Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ode to Sassy


If you went to high school in the late 80's or early 90's (and you're a female) you might be familiar with Sassy magazine. I loved this magazine. And with good reason . . . this was no ordinary teen magazine. Instead of articles about how to be popular, Sassy was writing articles on how to save the earth/start a band/speak your mind. Sassy refused to embrace the musical influences of NKOTB (please don't say I have to write that out for you) but instead worshiped bands like Sonic Youth, R.E.M. and Fugazi. (Too bad I wasn't as eager to explore new music back then because I might have liked a couple of those bands . . . except for R.E. M., everyone liked them). Sassy even openly ripped on their teen magazine competitors YM and Cosmo for speaking down to girls and assuming we were all living a 90210 lifestyle. They were smart, edgy, funny and inspirational. Of course I didn't embrace all the standards Sassy stood for as they were often rebellious and more liberal in nature than my morals, but I believe they encouraged young women to be smart and to make a difference. Don't get me wrong, they still loved pop culture and gave advice about boys, dating and the proper application of lipstick, but it was different. They applauded individuality and encouraged you to be yourself. I remember articles like "The Disappearance of the American Farmer and Why You Should Care." (I probably didn't get the title exactly right). Or there was a section called "Make This" where I remember learning how to make a dress from a pillow case. The writers wrote in first person and over time you felt as though you knew the writers and staff in general. I remember their fashion editor named Andrea was sharing some of her favorite looks and she was photographed wearing a dress over jeans. Back in 1993 that was pretty crazy looking and I didn't know anyone who would have dared do that, yet now everyone does that. I also remember them encouraging me to watch a little TV show that had yet to come out called My So-Called Life. Brilliant. They had a "you are the future and you can change the world" attitude about them. And they put their money where their mouth is. For example, they would have a "reader produced" issue where readers sent in resumes and were "hired" to come to NY and put out one entire issue of Sassy. The readers were the editors, models, make up people, photographers, everything. That was pretty revolutionary, for any magazine let alone a teen magazine. I don't even think I realized what a cult following Sassy had, but I still see issues of Sassy fetching some pretty high prices on ebay. And in 2000 there was even a book published called "How Sassy Changed My Life." I wouldn't say Sassy changed my life, but it was a good magazine and somehow when I was packing up my life and moving to college I knew I couldn't get rid of those back issues. I still have them in storage. To this day I don't think I could ever get rid of them.

8 comments:

  1. Gueck, I completely remember how much you loved Sassy, it was a great mag. I remember an article entitled "Why you don't want to be popular" or something like that. I have some of these issues at my parents' house...maybe I'll try to sell them to you on Ebay.

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  2. Sassy was a great magazine. Speaking of girl power, did you know that the girl who played Winnie Cooper wrote a book for teenage girls on why it's cool to love math? I thought that was kind of awesome.

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  3. NPR did an interview several months ago with the authors of How Sassy Changed My Life on NPR. It was pretty tragic that they went out of print. I just loved their title. And no NKOTB fold out posters found inside. You can give the interview a listen here:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9826498

    If the link doesn't come through, google NPR Sassy.

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  4. I didn't have Sassy. I had a subscription to Seventeen, and I hated it.
    Glad they came out with something better!

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  5. I was going to post the same NPR link as skt!

    I would totally have been a Sassy girl if I would have known about it. I am the oldest of older parents and was therefore the last to know about anything.

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  6. Missa--I knew you'd remember and I would LOVE your old Sassy's . . . except for free. :)

    Andrea--Yes I did know that. . . she's a sassy girl for sure.

    Azucar--I thought FOR SURE you were a Sassy girl. I'm not totally disappointed, but a little.

    Skt--thanks I just listened to that today. . . so interesting. Wish I would have heard that live so I could call in.

    Justrandi--it was a good magazine in many ways, but like most things it was definitely a matter of taking in the good and ignoring the bad.

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  7. Sorry to disappoint you, Miggy, but my parents were too frugal to allow me to subscribe or purchase any magazines ever. I only read National Geographic and Consumer Reports growing up (explains a lot.)

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  8. Admirable what Sassy was doing, unfortunately Sassy sought to be authentic with a format that employs advertisers, so keeping the independence alive was bound to be tough. I think girls need to know what else is out there, appreciated the insightful articles, and what they sought to accomplish. It means a lot to us girls that media doesn't assume all we care about is lip gloss.

    However, I look back at what I wanted from a teen magazine, as a teenager. I wasn't smooth or cool so YM or occasional Seventeen in my junior high years did it for me.

    In my regular life I read books, expressed my ideas, etc., but I looked to magazines to broaden my view. Either for understanding or just leisure, to figure out boys (futile in retrospect), to be mollified by embarassing moments, and to learn of or see things I never saw in my small town.

    Adolescence was already pretty alienating, and from that perspective, I didn't subscribe to Sassy's "novel and different" stance because it came off smug. You're a teen mag, not a zine, be easy.

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