Anatomy of a Nineties covergirl

No British please, we're sexy. Cosmopolitan's editor has said she won't use UK models on Cosmo covers. Image is all when it comes to selling magazines, says Ruth Picardie

The fashion world is all fluffed up and crossabout Cosmo editor Mandi Norwood, who has ditched British models from her covers because they don't have the right "attitude". "A lot of British girls are just 'plants'," Ms Norwood declared last week. "They do not thrust themselves forward. Sad to say, most of the girls we use are American - they are confident and inspiring."

The modelling sorority is up in cellulite-free arms. "How dare this woman say what is in?" says an outraged booker at Select, who look after the very English, very haughty, very hot Stella Tennant. "She has to appeal to the suburbs." "It's silly," said an official at Models One, home of Yasmin Le Bon. "She is trying to push modelling back into the 1980s - all big hair and bums."

All good publicity for Norwood - her declaration was one of "Nine steps to a 500,000 circulation!", which included, "Are we getting talked about?" Not bad, too, for Stella Tennant and other weirdly in-demand British girls. Sadly for photographers and designers, though, covergirls in the Nineties have got nothing to do with big vs small hair, everything to do with product placement and computer-enhanced teeth. Forget Horst's beautiful work in the Thirties; Vogue's all-white cover in the Sixties; here is the anatomy of the identikit Nineties covergirl.

THE GIRL. Ideally, should be aged 17-22. Former Harper's & Queen editor Willy Landels once said the best covergirl is 16 (better skin) going on 29 (more accessible), like the schoolgirl Ralph Lauren model who caused a micro-scandal a couple of years ago when she kept falling asleep at shoots. The most successful covergirls have their own names: Yasmin (this month's Harper's), Yasmeen (Marie Claire) and Tatjana (Elle) crop up with monotonous regularity. (Shana, Cosmo's "come and get me" American, is not really a name, which is why they have to explain on the cover that she is "So hot! SHANA.") The name covergirls don't look any different from the non-names, but they have celebrity boyfriends and are best friends with the name photographers (Steven Meisel), hairdressers (Sam McKnight), and make-up artists (Mary Greenwell). Celebrities or not, nobody does covers for the money: Vogue's pays pounds 75 a day, the worst rate but the most prestige, which leads to million-dollar ad campaigns. Photographers can clean up on perks, too: on a recent trip to Ireland, American legend Bruce Weber got Vogue to charter a plane for his dogs. "He farts, it costs them pounds 200 in expenses," says a fashion insider. "Then immediately Chanel phone up."

THE FACE: Big, big, big! "It's really basic," says Nicola Jeal, former editor of Elle. "You've got to make contact on the bookstand. Big faces stand out." Marie Claire, Britain's bestselling women's magazine, pioneered the bigger-than-lifesize look. Otherwise, covergirls must be healthy, glossy and, above all, bland. "Regardless of the bruised, smack addict, British council estate fashion stories inside," says Vicki Woods, former editor of Harper's & Queen, "the cover must not be more outre than your own face. You want every dull, Sloaney, slightly overweight, tedious, lower middle-class woman in the world to be able to identify with it." Buying a magazine is like looking in the mirror - hence the glossy paper - at an idealised version of yourself. Thus the much-hailed waif made the covers only a handful of times. Hence, also, a reluctance to use black models: in May, Naomi Campbell was dumped in favour of Niki Taylor for the cover of American Vogue.

SKIN: Covergirls have a permatan and look as if they are made from plastic. Elle suggests that this perfect, line-free look can be achieved if readers "Prime skin with Teint Hydro-Lifting Firming Foundation in Nougat No 9 (pounds 26) ..." etc (products totalling pounds 100.45). In fact, it is achieved by computer "adjustments", which are now taking over from retouch artists. Some photographers do the adjusting in advance: see Andre Rau - popular at Marie Claire - and his spookily unrealistic photos of Fergie in Hello!. Make-up credits are unrelated to actual products used and are all about favours: Elle's cover is by Guerlain, who happen to have an ad on the back cover.

EYES: Contact, contact, contact! The bigger the eyes, the better. The semi-legendary fashion photographer Polly Mellon got covergirls to open their eyes wide by making them say, "Am I worth $3? Yes, I'm worth $3!" and snapping on the "Yes!". Always lots of work for the adjuster, painting on eyelashes and enhancing the colour - Amber Valetta wanders between grey, blue, green and hazel. Plus, of course, making the whites vein-free and Dulux-bright. "Sometimes their eyes are so white," says a fashion insider, "they look like the office junior has had a go with the Tippex."

MOUTH: Open. Forget Freud: open is simply a much more inviting concept than closed. Vicki Woods suggests the right degree of parting can be achieved by shouting "Attack!" and shooting on the "ack!" Teeth, too, must be whiter than white (hence, perhaps, Mandi Norwood's fondness for orthodontically corrected Americans).

HAIR: Alexandra Shulman, editor of Vogue, recently said that blondes sell better than brunettes. Whatever, hair must be off the face and above all away from the eyes. Hairdressers pay back their sponsors (ie, salons and haircare ranges) in the credits.

PERFUME: Yes, it's true. Elle actually has a "scent note" for this month's covergirl: "Un Air de Samsara (pounds 25) with light floral and citrus notes." No, not scratch-and-sniff covers, but product placement for advertisers, who have to pay up to pounds 10,000 a page.

CLOTHES: No room for anything but big heads, I'm afraid. "Clothes don't matter a damn," says Nicola Jeal, despite the pages of fashion inside. Can be computer enhanced: in June Vogue, Naomi Campbell was in the same pose, different bikini, inside and on the cover. "Red lips and red dresses," says fashion photographer Matthew Donaldson, "sell more than blue dresses and brown lips."

COVERLINES: At least as important as the covergirl, according to Vicki Woods. According to Nicola Jeal, sex only works for teenage readers these days. "But numbers are good," she adds, "very grabby from a distance." This month's Marie Claire promises - in huge type - "pounds 50,000 of gifts"; Woman's Journal a mere "pounds 30,000 of beauty giveaways".

GIFTS: Increasingly important. Once upon a time, supplements were a fab extra: now the readers want free gifts. This month's Elle has sold out because of a free bag, which is clever branding, too. Even better are gifts with value, such as Harper's & Queen's summer read, which retails at pounds 5.99.

So there you have it: the Nineties covergirl. Attitude doesn't come into it.


Remove all creases round eyes


Who are we promoting this month?


Ask beauty editor to supply colour


Change to red, please


Must see a flash of teeth


Whiter than white, please


Get rid of wispy bits


Numbers! eg: 50 ways to fabulous sex


See ad on back cover - credit the brand inside

The Ed.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

    Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

    Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

    £30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before