29 04 2009
The Nov. 1990 issue of SA Cosmopolitan cost just R3.60

The Nov. 1990 issue of SA Cosmopolitan cost just R3.60

My first ever Cosmopolitan was bought when I was 15 years old. No, I’m not talking about the cocktail ala Carrie Bradshaw et al from “Sex and the City”. I’m referring to the magazine. It was November 1990, I was in Standard 9 and had lost my mom earlier in that year. I had never met my father, so this left me technically orphaned.

I needed something to give me hope, courage and inspiration, and oddly enough, I found all this is Cosmopolitan. Why? I’d read the articles, see the fashion spreads, read the editorial and even the advertisements made me want to be the quintessential Cosmopolitan woman. ie. Young, successful, smart, happy, good-looking and grounded. I remember that one of the advertorials to subscribe to the magazine read “This woman has the secret to success” and had a picture of a beautiful woman with an equally good-looking man hanging on her shoulders.
This implied that because she read Cosmo, she is successful. In my 15 year old mind, I honestly believed that. I could be whoever I wanted to be, despite coming from an impoverished background on the Cape Flats. (more about this in a future blog).

With my mother’s death, things looked dire and my future uncertain. I had two choices – either surround myself with self-pity and sadness or milk my orphaned status for all that it was worth. I chose the latter, which resulted in me obtaining a bursary to study at UCT.

I still have that advertorial in one of my many adolescent journals. In fact, I still have that November 1990 copy of Cosmo (see picture) with Christina Estrada as the cover girl (Sol Kerzner’s one-time girlfriend) and the free Diamonds supplement. Both are still in pristine condition and have no dog ears! Can you believe that a quality magazine cost just R3.60 in 1990?

My stash of magazines (around 200 or so) have moved with me from place to place, from Cape Town to Johannesburg, and from one flat to the next. Only the very special ones are kept for posterity.

I also have a copy of the banned December 1992 copy of Cosmopolitan. It was deemed too risqué by the Publications Board, as it contained semi nude pictures of Madonna and friends from her book “SEX.”

This was the Dec. 1992 Cosmo cover (SA edition)

This was the Dec. 1992 Cosmo cover (SA edition)

I was able to get a copy just before it was pulled from the shelves. I bought mine from the then Paperbacks store in Mowbray. I asked for it by name and the surly woman behind the counter yelled back at me “It’s banned!” in a tone of absolute disgust, that I (now an 18 year Coloured old girl) could be asking for such tasteless reading matter. Since it was right behind her and technically still for sale, she had no choice but to sell it to me. I felt satisfied and excited at my “dirty” little purchase.

My point is that Cosmopolitan (and many other glossies that have sprung up in the last 20 odd years) has acted as some sort of guiding light and mentor, if you like, on my path to adulthood and becoming the woman I am today. I’d like to believe that I am all that I hoped I’d be, looking over the pages of my journals, and Cosmo, from 20 years ago.




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