it's worth it, right? If we can change the lives of people, then it's worth it in a positive way.

[00:31:54] Deborah Joseph: So for me that was incredibly powerful and it went all around the world. I mean we had [00:32:00] letters from people from as far as Canada, Australia and Iran. So it really went around the world which was, it was incredible. I'm very, very proud of that and so are the team.

[00:32:11] Joanna Cummings: Quite right. And, well, like you said, at the beginning, you can't always change things overnight. Sometimes it's incremental, but having something so powerful get such a response that's got to have had an impact. So yeah, quite right to be proud.

[00:32:28] Deborah Joseph: Totally. You know what, we've got a platform at Glamour of nine million people across social media and web. And I think that that's a really powerful position to be in, to have that platform. And why wouldn't we do something good with it? Why wouldn't we use it to open people's mind, change their hearts... open their hearts, sorry, maybe change their minds if we can and maybe just make them question the way they've always thought about something or show them a different life perspective.

[00:32:56] Deborah Joseph: I think sometimes, the downside of social [00:33:00] media is that sometimes people live in an echo chamber, and I think as a journalist, it's my job to challenge the status quo and challenge the way that people think. And that's probably the thing that my team and I work hard at Glamour every day. We have a meeting every morning and these conversations come up every morning. And we debate and we question and challenge and try and find new perspectives on things.

[00:33:23] Joanna Cummings: Sounds an incredible place to be. I'm not surprised you love going into the office Deborah. Heels aside.

[00:33:29] Deborah Joseph: I do, I love it. I love it. I love it. I'm surrounded by really brilliant people.

[00:33:33] Joanna Cummings: Um, you've talked there about your nine million strong because it's practically an army, isn't it? Obviously, to run a magazine brand, as anyone in publishing knows, the audience is really key to your success, right? How do you, what can you tell us about your audience other than what you've mentioned already or your readership, and how you build a relationship with them, find out what they're looking for from your brand?

[00:33:59] Deborah Joseph: [00:34:00] So we've predominantly got a Gen Z millennial audience. So probably around say 18 to 40. And each platform has a different audience. So, for example, TikTok's a younger audience, Facebook's an older audience, our website's kind of in the middle. So, you know, we quite often look at each platform and know that we're speaking to maybe a slightly different age group or a slightly different demographic.

[00:34:22] Deborah Joseph: Um, and the way we speak to them is we do surveys, we hold events, so we have in the past, we've held big beauty events. We're doing something called an empowerment summit in December where our audience come and we engage with them. We speak to them. They speak to us a lot on social media. Social media is very much a two way conversation.

[00:34:43] Deborah Joseph: So it's an instant response to things that we do. So we, we know instantly how our audience feel about what we're producing on Twitter or on Instagram. So I think that, you know, in the past when you created a print magazine, you'd create it and then it would take three months to [00:35:00] produce it and then once it went live, it took, I don't know, a month to three months to get the letters in, to get the response from the audience.

[00:35:06] Deborah Joseph: And then by the time you printed those letters, you're talking like a six to nine month period before you can really communicate with your audience. Whereas the reason I love digital so much is it's an instant communication. It's like having a daily conversation with people, minute by minute. And that's a really powerful place to be.

[00:35:25] Joanna Cummings: You mentioned the empowerment summit, are there any other projects that you've got coming up that you're excited about that you're allowed to tell us about?

[00:35:33] Deborah Joseph: We've got the Glamour Women of the Year coming up in October, which is probably our biggest, it's our most public event of the year. Since I've become editor, it's the second time we've done it. We did it last November for the first time. And for me, it's just really a way for us to bring to life all the conversations around female empowerment that we have every day on the website and on social media. So to be able to bring so many powerful women into a room and to honor [00:36:00] so many incredible women, it's kind of the icing on the cake, really.

[00:36:03] Joanna Cummings: And I noticed that you've partnered with Refuge and Rape Crisis on the consent campaign. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what drove that, why it's needed, what you hope to get from it, what response you've had so far?

[00:36:18] Deborah Joseph: So we've not gone live with the responses yet, but we've had over 3000 people have responded to the survey, which was bigger than we could ever have imagined. You know, when we first said we want to do this, we were advised, from the marketing department, that actually it's such an in depth survey and we're asking people to be so honest about their experiences around consent and some of that is, you know, it's really hardcore about, you know, fundamentally rape.

[00:36:43] Deborah Joseph: And did we feel that people were going to be that open and honest with us? And they have been because they know that it's a conversation we have every day, that we are on their side, that we want to speak on their behalf in a positive way and... So it's been an incredible response. I [00:37:00] think consent is at the heart of so many conversations that we have every single day.

[00:37:05] Deborah Joseph: And people don't really even know the full meaning of the word. So that's where it started. And it's a long term project that we want to be working on, and it's going to take many different guises, but it starts with the survey.

[00:37:20] Joanna Cummings: That's an amazing response. Yeah, it shows that you, like you were saying, that your audience, your readership trust you.

[00:37:25] Deborah Joseph: Well, yeah, I mean it's, it's incredible that people have been brave enough to open up to tell us what's going on in their lives. But I think consent is something, or lack of consent, is something that's affected probably almost every single woman that I know in some form or another, whether it's someone touching, you know, putting the hand on their bottom in a bar, to more extreme scenarios, I don't think there's a woman really that hasn't had an experience and a problem with people not understanding consent.

[00:37:53] Deborah Joseph: And I think, you know, we don't just want to talk to women, we want to be talking to men as well, because I feel very strongly that [00:38:00] this journey, this feminist journey that we're all on for full equality, you can't do that on your own. You have to do it in partnership with men, and that's something again that I hope to be working on, on more in the future. Yeah.

[00:38:13] Joanna Cummings: No, absolutely. There's no point helping women articulate how they feel and learn what their rights are around something like consent without talking to or involving the people who are often involved in overstepping that consent or ignoring that consent. Absolutely agree.

[00:38:31] Joanna Cummings: Just to wrap up, I'd love to know, maybe one of your personal heroes, anybody in the kind of feminist space or magazine space that you think is really nailing it, that people listening should go and follow immediately.

[00:38:47] Deborah Joseph: Do you know what? I think for me, it's everyday women. Every single day that I meet new women, I'm so amazed as I said, because we're all so much more open than we used to be. I'm so amazed by [00:39:00] the things that people tell me these days that no one would have ever told me in the past.

[00:39:04] Deborah Joseph: And I think I'm probably influenced by pretty much, I try and get the story out of almost everyone when I meet now, I want to understand their experiences, their life experiences and I think that I can't think of one person in particular because actually there are so many women that make me, you know, there's so many women that have shaped me personally from very early on in my career, I was very, very lucky. I've had amazing female bosses, female influences. And you know, for the first time now at Condé Nast, I've got two female bosses. I've got Anna Winter and I've got a lady called Natalia who heads up Europe.

[00:39:39] Deborah Joseph: It's the first time in my whole career I've only had female bosses. And for me, that has been game changing, absolutely game changing because to have people who, you know, they've both got children, you know, they understand, they're supportive, that's just a whole new world for me.

[00:39:57] Joanna Cummings: Yeah, I get it, it shows the importance of that kind of [00:40:00] representation at kind of top level.

[00:40:02] Deborah Joseph: Totally. I don't think I could have imagined a time that so many women would have been at the top of the publishing industry. I mean, that's a huge shift, huge, huge shift because, you know, when I first started out in magazines, everybody was women apart from the bosses. The decision makers at the top were men and everybody else who was living the daily life of publishing were women. Whereas now it's actually women at the top and I do massively feel that shift. Massively feel that shift.

[00:40:30] Joanna Cummings: I still think it is like that in a lot of places, but it's like you say, it's really heartening that it started to shift. And I love that, I love that you said everyday women because that's how we're going to get change, isn't it? Everyday women, the collective empowerment, the collective action, collective change.

[00:40:46] Deborah Joseph: I think so. And, you know, obviously, you know, I'm from Manchester as you are, and, well, I know you're from Lancashire, and I think sometimes I go back up north and I meet my, I see my friends there, some old school friends, and their lives, you know, [00:41:00] the things that they're experiencing every day, are quite different sometimes the things that we have in London.

[00:41:04] Deborah Joseph: I think London's in some instances more open minded. You know, the conversation on plastic surgery, for example, my friends and I will be very, very open about tweakments. We'll share with each other. We'll, you know, recommend doctors, we'll recommend dermatologists. Whereas, you know, my friend up north said, oh, there's so much secrecy around it and no one wants to talk about it.

[00:41:28] Deborah Joseph: And I said, you have to talk about it? Because otherwise, you know, you allow cowboy doctors to rise to the surface because no one's exposing them. So if you don't talk about it, that's what's going to happen. And I do think that it's these everyday conversations I have with different women from different places that really open my mind to what's going on in women's lives.

[00:41:47] Joanna Cummings: Okay, well, thanks so much Deborah for being here. Thanks so much for talking to us It was a real treat for me and I know the listeners are gonna really appreciate it as well. Thanks for your incisive comments.

[00:41:59] Deborah Joseph: [00:42:00] Thank you it was a joy. Thank you so much. What a great start to the day.

[00:42:03] Section: Outro

[00:42:04] Anna Stoecklein: Thanks for listening. The Story of Woman is a one woman operation run by me, Anna Stoecklein. So if you enjoy listening and want to help me on this mission of adding woman's perspective to mankind's story, be sure to share with a friend. One mention goes a long way. Hit that subscribe button so you never miss an episode and make sure to rate and review the podcast while you're there.

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Deborah Joseph
Deborah Joseph
Glamour's UK Editor-in-Chief