Cosmopolitan (magazine)

Cosmopolitan (magazine)

May 2011 issue.
Editor-in-Chief Kate White
Helen Gurley Brown (International)
Categories Female
Frequency monthly
First issue 1886
Company Hearst Corporation
Country United States
(other countries also available)
Language English
ISSN 0010-9541

Cosmopolitan is an international magazine for women. It was first published in 1886 in the United States as a family magazine, was later transformed into a literary magazine and eventually became a women's magazine in the late 1960s. Also known as Cosmo, its content as of 2011 included articles on relationships and sex, health, careers, self-improvement, celebrities, as well as fashion and beauty.[1] Published by Hearst Magazines, Cosmopolitan has 63 international editions, is printed in 32 languages and is distributed in more than 100 countries.[2]



Cosmopolitan began as a family magazine, launched in 1886 by Schlicht & Field as The Cosmopolitan.[3]

Paul Schlicht told his first-issue readers that his publication was a "first-class family magazine", adding, "There will be a department devoted exclusively to the interests of women, with articles on fashions, on household decoration, on cooking, and the care and management of children, etc., also a department for the younger members of the family."

Cosmopolitan's circulation reached 25,000 that year, but by March 1888, Schlicht & Field were no longer in business. John Brisben Walker acquired the magazine in 1889. That same year, he dispatched Elizabeth Bisland on a race around the world against Nellie Bly to try to draw some attention.[4]

Under John Brisben Walker's ownership, E. D. Walker, formerly with Harper's Monthly, took over as the new editor, introducing color illustrations, serials and book reviews. It became a leading market for fiction, featuring such authors as Annie Besant, Ambrose Bierce, Theodore Dreiser, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Willa Cather, and Edith Wharton. The magazine's circulation climbed to 75,000 by 1892.

In 1897, Cosmopolitan announced plans for a free correspondence school: "No charge of any kind will be made to the student. All expenses for the present will be borne by the Cosmopolitan. No conditions, except a pledge of a given number of hours of study." When 20,000 immediately signed up, Walker could not fund the school and students were then asked to contribute 20 dollars a year. Also in 1897, H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds was serialized, as was his The First Men in the Moon (1900). Olive Schreiner contributed a lengthy article about the Boer War.

In 1905, William Randolph Hearst purchased the magazine for US$400,000 (approximately $11,000,000 in 2007 prices) and brought in journalist Charles Edward Russell, who contributed a series of investigative articles, including "The Growth of Caste in America" (March 1907), "At the Throat of the Republic" (December 1907 - March 1908) and "What Are You Going to Do About It?" (July 1910 - January 1911) and "Colorado - New Tricks in an Old Game" (December 1910).

Other contributors during this period included Alfred Henry Lewis, Sinclair Lewis, A. J. Cronin, David Graham Phillips, George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, and Ida Tarbell. A constant presence from 1910-18 was Arthur B. Reeve, with 82 stories featuring Craig Kennedy, the "scientific detective." Magazine illustrators included Francis Attwood, Dean Cornwell, James Montgomery Flagg, and Harrison Fisher.

March 1894 issue

With a circulation of 1,700,000 in the 1930s, Cosmopolitan had an advertising income of $5,000,000. Emphasizing fiction in the 1940s, it was subtitled The Four-Book Magazine since the first section had one novelette, six or eight short stories, two serials, six to eight articles and eight or nine special features, while the other three sections featured two novels and a digest of current non-fiction books. During World War II, sales peaked at 2,000,000.

The magazine began to run less fiction during the 1950s. Circulation dropped to slightly over a million by 1955, a time when magazines were overshadowed during the rise of paperbacks and television. The Golden Age of magazines came to an end as mass market, general interest publications gave way to special interest magazines targeting specialized audiences.

Helen Gurley Brown arrives

Cosmopolitan's circulation continued to decline for another decade until Helen Gurley Brown became chief editor in 1965 and remodeled the magazine as New Cosmopolitan. After countless denials by other publications, Brown finally landed an opportunity to put her perspective on a magazine.[5] The magazine was renamed Cosmopolitan in 1967. In the early 1970s, Cosmopolitan became a women's magazine. The magazine eventually adopted a cover format consisting of a usually young female model typically in a low cut dress or bikini. The magazine focused on young women and published articles that openly talked about sexual issues.

This was not her first publication dealing with sexually liberating woman. Her 1962 advice book, Sex and the Single Girl, had been a best seller. Fan mail begging for Brown's advice on many subjects concerning women's behavior, sexual encounters, health, and beauty flooded her after the book was released. Brown sent the message that a woman should have men complement her life, not take it over. Enjoying sex without shame was also a message she incorporated in both publications.[6]

In Brown's early years as editor, the magazine received heavy criticism. The magazine ran a near-nude centerfold of actor Burt Reynolds in April 1972, causing great controversy and attracting much attention.

In April 1978, a single edition of Cosmopolitan Man was published as a trial, targeted to appeal to men. Its cover featured Jack Nicholson and Aurore Clément. It was published twice in 1989 as a supplement to Cosmopolitan.[7]

Cosmopolitan in 2011

Cosmopolitan stand at The Brandery fashion show (Barcelona, 2010)

The magazine, and in particular its cover stories, have become more sexually explicit in tone, and covers have models wearing revealing clothes. Kroger, America's largest grocery chain, used to cover up Cosmopolitan at checkout stands because of complaints about sexually explicit headlines.[8] The UK edition of Cosmopolitan, which began in 1972, was well known for sexual explicitness, with strong sexual language, male nudity and coverage of such subjects as rape. In 1999 CosmoGIRL!, a spinoff magazine targeting a teenage female audience, was created for international readership, but closed in December 2008.

Real-world stories are recounted ("Cosmo Confidential") first-hand by survivors, safety tips for risky or dangerous situations (such as living alone) accompany stories of hidden risks, health myths and urban legends are debunked. Sections such as "Health Check", which has featured articles such as "Cosmo Gyno" and "Your Body", both have entertainment value and help women understand their bodies and even recognize possible health problems. Less serious regular features include "Guy Confessions" (pages where men share embarrassing stories or shameful things they've done); celebrities; "You, Even Better", which contains a wide variety of fun facts and advice.

The magazine currently features topics including sex, relationships, beauty, fashion and health.

Cosmopolitan has 63 international editions worldwide published in 32 languages with distribution in more than 100 countries making Cosmopolitan the largest-selling young women's magazine in the world.[2] Some international editions are published in partnerships, such as licenses or joint ventures, with established publishing houses in each local market.

International editions are published in Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Central America, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, U.S. en Español, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

Cosmopolitan has since the sixties been a women's magazine discussing such topics as sex, health, fitness and fashion. Cosmopolitan also has a section called "Ask Him Anything" where a male writer answers readers' questions about men and dating.

Awards by Cosmopolitan, and features

Fun, Fearless Male and Female of the Year: For more than a decade, the February issue has featured this award. In 2011 Russell Brand received the magazine's Fun Fearless Male of the Year Award, joining Kellan Lutz and Paul Wesley (2010), John Mayer (2008), Nick Lachey (2007), Patrick Dempsey (2006), Josh Duhamel (2005), Matthew Perry (2004), and Jon Bon Jovi (2003). Mila Kunis received the 2011 Fun, Fearless Female of the Year honor, a title that had been previously awarded to Anna Faris (2010), Ali Larter (2009), Katherine Heigl (2008), Eva Mendes (2007), Beyoncé (2006), Ashlee Simpson (2005), Alicia Silverstone (2004), Sandra Bullock (2003), and Britney Spears (2002).

Bachelor of the Year: Cosmopolitan's November issue features the hottest bachelors from all 50 states. Pictures and profiles of all the Bachelors are posted on, where readers view and vote for their favorite, narrowing it down to six finalists. A team of Cosmopolitan editors then selects the Bachelor of the Year, who is announced at an annual party and media event in New York. The 50 bachelors generally appear on programs such as The Today Show.[9]

Past Winners Include

Practice Safe Sun: In the May 2006 issue of Cosmopolitan, the magazine launched the Practice Safe Sun campaign, an initiative aimed at fighting skin cancer by asking readers to stop all forms of tanning other than tanning from a bottle.[12] In conjunction with the campaign, Cosmo's editor-in-chief, Kate White, approached Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), known for her support of women's health issues, with concerns that women weren't fully aware of the dangers of indoor tanning and the effectiveness of the current warning labels.[13] After careful review, the Congresswoman agreed that it was necessary to recommend that the FDA take a closer look. She and Representative Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) introduced the Tanning Accountability and Notification Act (TAN Act - H.R. 4767) on February 16, 2006.[12] President Bush signed the act in September 2007, and the new federal law requires the FDA to scrutinize the warning labels on tanning beds and issue a report by September 2008.[14]

Cosmo Blog Awards: Cosmopolitan UK launched the Cosmo Blog Awards <> in 2010. The Awards attracted more than 15,000 entries and winning and highly commended blogs were voted for in several categories including beauty, fashion, lifestyle and celebrity. The 2011 Awards launched in August 2011 and nominations are open until 31 August 2011. All UK-based bloggers and blogs written by British blogges abroad with a British perspective can be entered.


In its January 1988 issue, Cosmopolitan ran a feature claiming that women had almost no reason to worry about contracting HIV long after the best available medical science indicated otherwise. The piece claimed that unprotected sex with an HIV-positive man did not put women at risk of infection, and went on to state that "most heterosexuals are not at risk" and that it was impossible to transmit HIV in the missionary position.[15] This article angered many knowledgeable people including AIDS and gay rights activists.

Cosmopolitan, as well as other women's-interest magazines, have been criticized for using published psychological research studies to gain credibility for their articles on sex and relationship advice but vastly misrepresenting or misconstruing data and findings from these studies in order to appear more "shocking", "newsworthy", and "more relevant to popular culture".[citation needed]

In popular culture

  • In an episode of Rules of Engagement aired in 2007, David Spade's character says he likes to read Cosmo because it's like having "the other team's playbook."
  • In Legally Blonde 2 (2003), when Elle Woods tells Paulette she's going to work where a voice is given to the people, Paulette asks if she's going to the headquarters of Cosmopolitan magazine.
  • In the movie Now and Then (1995), the four girls (Tina, Roberta, Samantha, and Chrissy played by Thora Birch, Christina Ricci, Gaby Hoffmann, and Ashleigh Aston Moore), in the summer of 1970, are taking a Cosmo quiz on foreplay in a diner.
  • In the movie Legally Blonde (2001), Elle Woods says in her closing arguments, "The rules of hair care are simple and finite. Any Cosmo girl would have known."[16]
  • In a 2005 episode of The O.C., Seth draws a female superhero that he calls "Cosmo Girl" who he says has a "passion for fashion."[17]
  • In an episode of Third Watch (1999), Jimmy tells Kim that Cosmo says she should make a man feel important to her, to which she replies, "You read Cosmo?"[18]
  • Will Truman on Will and Grace says in a 1998 episode, "Oh, you girls are going to have a ball, braiding each other's hair and talking about boys and doing the Cosmo quiz."[19]
  • In a 1997 episode of Just Shoot Me, the emcee of the "Femmy" magazine award ceremony says, "Do we really have to sit here for three hours, or can we just give all the awards to Cosmo?"[20]
  • In an episode of Friends the September 1996 issue appears featuring cover model Tatjana Dragovic, Chandler admits to taking a Cosmo quiz and apparently "puts career before men!"[21]
  • In the "Everybody Loves Casey" episode of That '70s Show, Jackie and Kelso read Cosmopolitan to resolve their relationship troubles.
  • In 1992, the lyrics of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" explicitly decries the bodies of Cosmo girls in favor of black women's bodies.
  • In the 1986 war film Heartbreak Ridge, Clint Eastwood's character, Sgt. "Gunny" Highway, reads Cosmopolitan to gain insights of the other sex's mind in order to win his ex-wife back.
  • In an episode of Corner Gas, it is revealed that Davis reads Cosmopolitan.
  • In the Broadway musical The Wedding Singer, in the song "Pop", Holly sings the lyric: "Every five seconds a girl gets engaged, according to Cosmo's latest quiz..."
  • Community, Season 2, Episode 1, (9/23/2010): Britta, being defensive about the way she is being treated by her peers at Greendale, says "I'm not hiding from you. Its like high school all over again out there. 'Psycho Britta, the walking freakshow, for every Barbie with a Cosmo subscription." Later the young women Britta is referring to approach her and tell Britta she is "fearless, honest, and speaking from your heart."
  • CollegeHumor has featured several articles making fun of Cosmo's lists of sex tips by providing line-by-line analysis of the advice. The articles are written by pseudonymous contributor BL1Y.
  • YouTube user csandreas has a monthly web series called Black Man Answers Cosmo that features two straight black males answering Cosmopolitan's various letters sections.

Editors (American edition)

  • Frank P. Smith (1886–1888)
  • E. D. Walker (1888)
  • John Brisben Walker (1889–1905)
  • Bailey Millard (1905–1907)
  • S. S. Chamberlain (1907–1908)
  • C. P. Narcross (1908–1913)
  • Sewell Haggard (1914)
  • Edgar Grant Sisson (1914–1917)
  • Douglas Z. Doty (1917–1918)
  • Ray Long (1918–1931)
  • Harry Payne Burton (1931–1942)
  • Frances Whiting (1942–1945)
  • Arthur Gordon (1946–1948)
  • Herbert R. Mayes (1948–1951)
  • John J. O'Connell (1951–1959)
  • Robert Atherton (1959–1965)
  • Helen Gurley Brown (1965–1997)
  • Bonnie Fuller (1997–1998)
  • Kate White (1998–Present)


  • Cosmo's Guide to Red Hot Sex (2008) (ISBN 1-58816-649-X)
  • Cosmo's Aqua Kama Sutra: 25 Sex Positions for the Tub, Shower, Pool, and More (2006) (ISBN 1-58816-571-X)
  • Cosmo Confessions: Hundreds of Absolutely Shameful, Scandalous, and Sexy Real-Life Tales! (2006) (ISBN 1-58816-467-5)
  • Cosmo's Naughty Notes: 100 Sexy Stickies to Tease, Tantalize, and Turn On Your Man (2006) (ISBN 1-58816-599-X)
  • Cosmo's Steamy Sex Games: All Sorts of Naughty Ways to Have Fun with Your Lover (2006) (ISBN 1-58816-640-6)
  • The Cosmo Kama Sutra: 77 Mind-Blowing Sex Positions (2004) (ISBN 1-58816-423-3)


  1. ^ Cosmopolitan website
  2. ^ a b "Cosmopolitan page on Hearst website". Retrieved September 09, 2011. 
  3. ^ Tassin, Algernon (December 1915). "The Magazine In America, Part X: The End Of The Century". The Bookman: an Illustrated Magazine of Literature and Life (Dodd, Mead and Co.) XLII (4): 396–412. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  4. ^ Marks, Jason. Around the World in 72 Days: The race between Pulitzer's Nellie Bly and Cosmopolitan's Elizabeth Bisland (Gemittarius Press 1993) (ISBN 978-09633696283)
  5. ^ Benjamin, Jennifer. "How Cosmo Changed the World." Cosmopolitan 2009: n. pag. Web. 28 Sep 2009. <>.
  6. ^ Gianoulis, Tina. "Cosmopolitan." Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Vol. 4: 1960s-1970s. Detroit: UXL, 2002. 867-868. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. University of Northern Colorado. 28 Sept. 2009 <
  7. ^ "Men's magazines: an A to Z",, accessed November 6, 2006
  8. ^ New York Daily News - The Ticker, New York Daily News.
  9. ^ Brian Watkins - Cosmo Bachelor of the Year 2007 -
  10. ^ "2011 Cosmo Bachelor of The Year - Interview with Chris Van Vliet". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  11. ^ "Ryan Mickey McLean Interview - Ohio Bachelor Ryan McLean Quotes". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  12. ^ a b Cosmo to Promote 'Safe Skin' | Business solutions from
  13. ^ "Cosmo to Promote 'Safe Skin' | Mediaweek | Professional Journal archives from". 2006-04-10. Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  14. ^ American Academy Of Dermatology Association Commends President Bush For Signing Tanning Accountability And Notification (TAN) Act
  15. ^ "AIDS in New York: A Biography - New York Magazine". 2006-06-05. Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  16. ^ Legally Blonde (2001) - Memorable quotes
  17. ^ "The O.C." The Second Chance (2005) - Memorable quotes
  18. ^ "Third Watch" (1999) - Memorable quotes
  19. ^ "Will & Grace" (1998) - Memorable quotes
  20. ^ "Just Shoot Me!" And the Femmy Goes To... (1999) - Memorable quotes
  21. ^ "Friends" (1994) - Memorable quotes

External links

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