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'Magazine Mavens' Discuss Health, Juanita Bynum and Beauty

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

And now it's time for our regular visit with the Magazine Mavens - our ladies in charge who tells us what's hot, what's not, and the latest news on how we can all live a little better. This month, we discuss some health news, some entertainment news, and what some of the big names are up to.

We're delighted to have back with us Angela Burt-Murray. She's editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, along with Anita Malik. She's publisher and editor-in-chief of EastWest magazine. We've also got a new Maven joining the club, Cynthia Good, founding editor of Pink. Mavens, thanks for coming.

Ms. CYNTHIA GOOD (Founding Editor, Pink): Thanks so much, Michel, for having us.

Ms. ANITA MALIK (Publisher; Editor-in-Chief, EastWest Magazine): Thank you.

Ms. ANGELA BURT-MURRAY (Editor-in-Chief, Essence Magazine): Thank you.

MARTIN: Cynthia, since this is your first time, will you tell us about Pink? What's Pink's philosophy, and who's your audience?

Ms. GOOD: Well, Pink is the national magazine for women who are ambitious, women who are focused on their careers and really passionate about what they do. And our whole philosophy is a chance to help women have work that they really, really love, and to have a beautiful career, as we say, as well as a beautiful life.

MARTIN: Okay. Well, I think our other Mavens would think that their readers are also pretty ambitious. Wouldn't you say, Mavens?

Ms. MALIK: Absolutely.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Definitely.

MARTIN: We don't want to start anything. We just want to make it clear.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But Cynthia, you've got a lot of provocative pieces in the magazine this month, but I want to zero in on a piece you have on heart disease. You point out that heart disease kills more women than men each year, and that having a high-powered job almost triples a woman's risk of developing heart disease. And I have to tell you, I thought that was a myth. How did you guys get on to this?

Ms. GOOD: I mean, this is really pretty amazing, and this does speak to the core of our demographic, which is women who are hitting it really hard because they're really trying to get ahead in their work. And specifically, the women who are really under a great deal of pressure and a great deal of stress or impacted by deadlines, these are the women who are most likely to be the target of heart disease. In fact, your threat of dying of a heart attack is tripled if you have a high-pressure job, the research shows.

MARTIN: Why would it kill more women than men?

Ms. GOOD: The prototype of the person with a heart attack is the type A executive who walks into the office Monday morning and drops dead of a heart attack. But today, with more women in the workplace, more women rising up through the ranks within corporations and starting their own companies, we're finding that women are under more pressure and stress than ever before, and that's translating to this problem.

MARTIN: Well, interesting.

Anita, you've got a story about fibromyalgia. Am I pronouncing it properly?

Ms. MALIK: Yes, yes.

MARTIN: What exactly is fibromyalgia, and why is this particularly important to your audience?

Ms. MALIK: Well, it's a chronic condition associated with widespread pain -excuse me - and fatigue, but what we really looked at was chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia. We've all heard of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, they're all very related. And what we wanted to look at was, culturally, is there a connection? And it's obviously something that hasn't been researched. We can't say for sure. What we were trying to look at was does the Asian culture and the stress and the obligations, does that make it even worse?

MARTIN: What did you come up with? What conclusions did you come to? Or did your writers come to?

Ms. MALIK: It's really hard within the Asian community to even do that research, because we're really a culture of silences, in many ways, regarding health issues. And so getting people to actually seek treatment to find out what their diagnosis is is the hardest step to get to that point. But, you know, what we like to do is really focus on health issues that the mainstream isn't focusing on in the sense of different disparities amongst ethnic groups. There's a lot of different research that needs to be done for Asian-Americans versus African-Americans versus Latinos. That needs to happen.

We're not trying to say that Asian-Americans are more predisposed to chronic illnesses, because the culture makes us that way. I mean, we - you know, we love our culture. But what we were trying to say is maybe there is certain things that we're not talking about. We're not letting out. We're taking that stress and absorbing it, and we need to start talking about what we can do within the culture to help people.

MARTIN: Talking about the things that aren't necessarily being talked about, other people don't want to talk about - Angela. Now, I have to say, Essence gave us the whole package this month. You know, you talked about maintenance tips for women at every stage of life, but I have got to ask you about your cover. It is indeed a health issue - the issue of domestic violence. You've got the second of two parts on Prophetess Juanita Bynum, the evangelist who was allegedly attacked and beaten by her husband Bishop Thomas Weeks in a hotel parking lot on August - major scoop, I have to tell you. She's had very little - has spoken very little to the media, so this is a very big scoop. I wanted to ask you first, why this story merited two parts. Why the cover?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Well, we actually felt like when we sat down to talk to Dr. Bynum, that not only were we interested in telling her story, which is obviously specific to her experience, but also uncovering the silence that surrounds domestic violence in the African-American community.

So it was very important for us to give the story the real estate that it needed so that we could talk about both of those things very clearly. And because Dr. Bynum is such a central figure in the black church, that added an additional layer of challenge to the piece, because it's a topic that the church has been reluctant to really take a strong position on.

MARTIN: For those who don't know, could you just describe a little bit about why Prophetess Bynum is such a major figure?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Well, Juanita Bynum has built up a very strong following with her evangelistic career. She's an author. She's a world renowned speaker. She draws tens of thousands of women to her ministry. And she really took the national stage when T.D. Jakes first brought her to one of his conferences, and she spoke to single women about what she felt was the need for them to stop engaging in premarital sex in order to find the partner that they truly deserved.

MARTIN: It was fairly chilling to read in this report that when news of this -and I have to say alleged, because the case is now before the criminal justice system, and Bishop Weeks has denied that he attacked Prophetess Bynum - that some - that the blogs have gone crazy on this story, and some people are saying that, you know, she deserved it.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Right. It's very unfortunate, and I think this just speaks to the idea that within the African-American community, there seems to be a reluctance, specifically by African-American women, to stand up and point the finger at black men because historically, there may have been this feeling that, you know, black men are being attacked in so many other areas of the country, you know, the community needs to embrace them and not necessarily jump on the bandwagon. But this is an issue that we cannot afford to be silent on, and regardless of, you know, the race of the person that is, you know, committing domestic violence, that person needs to be dealt with.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE, and I'm joined by our regular group of top magazine editors, the Magazine Mavens. We're talking about what's hot in their magazines this month - Angela Burt-Murray of Essence, Anita Malik of EastWest and Cynthia Good of Pink.

Let's talk about something a little bit more fun: The business of beauty. Cynthia, Pink magazine has Tyra Banks on the cover. And your writer got to spend some quality time with Tyra. You pointed out that Tyra's show has a grip on that coveted 18 to 49-year-old age group among women. Why is that? Why does Tyra - why does she resonate with these women, and how can we get some of that?

Ms. GOOD: You know, she really is resonating, just as you said. I mean, she is connecting with this prize demographic, the 18 to 49-year-olds that, you know, a demographic that Oprah even would love to secure that demographic. And I mean, this is a woman who you remember as one of the most famous models on earth. She was the first black model to make the covers of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, also GQ.

But, you know, today, she's really repositioned herself to almost like you think of her as your girlfriend. But what excited Pink magazine so much about Tyra Banks is that she is a businesswoman. I mean, she is bringing in an income - annual income of an estimated $18 million a year. She has a 25 percent stake in the "Top Model" program series that she helped create. So she's really done a lot of savvy things to put her on top in that business perspective, which is why we were so interested to see what makes her tick. How does she think?

MARTIN: It really blows up the stereotype of the airhead model, just, you know, just to tell me where to stand and I'll stand there.

Ms. GOOD: Absolutely. And you know, Michel, she even told us at Pink, she said, people treat her a lot differently now that she's the boss, and she really likes that.

MARTIN: Well, she must have it in her all along.

Ms. GOOD: You know, I think she did. She talks about being inspired by her mom, and she talks about when her - when she was studying in Paris and the other girlfriends of hers, you know, were 17 years old, too, and they were going out on a town at night. But she was at home and she was crunching numbers, and she said she is so methodical that she even writes down her menstrual cycles. I mean, this is a woman who was very, very organized and very, very driven in the business sense.

MARTIN: And very open with her personal business.

Ms. GOOD: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Good to know. Anita, you have a lovely cover model this month, "Dancing With Stars" judge Carrie Ann Inaba. But here's - this is the kind of nugget that you get from EastWest that you don't get in other places, that you got an article in there about the Archie Comics…

Ms. MALIK: Yes.

MARTIN: …that now features an Indian teenager named Raj.

Ms. MALIK: Named Raj Patel. We wanted to look at how these comic books, and they're not the only ones, but Archie Comics traditionally have been very popular in India and throughout South Asia, so it was just a matter of time.

They finally decided they're going to add this character, and we wanted to look behind the scenes - how do you add an ethnic character? What is the process they go through? How do you pick the name? I mean, Raj Patel, in the Indian community, is a very generic name. This is the equivalent of John Smith. So what was the reasoning behind that? Was it so, you know, ease of recognition?

And it was really interesting. We looked at what readers have thought of the first few issues of the Archie Comics with the new character. You know, there are some, obviously, that will say, oh, is he just going to be the token South Asian? Which, we'll have to wait and see, to be quite honest. There are others who are wondering why he has an enormously large bushy eyebrows…

MARTIN: Yeah. Look at that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MALIK: …you know, South Asians are a little bit, you know…

MARTIN: Thank you for saying that, because I was kind of wondering myself.

Ms. MALIK: There are some of South Asian men with such eyebrows, not everybody - you know, it's a stereotype. So, it was very interesting to see. I think readers are a little bit mixed at this point, and they are waiting to see, quite honestly, how the character develops.

I think they're making a great effort to make him a little bit more interesting and not just a stereotypical - he's not a math and science geek. He's into video games, and, you know, they're really trying to step out of that stereotype. But I think it's going to be interesting to see how well they do it.

MARTIN: Why are you readers interested in that?

Ms. MALIK: You know, comics, anime, that kind of thing, is very popular with our demographic, and I think the other piece of it outside of just being a comic book is that it's always interesting to see how popular culture is absorbing Asian-Americans and South Asian-American traits, ideals, individuals, how we're moving up. And in a way, having Raj Patel appear in Archie Comics shows that we are kind of - we're moving up. So we're being a little bit - it's accepted that, you know, we're here. We're doing great things. We need to have Raj Patel.

MARTIN: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Okay. Interesting, isn't it? That caught my attention. That's just fascinating, man. I got to be honest. Angela, I hate to sound - I hate to end on a sort of a sad note, but it's another scoop in your magazine.

You've got a piece by Robin Stone, who I think has been an editor of a magazine, writing a very personal account of the final days of her husband, journalist Gerald Boyd. He was the first African-American managing editor of The New York Times, was ousted in that, you know, that whole terrible scandal around Jayson Blair, a reporter who had proven to have fabricated some stories. The whole thing is really painful, but I don't really know what to ask you, just that it's a very powerful piece. I just wanted to ask, you know, how it came about.

Ms. MALIK: Well, as you mentioned, Robin has been an editor with the magazine for a number of years, and we were just so grateful that she chose Essence to, you know, share this, you know, painful chapter in her life, but in this, you know, beautifully haunting way that she kind of reflects on the last days when she and her son, Zachary, dealing with her husband passing away. And it's just, you know, at times, you feel like you shouldn't be reading it because it's so intensely personal and private. But you can't really look away because the words are so beautiful and the reflections on not only a marriage, but also a family life that, you know, really takes you behind the scenes of the Jayson Blair scandal. It's just something that's not to be missed.

MARTIN: This piece, I think, on a number of levels - it's fascinating me, probably because we don't talk about death a lot, I think, in the African-American community, and what it is like to die - I mean, the good death and that kind of thing, the pain of it. And the stoicism is the something that Gerald Boyd was known for. You associate it with kind of his generation of pioneers, of folks who didn't tell their pain.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Right. And he was, you know, very quiet about his illness. He didn't want people to pity him. So for a lot of people, it was a surprise when he passed away, but, you know, that was the way that he and Robin chose to deal with the situation. So, again, it's just an honor to have this opportunity to present her final tribute to him.

MARTIN: But it's also about his final days at The New York Times, and just how that story played up privately with very different from the way I think a lot of people read it publicly. So just putting it all together, Angela, how - what would you like people to draw from Robin Stone's story? What did you take from it?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: I just took from it that, obviously, this was, you know, a man and a woman that loved each other very deeply, and that despite having a very public career, there were things that they were dealing with at home that ordinary people could certainly relate to.

MARTIN: Well, ladies, I want to ask you a mean question, because each of your magazines is sort of stuffed with interesting things this month. So I want to ask each of you, what's your favorite piece in your magazine this month? Angela?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: I think my favorite piece is an annual feature we do called the ASO's Beauties, and it's our 16th annual salute to women who are in their 50s, 60s, 70s and above who look amazing. I mean, these women make me feel like such a slacker because their bodies are rock hard, they've got great attitudes, tons of energy and just are so excited about life even, you know, after 50.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Okay. They do give you some inspiration.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: They do.

MARTIN: They really do.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Very exciting.

MARTIN: Anita, what's your favorite piece in your magazine this month?

Ms. MALIK: Oh, let's see. That is so hard for me. But if I have to pick, I actually think, for me, it was we got to interview Amy Tan and just catching up with her and really finding out what's going on with her. She's doing some really interesting stuff and creating an opera now based on one of her books. So it was a real honor just to talk with her.

MARTIN: She is something. Cynthia, what's your favorite piece in your magazine this month?

Ms. GOOD: I think one of the things that I'm most excited about in our January issue is we're doing a big piece on women and investing, and this traditionally has been something that a lot of women are uncomfortable with, a little bit intimidated by the stock market. And so what we're doing, which is so fun, is we are doing a stock market challenge. And actually, tomorrow on December 20th, the registration begins. It's Pinkstockchallenge.com, and everybody gets a million dollars in - okay, it's not real, but it's a million dollars you have to invest. It's open to about a thousand people, and for those who bring in the biggest dollars from their stock choices, we have some very cool prizes -thousands of dollars in prizes.

And the whole thing is just to have fun with the stock market, encourage women to try to invest and think about it and to be less intimidated by it, because it's a great way to become more financially independent.

MARTIN: But I got to tell you, I think one of the reasons women hesitate is that they don't want to be made to feel stupid.

Ms. GOOD: I agree. I think that's really, really true. And in the story, we interviewed a number of women who felt the same way, and they were dragged into it one way or the other. And they've made a lot of money and they're very savvy and very comfortable with their skill set now, and it's a good thing.

MARTIN: But how is this public contest going to address that problem?

Ms. GOOD: Well, I think just getting women to do it, to take the first step to go ahead and take these dollars. It's not even real. You have the chance to win something fun and to play with it. And then you realize, I think, that it's not as scary as maybe it's built up to be.

MARTIN: Oh, you're right. Playing with other people's money, always fun. That's right, especially fake money. Cynthia Good is founding editor of Pink magazine, Anita Malik is publisher and editor-in-chief of EastWest magazine, and Angela Burt-Murray is editor-in-chief of Essence magazine.

Thanks you so much, ladies, for joining us.

Ms. MALIK: Thank you.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: And that's our program for today.

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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