Bonnie, We Hardly Knew Ye
Not even the Us Weekly staff saw it coming. All Thursday morning, editor Bonnie Fuller had been working the magic that had turned the magazine around in 16 months (with help from Ben, J. Lo, Ashton and Demi). Then she disappeared to meet with Jann Wenner, head of the company that co-owns Us--and never came back.
Where'd she go? To Hawaii on vacation. After that, to run the editorial side of American Media, owner of such supermarket tabloids as The National Enquirer and The Star. What about that three-year contract Wenner gave her just this spring? She says she never signed it. American Media will give her an equity stake in the company that distributes more than a third of all magazines sold in the United States--as well as the chance to earn considerably more than the million bucks a year she was reportedly earning at Us.
Wenner officially took the defection in stride; he told Us's staff he'll name a new editor soon. But like whom? Janice Min, Us's No. 2, doesn't have the cachet Wenner craves. Tina Brown's got the boldface name, but Us would be a giant step down from The New Yorker--even by way of Talk.
American Media hopes Fuller will generate the roaring buzz and soaring sales that made her Ad Age's 2002 editor of the year. And she might if it can keep her. But so far, she's only edited Us, Cosmo, Glamour, Marie Claire and YM. That leaves lots of magazines, including... Don't even think it.
She's strutted the runways in Milan and Paris, faced cameras in Hollywood and graced the arm of NBA all-star Chris Webber. Now Tyra Banks is the creator-producer of "America's Next Top Model," the reality show in which 12 hopefuls compete for a modeling-agency contract. Having walked the walk, Banks talked the talk with NEWSWEEK's Allison Samuels.
"America's Top Model" is about women who aren't trying to win a man.
Right. My inspiration was "American Idol," because the participants were reaching for something. There are many other things in life to want besides a man.
But the show also exposes some ugly truths about the modeling world. Was that your goal?
Exactly. I wanted the world to see that modeling can be a cutthroat business. It's filled with pressure to always look a certain way and be a certain way. Yes, it's a great job, but it has its downsides. I think young girls who want this life deserve to see it from all perspectives so they know what they're getting into.
Did you experience some of these situations yourself? Like the girls not telling each other when photo shoots were to begin?
Yes, that happened to me. I felt the negative attitudes of other models--older models who didn't like me and didn't really want me to succeed. I vowed that I wouldn't do that to another girl.
How does the show get such a variety of looks? It's more diverse than most fashion magazines.
[Laughs] Girl, I was in the Beverly Center [an L.A. mall] stopping any black, Latino and Asian girl, asking them did they model and to come to the auditions. I was that serious.
Do you miss modeling yourself?
Well, I still model for Victoria's Secret, which is cool because they work with my schedule. As far as this gig--I love it. I've never had structure before in my life, somewhere to go every morning. I can't believe what fun I have going to the editing bay and rolling up my sleeves and working nonstop. I definitely could keep doing it--and since UPN picked us up again next season, I guess I will.