Beautiful Magazine

An Interview with Jack Krosinski
Part II


(Continued from Part I…)

At this point in the conversation, the telephone on Mr. Krosinski’s desk begins ringing—quite insistently. At first, he lets it go to message. But then, thinking better of it, he excuses himself, and checks his machine. The break gives me an opportunity to enjoy some more tea, all the while attracting the scruntiny of his tiny terrier.

“It’s the wife,” he admits when he returns, and adds, “There would be trouble if I didn’t pick it up.” I nod, and point out how complicated the situtation could become, now that he will be working with the world’s most beautiful models. “Don’t even get started with that!” he says with a smile, affirming, “She trusts me, she trusts me.” I finish my tea, and we proceed with our discussion.

* * *

HSG: You released a widely-distributed survey to your potential readers, inquiring about what they would like to see in a plus-size publication. But how do you answer the criticisms of such surveys, e.g., that their results paint a distorted picture? Critics maintain that readers with a certain type of personality are more inclined to fill out a survey than others, and that those who lack the patience to fill out a survey, or to offer feedback (owing to a hectic, fast-paced lifestyle), could, in fact, constitute the most significant market for a fashion magazine?

JK: Conducting any survey is skewed, in one way or another. It’s the same way when you go out on the street—you have your survey people out on the street, and they try to stop people and ask them questions. There are those who will stop and give you the answer, and then there are those who will walk by. So this is exactly the same situation. There are people who have the personality to will fill out surveys, and those who just can’t be bothered. But overall, it does reflect the population at large.

HSG: The other question about the efficacy of surveys is that people might not even know what they want, until they get it. I’m not sure that anyone could have assembled something as original and groundbreaking as MODE, back in 1997, on the basis of a survey. People might not have been able to imagine that such a magazine was even possible. But I suppose that these questions are, to some degree, moot, because it doesn’t sound like you’re holding back—

JK: I’m not holding back, because there’s no reason to hold back. I’m risking a lot. But so are the readers—

HSG: —who have been disillusioned before.

JK: But you know, this is the way the business is. You risk big, you win big. If I do do a good job—and not only me, I always say me, but if the whole team does a good job—then it will be reflected in subsequent subscriptions, and subsequent support from other places. We’re very confident that we will do a good job. I mean, we have asked everyone concerned to give us their input. Anyone who cares about having such a magazine is welcome to write to me personally, to give me a call, to have a chat with me.

HSG: To give you an earful.

JK: There will always be people who have an issue with this or that, but I’m willing to listen to it, and your idea might be just the greatest idea I’ve ever heard. So I will never isolate myself from the readers. I refuse to do it. I mean, I’ve been asked many times, “Jack, you don’t have time for this, you’ve got other things you’ve got to concentrate on.” And it’s true. I really do have a busy schedule these days—

HSG: Summer, the time of your projected debut, is just around the corner—

JK: —but I still take the time to respond to you, even though maybe you’re giving me an earful, I don’t care. I’m going to listen to you, to your ideas, and if they’re going to make the product better, if they’re going to make the magazine better, I’m going to implement them. End of story.

HSG: And now we come to the central question that comes up in all of these interviews: Why does the media resist plus-size beauty?

JK: Hmmm. I’m on the same train of thought as you are. It boggles the mind. Why? I don’t know why, really. Honestly, I don’t know what the reason is. Other than—and I always go back to this—financial. But why?

HSG: After all, there are other magazines out there that do not conform to the Vogue standard. More magazine, for example, targets older readers. There are magazines about everything under the sun. So why has this readership been neglected?

Click to hear a brief audio excerpt (in .wav file format) from this interview

JK: I think it has to do with an image of sexiness. Sex. A fundamental thing in life, in human life, is reproduction, or something of that nature. I mean, every person wants to feel sexy, wants to feel good, and it’s been said many times, sex drives the world. You go to South America or Brazil, and full-figured women are the beauty standard. You want to look like them. This is a North American thing. And maybe it has not been perceived as a sexy thing here, and because sex sells, this starts the whole thing. Manufacturers are trying to promote their products through advertising. They want to appeal to some innate urge, which is sometimes sexual…

HSG: Working as you do in an industry that is targeting women, do you find being male a hindrance? Or does it give you a certain perspective—

JK: Perspective, yes, I was just about to say that. I’m looking from the sidelines, in a way. You go to certain press events, and you’re the only guy there. It gives you a bit of a different…you’re less emotionally attached to some things, and then, you can approach them in a more objective manner. Not to say that men aren’t emotional, and women are emotional. But I think I have that needed distance, sometimes, in certain situations, where I can separate myself from certain issues, and be able to make clear, decisive business decisions. Of course, the editor of the magazine is a woman, as is 95% of the staff. But me being involved in the whole publishing aspect of it, it might be something of a bonus, maybe. Sometimes it’s a bad thing for me to be a man in an industry driven by female magazines. It’s a question to be debated. There are plusses and minuses to this.

HSG: According to former Ladies’ Home Journal editor Myrna Blyth’s exposé of the magazine industry titled Spin Sisters, magazines deliver negative messages, and routinely exaggerate health risks into epidemic proportions, in order to sell copies. The current fiction of a “weight epidemic” could be seen as an example of this process in action. Will you avoid this?

JK: [Laughs]

HSG: It’s a bit of a loaded question.

JK: It is a loaded question. Hmmm. What do magazines try to do, fundamentally? They try to sell. I’m not talking about my magazine now—

HSG: Of course.

JK: —but, as an industry. You try to formulate content in a manner that appears essential to be read. You have to read it in order to live. And this is exactly what she’s talking about. The other question in there was about the negativity of it, always having the negative aspect emphasized. I don’t know why that is done, frankly. With this publication, as you may have noticed, we’re trying to push a positive image, a feel-good magazine, a feel-good publication. I think people are getting a bit tired and weary of being…[snaps fingers] I’ve got it. I know why it’s happening.

Fear drives an instinct of wanting to be saved, in some way, of wanting to be protected—that nurturing, mothering instinct. It sort of springs up in your head when you’re afraid. When you’re pushing negative stories in the media, you’re invoking this feeling of wanting to be saved, wanting to be comforted. And that media, then, gives you what you’re looking for. They present you with something that they will scare you with.

Perfect example—the United States right now. And this is no criticism of the United States government, or any of the policies that they have. This is just a parallel to what we’re talking about. “Elevated security risk,” or whatever they call it there. We have “State Orange.” We’re in “Level Orange.” Everybody’s on edge. And the government comes in and says, “We’re doing this and that; you’ll be okay.” And everything is okay. You begin to trust them. You begin to trust their word. You begin to sort of be comforted by them. Whether it is real, or it is imaginary—the threat—the ultimate goal is, subconsciously, of publications, or even of governments, is to be that saving component. “We’re going to save you, if you do this and this and this. If you listen to us. If you follow our way.” And it’s a lengthy sort of way of getting to it, but—

HSG: It sounds very plausible, though.

JK: It does, doesn’t it? It just dawned on me that maybe that’s what it is. Negativity—you’re scared. “Help me, help me.” So magazines—or media in general, movies, TV—will say, “Here’s what’s happening, but you’re going to be okay, because we’re here, and we’re going to take care of you, and this is what you’ve got to do.” And maybe that’s what sells, ultimately.

HSG: I’m delighted that you intend to go in a different direction with Beautiful.

JK: Well, we’re going to try to push a more positive aspect. Whether or not it will sell in that way remains to be seen. But I hope the readers will appreciate that.

HSG: And now, just one more question arising from the Spin Sisters book. The author demonstrates that most women’s magazines have an unmistakable political slant towards the Left. And I’m sure that there are also critics who believe that the media in general has capitalist and/or right-wing tendencies. Will there be any slant, politically or otherwise, in your magazine? Or is this, to some degree, unavoidable?

Click to hear a brief audio excerpt (in .wav file format) from this interview

JK: Not that I am aware of. We’re trying to avoid it. Whether or not it will come out, that remains to be seen. Sometimes it is unavoidable, because of the message you’re trying to send. You’re trying to send message “A,” you will come out a “right-wing,” “nationalist,” whatever. And then you’ll come out a liberal on the other hand. So it just depends on how people perceive it. There is no political agenda from our side. That’s something for the readers to decide.

HSG: Well, those are the questions that I had uppermost in my mind. If your magazine turns out anything like the way that you have described it here, it could be the worthy successor to MODE that we have all been waiting for. Heaven knows, a lot of people out there are hoping for its success.

JK: I want this to be better than Vogue. I want it to beat all of the other magazines. I’m going to say it again, this is war. I want this to be on the newsstands before Vogue.

HSG: That’s quite an ambition.

JK: Why not? Tell me. Why not?

HSG: Well, when I asked you that question earlier, there weren’t really any good answers, were there?

JK: Nobody stuck to it. Nobody stuck to their guns. I’ve been through some tough times. I’m a tough cookie. You can’t really break me. I’ve been poor. I’ve been in the gutter. I’ve been successful. I’ve gone through all of it.

HSG: Well, it took the Polish people to break Communism in Eastern Europe. Perhaps this war can be won, as well. Is there anything else you would care to say?

JK: [With a genial smile] Thank you for dropping by and having a tea with me.

HSG: It was my pleasure. Good luck with Beautiful.



Beautiful: The Interview, Part I

The Judgment of Paris Survey

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COUNTER SET 2005.05.15