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Ethnic Magazine Editors Discuss Health, Hollywood Buzz


I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Just ahead: She designed for the Rockefellers and the Kennedys. So why do so few people know her name? We tell her story in our Wisdom Watch conversation. That's next.

But first, it's time for our monthly visit with the Magazine Mavens, editors of some of the country's top magazines.

Today, we highlight the month of October and take a look at women who inspire breast cancer awareness, and - I'm sorry, we can't help it - we're going to give the 411 on the high profile breakup of music mogul Sean Diddy Combs and longtime girlfriend Kim Porter.

Joining us to talk about all this are Anita Malik, the editor-in-chief of East-West magazine, Cathy Areu, editor-in-chief of Catalina magazine, and Angela Burt-Murray, editor-in-chief of Essence magazine. Ladies, mavens, welcome.

Ms. ANITA MALIK (Editor-in-Chief, East-West magazine): Hello.

Ms. CATHY AREU (Editor-in-Chief, Catalina magazine): Thank you.

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

MARTIN: Let's start with the power players. And I'm fascinated with this, because Forbes magazine last month did its survey of the world's most powerful 100 women. And I notice that the two of you have also done features this month on women of influence.

So, Angela, let's start with you. Essence features 11 women you consider influential. You've got C. Vivian Stringer, the coach of the women's basketball team at Rutgers, Ursula Burns, president of Xerox, a Fortune 500 company. She's in line to become perhaps the first African-American female CEO of a Fortune 500 company…

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Yes. Very exciting.

MARTIN: It's a diverse group. So tell me why all these particular women were picked. What do they have in common?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Oh, what we wanted to do this month in Essence is look at different forms of power, getting away from the traditional sense of somebody who's driving a significant business, but also looking at people who have the ability to impact change.

So, specifically, when you look at somebody like a C. Vivian Stringer, the Rutgers basketball coach, she was thrust into the spotlight this year with the remarks made by Don Imus. And she was able - through her graceful presence and the words that she spoke - she was able to spark incredible change, and she galvanized the country around a very important issue. So that is certainly as powerful as what Ursula Burns is doing as the president of Xerox and being in line to lead that company.

MARTIN: Are you trying to spotlight people who you think should have gotten more attention than they have, or are you trying to showcase folks to the readership who they may not be familiar with? Because, certainly, if you were in the business world, you know Ursula Burns. If you're in a sports, particularly women's sports, you know Vivian Stringer.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Absolutely. I think it's two-fold. For 37 years, Essence has been around to celebrate, inspire and empower African-American women, so we take it as part of our mission to make sure that we're highlighting black women who are doing things that we know our readers not only want to learn about, but also get inspired by their stories.

MARTIN: And speaking of inspiring women, Cathy, your magazine offers a feature on inspiring women. Your selections were reader-generated, as part of Hispanic heritage month - interesting. Tell us why did you turn it over the readers instead of doing it yourself?

Ms. AREU: Taking the power.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. AREU: We've actually always turned it over to the readers. This is our sixth annual groundbreaking Latinas list, and we asked our readers yearlong to submit nominations for Latinas who are groundbreakers. And our readers submit their nominations from around the country, and we have supplied a list here of 20 groundbreaking Latinas, and it goes all the way from Latinas entrepreneurs to actresses to journalists. So we think our readers have their fingers on the pulse of what's going on out there.

MARTIN: I want to move on and talk a little bit about health issues. Anita, you are planning a breast cancer feature. Can you tell us a little bit about that? And I - also, Cathy and Angela also have breast cancer features in their magazines this month. So clearly, this is an important topic to all of you. So Anita, why don't you start and tell me about what you're planning?

Ms. MALIK: Traditionally with Asian-American community, it's definitely a very sensitive subject. Culturally, women aren't encouraged, and it's not really discussed in the older generations that, you know, you need to go and be screened. So year after year, we've really covered that - the basics about breast cancer. But what we're doing this year is taking it a step further and looking at breast reconstructive surgery.

So for women that have gone through this and have had to have mastectomies - a greater portion of Asian-American women are not opting for reconstructive surgery. And what we found out is that it's partly because the surgeons aren't really suggesting it. And so, Asian-American women themselves aren't asking the question, whereas more Caucasian women will ask, say, you know, I would like to have this procedure. Let's get into it. Well, how do you do this?

And then we think it's basically, there's no hard facts on this. But, basically, because of the cultural norm that, you know, this is something that's vain. This is something that's slightly still taboo to the culture. So we're trying to really encourage women that, you know, this is for your own self, and put it out there in a very non-threatening way.

MARTIN: And, Angela, you also have a big push on breast cancer awareness this month. Why is that important?

Ms. AREU: Yes. In raising awareness for breast cancer month, what we wanted to do is to let the African-American community know that breast cancer is not a death sentence. But unfortunately, when you look at African-American women, we have the same incidence rate as women in the general population and other groups, but we're more likely to die because we're less likely to be screened and to have the treatment that's necessary to survive. So what we wanted to do was highlight four extraordinary survivors who were impacted by breast cancers at different stages of their lives and went on to beat it. You can get help. You must get screened, and you must seek treatment that you can go on to live, you know, a full and wonderful life.

MARTIN: Cathy, I want to talk about an issue - feature your magazine. It does pertain to the issue of women's health, but it's about violence against women in Mexico. And you've got a feature story about the - a campaign to toughen the laws in Mexico to protect women against violence and abuse.

A federal prosecutor is quoted in the piece as saying 75 percent of women murdered in Mexico die at the hands of their husbands. And you also talk about the ongoing problem of the murders in and Ciudad Juarez. Your magazine is aimed at American women or Latino women or women of Hispanic heritage in the United States, so why do you feel that it's important to cover this issue south of the border?

Ms. AREU: We always try to focus on issues affecting Latinas south of the border, the different - the Caribbean, just everywhere. I think it's so important in women's issues in general, even women in Europe, all over the world, we need to know what's going on. We need to help. We need to be aware that there's a global fund for women. Things that happen south of the border, things that happen far away do affect us here, and we need to know what's happening in Juarez.

And it's - rumor has it that JLO is reuniting with her "Selena" director Gregory Nava to bring the Juarez story to the big screen. So soon, a lot more people will know about what's going on in Juarez.

MARTIN: Would you please - for people who are not aware, if you could just briefly encapsulate the story.

Ms. AREU: Well, finally, they passed a law, an anti-violence for women in Juarez. So many women are getting hurt, raped, murdered in Juarez, and a lot of them are walking to work and getting hurt. So they need tougher laws to protect these women. They're providing for their families. They're workers in their society. They're not just objects. These are citizens, and they need to be protected. And they just have been ignored for years. And finally, there's so many books being written about it and articles…

MARTIN: If I could just clarify for folks that it's hundreds of women, are believed…

Ms. AREU: Yes.

MARTIN: …to have been murdered in and around the city of Juarez since 1993. Most of these are unsolved. Many of these women were murdered in a horrible, grizzly fashion. You know, we've covered this story several times on this program. In fact, as you mentioned that Theresa Rodriguez wrote a book called "The Daughters of Juarez," who's a, of course, is a prominent anchor in, I think at Univision…

Ms. AREU: Yes.

MARTIN: …right, and who has been covering this story for 10 years, and we've had her on the program several times to talk about this. So it's a very important story. It's the kind of story that's kind of hiding in plain sight, I think, for many Americans.

If you're just joining us, I'm speaking with Anita Malik, editor-in-chief of East-West magazine, Cathy Areu, editor-in-chief of Catalina magazine, and Angela Burt-Murray, editor-in-chief of Essence magazine. They're our magazine mavens.

Got to switch gears - have to talk about the celebrities.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: We have to.

Ms. AREU: You can't get away from it.

MARTIN: We can, but…

Ms. MALIK: They're everywhere.

MARTIN: …it's like M&M's at Halloween, you just have to have them whether you want it or not…

Ms. AREU: Exactly.


Ms. AREU: You want to know.

MARTIN: So, Anita, I'm going to just start with you. And you have, on the cover of the August/September issue, Riyo Mori, Miss Universe, on the cover. Why did you choose her for the cover?

Ms. MALIK: You know, for us, it's kind of going back to what you're talking about - influential women. And when the Asian-Americans are still not mainstream and until that happens, I think that anytime someone achieves something like this - and especially in the beauty realm to say that Riyo Mori, as a Japanese woman, is the image of beauty and that she is Miss Universe. So that was something that we wanted to applaud.

MARTIN: But I have to push back on this whole pageant thing, because I think a lot of people are very ambivalent about that, the whole idea that you are somehow powerful because you're beautiful is something that I think a lot of women are struggling with. And I think a lot of people think pageants are played out, frankly.

Ms. MALIK: That was definitely a concern for us, but it's an interesting phenomenon in the Asian-American community. Locally, in cities across America, pageantry has become a very big thing for the community. There's Asian-American pageants everywhere you turn. And I think it's something that is, for that community in general who are just starting to kind of explore, that we are beautiful women. We're not just the stereotypes that are out there, that, you know, you're a math genius or you're a science genius. So it's a little bit of a different thing compared to what I would say mainstream America looks at pageants.

MARTIN: Do the other ladies buy that? Come on, ladies.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Oh, nobody…

Ms. MALIK: I mean, although that feeling is out there…

MARTIN: Nobody thinks Asian women are beautiful.

Ms. MALIK: No. No.

MARTIN: Come on.

Ms. MALIK: And it's not that. But I think Asian women, as themselves, for their own self-identity, we are just still exploring that part of it. It's never been, you know, go back in history, and that's not what people looked at for Asian-Americans in general.

MARTIN: Madame Butterfly?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: I think it's an interesting idea, though.

MARTIN: Go ahead.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: When you…

MARTIN: Go ahead. Who is that?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: It's Angela.

MARTIN: Angela.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: When you think about women of color, winning something that is designed to speak to what is the ideal beauty, it makes more of a political statement, I think, than a fluff statement. So this woman winning the title is, you know, just as significant as when Vanessa Williams won the title of Ms. America for the first time and what that meant to African-Americans. And what it meant to little black girls to see that this woman is beautiful, that this woman kind of personifies the ideal - the idea of beauty. And, of course, there's the talent component and, you know, these are not just…

MARTIN: Right.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: …you know, women who are, you know, just very pretty. It's not like she won, you know, the Ms. Coppertone, like, you know, these are, you know, these are women who are very, very accomplished. So, and I must say that in Catalina, we did brag because we had the first Latina "America's Next Top Model" winner, Jaslene Gonzalez.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Here we go.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: And she did get two pages, and we just bragged about it.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MALIK: Michel is not convinced.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Michel is not convinced.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: All I'm just saying is I don't think there's anything wrong with being a math nerd. When, you know, put a math nerd…

Ms. MALIK: Oh, there's nothing wrong with that.

MARTIN: Put a fabulous math nerd on your cover…

Ms. MALIK: We do that. Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: …some fabulous boots and then, you know…

Ms. MALIK: I will do it. I'm going to that.

MARTIN: …we can talk. It wouldn't be me, by the way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I could cover the boots part, but the math nerd, no. Angela, okay.


MARTIN: We've waited long enough. We have to go there. We have to go there.


MARTIN: Essence profiled Kim Porter and her beau, her beau of many years…


MARTIN: …Sean Diddy Combs, in December…


MARTIN: They were very much in love.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Yes, they were very much in love. They're expecting twins.

MARTIN: That's what they tell us. Expecting twins. And now it appears that all was not well, all was not well. And there's another piece in this issue where it describes the fact that he was unfaithful to her while she was pregnant.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: So I guess the question arises is do you think that he - they used the magazine for image-making that wasn't quite accurate?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: I think that at the time we did the first story in Essence in December, that Kim and Sean Diddy Combs were very genuine in their feelings for one another. I do not believe that Kim was aware at the time that we sat down to speak with her and photograph them.

You know, this is a story about a woman who is trying to find herself. And after being in a high-profile relationship for 10 years, she's finally come to a point where she feels like, you know what? I need to step out on my own and, you know, find out what makes Kim happy and move beyond the relationship.

And it's also a universal story that for, unfortunately, the African-American community has, you know, some significance. There's, you know, a large percentage of our community that's certainly struggling with similar issues. So I think that, you know, putting this story in the magazine is something that strikes a chord with our readership and hopefully allows people to take a lot at their own relationships and figure out how they want to deal with them going forward.

MARTIN: Now somebody gasped when we broke the news of the big breakup. Who was that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. AREU: That was me. Cathy.

MARTIN: You were shocked right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. AREU: I was shocked. I didn't know.

MARTIN: You were so disappointed? Right?

Ms. AREU: I didn't know.

MARTIN: She's right, that wedding bells were in the offing.

But, Angela, I - the first piece that you did on the Kim and Sean relationship - pretty controversial, actually. You got some…


MARTIN: …negative reactions from some folks. Some people appreciated it. Some people said, you know…

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Others did not.

MARTIN: …I don't like what you're - they feel that you're either validating…


MARTIN: …or glorifying…


MARTIN: …relationships with children being - had out of wedlock, these longstanding relationships with persons in an unmarried state…


MARTIN: …where infidelity has clearly and very publicly been part of it. How do you respond to that?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: I think that, again, going back to when you look at the African-American community, this is something that we're certainly grappling with on a day-to-day basis. You know, the readers is certainly familiar. But I completely understand the idea that, you know, to have someone on the Essence cover, you want that person to kind of demonstrate the best of who we are. And we did receive a tremendous amount of feedback on it, which let me know that people were talking about it, people were engaged. And it was something that we needed to really explore.

MARTIN: Interesting, sure. I wanted to ask the other ladies before we go, the other mavens, before we go, if you've ever struggled with this issue of personalities within the community who may be popular, may be a kind of iconographic, but whose personal behavior in one way is not exemplary in a way that, you know, perhaps, might cause some ambivalence about how you showcase that person. Is that ever a struggle for either of you, Cathy or Anita?

Ms. AREU: Well, we definitely try to focus on the positive. As a magazine for Latinas and about Latinas, it's definitely - it's not our place to put down a fellow Latinas.

MARTIN: How about Latinos? How about fellow Latinos?

Ms. AREU: Those Latinos…

MARTIN: How about their husbands who were causing all this…

Ms. AREU: Those…

MARTIN: I'm not saying - I'm not trying to be mean. I'm really not trying to be mean to the men.

Ms. AREU: We just profile these guys…

MARTIN: Oh, okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. AREU: We really - we just…

MARTIN: Which, I mean, really I do have to say, just in the spirit of fairness, that it's - all domestic drama cannot be laid at the door of the man. But since it is…

Ms. AREU: Sure.

MARTIN: …a woman's magazine, if there is any stones to be thrown…

Ms. AREU: Yeah. We actually show the guys who are actually inspirational in doing the right thing, and I - there was one story of one that I pulled because I didn't feel he was doing the right thing, and a little too much machismo came out, as is known in the Latino community. So, yeah, one story was pulled.


Ms. AREU: No.

MARTIN: Initials?

Ms. AREU: I can't.

MARTIN: Initials?

Ms. AREU: I can't.


Ms. AREU: He's too well known, too well known.

MARTIN: All the more reason.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: We'll get it out of her.

Ms. AREU: Over drinks. We'll discuss it over drinks.

MARTIN: A little mojito later, Cathy. We'll get it out.

Ms. AREU: Most definitely.

MARTIN: Anita, what about you? Final word from you. Is it ever a struggle?

Ms. MALIK: You know, it is. But I think we have a very similar approach to what Cathy is saying, is that it's really just - we focus on the positive. We always try to spotlight the up-and-comers, whether male or female. And the people that are, again, balancing their careers with work - for the Asian-American community, it's exploring new careers. So we try to find the positive. Every once in a while, there will be a controversial issue, but - and we will still cover those, and just like true journalists, just try to get both sides. And we will do that because there's obviously a message in it. So we're trying to stay positive, but every once in a while, you're going to have to bring up some ugly stuff to get an important message out there.

MARTIN: Anita Malik is editor-in-chief of East-West magazine. She joined us from KJZZ in Tempe, Arizona. Cathy Areu is the editor-in-chief of Catalina magazine, and Angela Burt-Murray is editor-in-chief of Essence magazine. And they both joined us from our New York bureau. Ladies, mavens, thank you so much.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Thank you.

Ms. AREU: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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