But there were all these guys turning up in old brown cords with copies of The Times under their arms, and I wasn't sure I was going to fit in. I was accepted, but after doing work placements on various newspapers I thought I'd go crazy if I had to report, say, court cases every day. So I went to Plan B, which was to get into the London College of Fashion and use that as a platform to get a magazine job.
While I was there I got a work placement at Look Now, which was one of the first young women's magazines. I was supposed to be there for two weeks, but they couldn't get rid of me, and when a job as junior sub came up, they couldn't very well not give it to me after hanging about all that time.
Being a sub was fantastic training, but after a year I went on the sniff for anything that would enable me to write. Then, when the girl who did travel left, the editor said I could have that job, after a lot of to- do. But then I got frustrated that I wasn't being allowed to write big features, and so I decided to go freelance. In retrospect that was pretty brave, because I was very young and had no contacts, but I did subbing shifts on various newspapers to pay the rent and then got out there and pitched ideas.
I amassed a good portfolio, and a year later I was able to take up the position of features editor on The Clothes Show Magazine, when that launched in 1987. But I was only there for three months, before being made assistant editor on More! for its launch. I became deputy editor about six months later, and around this time, I went on a conference and rounded off a talk about myself by saying that I would be an editor by the time I was 25. I couldn't believe I'd said it; I was 23 and a half.
I became 25, and thought that as long as I was still 25 when I got an editor's job, then that would be fine; once I was 26, then it would all be over. But two months before I was 26, the editorship of Looks came up, and though it was never going to rock the world, I was thrilled to get the job.
I stayed there for a year, and it was a great magazine to have as a first editorship: it was all about beauty, fashion and boys, and it was a real hoot. But the novelty of that soon wore off, and I wanted to get into serious magazines. In 1990, the editorship of Company came up, and I wrote a hellishly cheeky letter to the managing director, Terry Mansfield, and told him that I felt I could make it sell 300,000 copies. He had already appointed someone as editor, but I guess he found my sheer gall irresistible and offered me the job instead.
I'd come from nowhere and had no reputation at stake, so we could afford to be incredibly outrageous on Company - though I received a lot of flak for various things that I did. There was one occasion when the magazine was taken off the shelves, because it was deemed to have gone too far. But Company really solidified my career: I won a couple of gongs, and achieved the 300,000 circulation that I promised I would. Then, I felt it was time to move on, and when the editorship of Cosmopolitan came up during 1995, I wanted it; it seemed like a natural move.
There was quite a lot to do when I took over: I felt the magazine's audience had changed a lot over 25 years. I was very keen to address the post-feminist woman who was out there just getting on with her life, and who didn't obsess about the fact that she was female. I did change the tone somewhat to make it more mine, but when you work on a brand like Cosmo there are certain things that remain constant, no matter who the editor is.
The main challenge is to keep smiling: as the editor of Cosmo you're expected to turn up to the opening of an envelope, and to be on show, which I find very tough. I also know that no matter what the magazine does, people will pick holes in it - Cosmo has been a scapegoat forever. But it is the most brilliant magazine to be associated with, and that's what I love about itn
Interview by Scott HughesReuse content