Obituary: Kimberley Leston

The sudden and shocking death of the writer Kimberley Leston at the age of 35 has deeply saddened those of us who knew and loved her, while also depriving many others of her resonant and contemporary voice.

A talented editor before she gave full rein to her innate ability as a writer, Leston found her way into journalism after working for several years as a magazine designer and art director, both in Britain and in New York, on titles as diverse as Men Only and Smash Hits.

Her editorial break came when Nick Logan, founder and then editor of the Face, gave her a key role on his magazine in the mid-Eighties. Like many of us who worked there, Leston was actively encouraged to learn on the job and find her journalistic feet. By the time she left to join the launch of Marie Claire her skill and dedication had been rewarded and she had been promoted to assistant editor.

The transition from the close-knit family environment of the Face to the structure of a big corporate title didn't appeal, however, and she quit within months to concentrate on freelance work. It was a decision she did not regret - she found her niche very fast, exploiting a gift for witty and provocative writing in the pages of numerous publications including Arena, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Options, the Guardian and the Independent.

Kimberley Leston's trademark was a wry and knowing take on sex and gender issues. Her work resonated - and her style was widely imitated - because of her ability to allow her readers to believe she was confessing directly, and intimately, to them alone. She never pretended to the rest of us that the writing process came easily, but the end-result always read that way: enviably deft, clever and fearlessly frank. Writing memorably a typical insight about her time as a designer on porn magazines, she had this to say: "Pornography is as desperate and unchanging as poverty. It sustains itself in its bleak, self-sufficient prison too accustomed to its own limited expectations to adjust to real life outside. I do not believe that soft porn, despite its being a useful prop, incites men to rape who would not have been rapists otherwise. But these words and pictures have a life of their own . . . a life you can imagine but wouldn't want to be around."

After marriage to the writer and musician David Toop, and the birth of her daughter Juliette, Leston devoted more of her time to motherhood while also diversifying her writing. Lately she had studied astrology and within weeks was writing on the subject; she became "Dear Kimberley", agony aunt for the teen magazine Sugar; and occasionally penned erotic fiction for women's titles and regular columns for the broadsheets. Unlike many of her peers, she loathed the idea of being typecast.

Kimberley Leston's qualities as a writer were synonymous with those that made her a wonderful friend. We treasured her vivacity, candour, humour, generosity and optimism. She was someone who gave - and kept on giving - all of herself, both professionally and personally. Her parting leaves a great void in the lives of those she touched.

Kathryn Flett

Kimberley Leston, journalist: born London 19 June 1959; married 1987 David Toop (one daughter); died London 6 February 1995.

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