So I went and bought lots of glossy magazines, and wrote to all of them for advice. I got a letter back from Cosmopolitan, saying I should try the London College of Fashion, as they did a good course in fashion journalism which was quite a good way into the magazine industry. I've always been very grateful to Cosmo for that.
I wasn't particularly interested in fashion; I just went to the LCF for the journalists' course. At the time I didn't think it was very good (though it seems to be more applied now), but it was a way in: it did teach you what the industry was like, and how magazines work.
My main concern when I finished, a year later, was to move to London - I'd been living in Essex - which I did with a close friend of mine, Jenny Tucker. There, the first thing I did was take a job at French Connection, where I worked for six weeks before getting a job in beauty PR. Jenny, meanwhile, managed to get a job as editorial assistant at Just Seventeen magazine, which was just launching. I used to hang around with her, getting to know the people from Just Seventeen, and I used to bombard the editor with pieces - probably all really bad ones, actually. Finally, though, I had a column published, offering advice for young girls on leaving home.
After that, I wrote more and more pieces, and they would ask me to do film reviews and pieces for their Up Front section. Then, because I'd worked in beauty PR and had learnt quite a bit about the beauty industry, I got the job of beauty editor on Just Seventeen - which I did for a few years. But really, I was desperate to work in features, and I got a job as staff writer on More! magazine, for its launch 10 years ago.
That was great fun: I did celebrity interviews, reviews, and went to do a report on a Club 18-30 holiday.
Meanwhile, a man I knew from Just Seventeen, Steve Bush, had gone out to Australia and started a publishing company called Attic Futura. He wanted to launch a title called Girlfriend - a glossy teenage magazine - and, when I'd been at More! for a year, he asked me and Jenny Tucker to go and help him.
It was a real cowboy operation then: when we got there there were no computers, and it was a real mess. But Jenny and I launched Girlfriend, and it became really successful, so I ended up staying in Australia for six years, though I'd only intended to stay for one. Career-wise, I wasn't really going anywhere, but it was a lot of fun - great weather and a great lifestyle.
Because Girlfriend was such a success in Australia, and, because in England there was only really Just Seventeen (which had a comic-type format) at the time in that market, I kept saying to Steve that we should launch Girlfriend in England. Eventually, Attic Futura decided they would, and I came back to England as editor-in-chief to oversee the whole thing - which became Sugar magazine. (We researched the name Girlfriend, and everyone here hated it; all the girls here thought it was a lesbian magazine.)
I was only supposed to stay in England for six months, to set things up, but once I was here I decided I wanted to stay and get into the older market. Every now and again, I'd go out for coffee with Ian Birch, the editor-in-chief at Emap Elan, who would occasionally mention magazines I might be interested in; finally, Marie O'Riordan, who became editor of Elle, asked me to be deputy editor there. And I thought: "Now you're talking."
So I did exactly a year of learning the glossy market at Elle, and I suppose that's why - because I'd done that and had a lot of experience in launches - Emap Elan thought I was the right person to launch their new title, Red. We launched in January, and have just sent the sixth issue to press. It's been fantastic; it's really taken off.
A launch is such a stressful, labour-intensive thing that you really have to believe in the magazine. Although a lot of research went into it, it was based on a very real feeling that there was a gap in the market. Red is aiming mainly at 30-plus women, though we have picked up lots of younger readers; it's more to do with an attitude or life-stage than an age. It's grown-up, but it has a youthful spirit.
Interview by Scott HughesReuse content