When a 21-year-old Cindi Leive arrived on the scene at Glamour magazine in 1988, she'd just wrapped up an internship at the legendary literary journal, The Paris Review, a publication robust with cultural vitality and consequence. At the time, the newly minted Swarthmore grad was sure that her editorial gig at the woman's glossy would be a short stop on her way to greater heights. "I admit," she said at Swarthmore's annual McCabe Lecture last year, "that I joined women's magazines with some of the prejudice that one might expect from a graduate fresh out of seminars like Feminist Interpretation of Scripture. I thought the job would be fun and fluffy, and an easy thing to do before I went on to the truly important work of my life."
Instead, the Condé Nast powerhouse and its rich milieu of brainy editors made a quick convert of Leive. Twenty-four years later, with a brief but influential interlude as editor-in-chief of Self, where Leive increased circulation by 11 percent in just two years, Glamour has become her magnum opus. At 34, she became the iconic magazine's editor-in-chief, a post she's prosperously held for the past 11 years (and counting.) Under her editorship, Glamour's circulation has risen to an historical peak at 2.25 million and reaches a staggering 17 million readers each month. During her tenure, the magazine has garnered nine National Magazine Award nominations and won four, including the top honor, Magazine of the Year in 2010.
But like other publications, Glamour has taken some hits from a slow-to-recover economy, and according to the New York Times, newsstand sales sank 17 percent through June of 2011 and 9.9 percent during the second half of that year, compelling Leive, a former president of ASME, to shake things up.
In March, she revamped the 73-year-old monthly, souping it up with advertiser-loving beauty and fashion pages. And in an effort to attract a younger demographic, the sought-after "Millennials," Leive amplified visuals and first person narratives. Glamour's inaugural self-expression issue --the January issue -- is decidedly edgier with personal essays by media mavericks like Jane Pratt of xoJane.com (founder of the exquisite Sassy!), the creator and writer of MTV's Awkward, Lauren Iungerich and the daring Jennifer Livingston, a Wisconsin TV anchor, who used airtime to address and challenge an email hater who knocked her for her weight.
This week, The Slant nabbed a Q&A with Leive to discuss the machinations behind retooling her well-established brand, the me-me-me centricity of social media (Is it a cultural phase or has our society fundamentally changed?) and the fate of the written word in our visually-obsessed culture.
Read the Q&A at The Slant: There's Always More to the Story