Editor's Letter: Thank You for 15 Wonderful MORE Years

Lesley Jane Seymour on More's 15th anniversary and its past, present and future

by Lesley Jane Seymour
lesley jane seymour and myrna blyth image
Photograph: Ari Michelson

Most of the magazines I previously worked for had been founded decades earlier and had established consistent personalities that occasionally evolved, but always slowly and only when society altered its vision of fashion, beauty or women. More was a whole different experience. Just 10 years old when I arrived in January 2008, it most definitely had a personality—it celebrated all things 40-plus—and the rules were pretty rigid: No woman could be profiled without giving her age; no book could be reviewed, no movie opined upon, unless the writer or lead character was a woman over 40. More took pride in being the rebel on the block; rather than responding when society changed, as many magazines do, it fomented change in a society that had made many older women feel invisible. More’s model contest cheekily disputed the conventional wisdom that a model could kiss her career good-bye once she turned 25. And if anyone wondered whether women over 40 could really run long distances without falling over, the More marathon proved the answer was yes—and they could break running records besides!

Did society change, or did More change society? I don’t know, but after five years as editor, I see a very different landscape for women over 40. Madonna has moved into middle age but still sells out concerts. Julia Roberts continues to snag leading-lady roles in major films. Susan Boyle defied both ageism and lookism when her hauntingly beautiful voice won over even Simon Cowell on Britain’s Got Talent. With brilliance and joie de vivre, women of all ages and colors have smashed through barriers in business (think Marissa Mayer at Yahoo!, Ursula Burns at Xerox, Jill Abramson at the New York Times) and politics (Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin), barriers that had made middle age a dead zone for women. One example that says it all: In 2010 three of the biggest fashion magazines did the unthinkable by featuring over-40 women on the -covers of their September issues—an unparalleled move in the youth-obsessed world of fashion. The fortress had been breached.

So when I began to hear from thirty-something women who were unhappy to be excluded from More’s smart, savvy club, we decided it was time to throw the doors open. This magazine has always fought for the idea that women over 40 are as intelligent, involved and active as younger women; if society was beginning to erase the old dividing line, we thought we should do the same.

I am not claiming that ageism and sexism are dead. They most definitely are not. And More is still in the business of changing that. But to all of you who write and tell us we “get” you, who have either stuck with us from the beginning or just recently discovered us, we editors want to say thanks. There’s no one we’d rather have at our 15th-birthday party.

Our anniversary celebration wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t catch up with the Mother of More, Myrna Blyth, now editorial director of AARP Media.

LJS: What was your original impetus to create More?

MB: I wanted to start More because I thought women had many magazines that related to stages of their lives: They had Seventeen when they were teenagers, Brides when they were planning the Big Day, Parents when they had a child, Better Homes and Gardens when they became homeowners. But there was no magazine that positively reflected women’s lives at 40-plus or, most of all, allowed them to focus on themselves.

LJS: Other magazines for older women—Lear’s, Mirabella—had opened and closed, so what made you think More would survive?

MB: A lot had to do with timing. When More launched in 1998, it was a great time for magazines. Ladies’ Home Journal, which I also edited, was doing well. Plus, a demographer pointed out to me that women had extended their average life span by 25 or 30 years—and the net result, she believed, was that rather than just adding a few decades to their old age, women were becoming healthier, wealthier and more vital in middle age. For the first time, women were being valued—and valuing themselves—not for their innocence, which is what they’d been valued for in past millenniums, but for their experience. More encouraged women to examine, explore, empower and enjoy those years. Women liked the magazine immediately and recognized its uniqueness—as they still do.

LJS: What was the craziest thing that ever happened on a shoot?

MB: For September 2002, we shot Jamie Lee Curtis without makeup and then with makeup, which got a lot of attention. I didn’t think she looked all that different.

LJS: Has America’s attitude toward aging changed at all in the 15 years of More’s life?

MB: When it comes to ageism—frankly, I think advertisers feel it the most. They still are marketing based on a postwar notion that if you get someone young to buy your product, that person will keep buying it for the rest of her life. I used to point out that More’s demographic was the most divorced generation in history, and if women could change their husbands, they could change their products. It’s true, and it gets a laugh—but I am not sure it changes advertisers’ minds.

I am delighted to still be thinking about this demographic [at AARP]. The newest story on earth is the mass of people growing older. It has never happened before and will influence so much of our future.

LJS: Why did you choose More as the title of the magazine?

MB: Finding a name was the biggest problem. Lots of good ones were taken. More [was chosen because it] was the name focus groups disliked the least! Later, when I was interviewed during the launch, I told a reporter that when women got older, they used to expect less, but now they wanted more. The reporter said, “So that’s why you named it More.” I said, “Of course!”

Next: Editor's Letter: The Joy of Getting Involved
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First Published Tue, 2013-08-06 11:15

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