h1

SELF Magazine: Meet The Editor Who Pours Herself Into The Pages Of The Magazine. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joyce Chang, Editor-in-Chief, SELF Magazine.

November 6, 2015

“I think it functions holistically. When we think about our health holistically, we don’t just say if we run we’ll be healthy. Or I eat right, so therefore I don’t have to exercise. They all have to work together, but I think we are stronger for figuring out how they can all work together in meaningful ways and support each other. We get amazing cover subjects on the cover of our magazine. And there is no better poster for the brand than the magazine and that’s why we put so much time, attention, effort, thought and creativity into making these covers. And then these covers go everywhere. They’re on the homepage of Yahoo; they’re being spread socially through all of Ronda Rousey’s fan pages, and my sister, my best friend; everyone is a part of this.” Joyce Chang (On what she believes is the cornerstone of the SELF brand)

1979_large_self1 November Cover Image SELF Magazine has been the authority on health, wellness, beauty and style for women for over thirty years, exemplifying a spirit and energy that still permeates its pages today. The magazine went through a reinvention about a year ago to reinvigorate the brand under the watchful eye of its new editor-in-chief, Joyce Chang. In fact, the first issue of SELF was one of my early first editions added to my American collection of first editions right after arriving in the United States on September 1, 1978. The first issue of SELF magazine (above left) arrived on January 1979, four months after my arrival to the States.

Joyce served as executive editor for Cosmopolitan prior to joining SELF in May 2014. In just one year, she has not only rebranded the magazine and website, but has also used her position to advocate for women’s health and rights at large. She is a woman who knows what direction her brand is heading and how to navigate through any choppy waters she might encounter along the way. The positivity and energetic spirit that lives within the magazine is shared by its new leader. The two have come home to each other. .

With Joyce’s vision, SELF has become a more vibrant and beautiful brand that feels like a breath of fresh air on a hot summer’s day. She set out to create a motivational women’s guide to life and she succeeded brilliantly. The DNA of SELF remains intact, but the clean touches and vitality Joyce brought to the magazine is vivid.

I visited with Joyce recently at the magazine’s headquarters at 1 World Trade Center in New York City, and we talked about SELF’s past, present and future. It was an invigorating conversation about a legacy brand that has been reborn into a more dynamic reality and is thriving with the changes.

So, enjoy the passion and spirit of SELF’s new Editor-In-Chief, Joyce Chang, as you read the Mr. Magazine™ interview and get to know a woman who’s vision is as clear and sharp as the view from her office window.

But first, the sound-bites:

Joyce On the changes SELF Magazine has seen since its early 1980s inception and whether she adheres to the original DNA of the magazine or steers the magazine in a completely different direction: You know it’s funny; I was looking through some old issues of the magazine not too long ago and I believe we were looking at one from 1983. I flipped to the middle of the book and there was a column that was called “Self-Made.” And it was about a self-made reader. And one of our cornerstones in this “new” SELF is the idea of the self-made woman. And reading through the Self-Made column of this readers; she was entrepreneurial; she was trying to balance all the many aspects of her life, but was also very focused on the things that mattered to her, which were work, business and her family; the people that she loved, and also taking care of herself. That is still very much who we are today.

On whether the large, bold typography and very vocal covers are insisting that readers have to do something about themselves and voicing that magazine message firmly:
No, I don’t think that’s really our message, to do something about themselves. (Laughs) Rather, it’s do something for yourself. And I really don’t think our covers scream, I actually think our covers are really clear and really strong, that’s why we use the typography that we use. That’s why our cover subjects look the way they do. And actually, I feel like the newsstand is constantly screaming at you. Every cover has a thousand lines and a thousand gimmicks. There are bursts and bubbles and tons of color and of course, hair everywhere.

On if she struck the magazine with a magic wand and a living, breathing human being appeared from the pages, who she thinks it would be: I think the magazine reflects many women. It reflects many of the women that I know. It reflects pretty much every single woman that I interact with. They each have an element of SELF within them. And yes; it reflects my own thoughts as well. As I said, we are part of this generation of really motivated women who want the most out of their life. They want to make an impact on the world; they want to have careers that have impact, and they want to have really meaningful relationships. And these are all of the goals that I and my friends have. And these are the goals that so many women share with me when I go out and meet them.

On the major stumbling block she had to face:
We changed everything. We changed offices, just everything. There’s nothing that’s the same except for the name, even the logo is different. And being evolved to taking something that’s such a heritage brand, that has a long history as you said; people have such good feelings and such historical feelings about SELF, and just feeling confident in my vision of this is where it’s supposed to go was challenging.

On her most pleasant moment: I love this job. And I love this brand and I love this magazine. Every day I look out at the view from my office window and I think how amazing this all is. What a wonderful, inspiring place to be, to think about a brand that is about inspiration and motivation like SELF is. That’s all really satisfying. Every time I see one of our covers come together I feel really happy and really satisfied. This Ronda (Ronda Rousey) cover is everywhere and that’s really satisfying to me. When I go to the airport and I see our cover stand out on the newsstand, that’s really rewarding and satisfying to me.

On whether she thinks the role of an editor has changed since the days before the dawn of the digital age:
I don’t know if it’s because of the dawn of the digital age or not, but I do think the role of editor-in-chief has changed. It’s gotten bigger and I feel like the world has gotten bigger. And we have much larger appetites and we all want more out of our products. So, as the leader of a brand you have to come up with that “more” and you have to always be thinking about what else you can do.

On whether she thinks the magazine might be catching up to its mother/daughter dynamic when it comes to audience since teaming up with her mother for a feature in her first issue of the magazine:
Sure, I think it’s very possible. I think SELF is an ageless link; the things that we talk about at SELF are ageless propositions. We’re talking about taking care of you; it’s a universal message.

On which platform she believes is the cornerstone of the brand: I think it functions holistically. When we think about our health holistically, we don’t just say if we run we’ll be healthy. Or I eat right, so therefore I don’t have to exercise. They all have to work together, but I think we are stronger for figuring out how they can all work together in meaningful ways and support each other. We get amazing cover subjects on the cover of our magazine. And there is no better poster for the brand than the magazine and that’s why we put so much time, attention, effort, thought and creativity into making these covers. And then these covers go everywhere. They’re on the homepage of Yahoo; they’re being spread socially through all of Ronda Rousey’s fan pages, and my sister, my best friend; everyone is a part of this.

On anything else she’d like to add:
In this landscape, the strong will survive. And we are a magazine about strength and strong women and we’re just really starting to dig in when it comes to thinking of the most creative and innovative ways to, not just survive, but thrive.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning:
I love this life. This is exactly what I wanted to do; just as you had a hobby of getting first editions since you were a child, I was a magazine junkie too when I was a kid. When I was 12-years-old, with some of my friends, I made up a rendition of The New Yorker for kids. And we published our own magazines. This is what I’ve always imagined and always dreamed of, so of course I’m going to jump out of bed; this is what I asked for.

On what keeps her up at night:
I try not to engage so much in that worry zone, but I do stay up at night because we have so many ideas and I wonder how we’re going to do them all. We need more pages; we need more platforms, more outlets for all of these ideas.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joyce Chang, Editor-In-Chief, SELF Magazine.

Samir Husni: SELF was one of the first editions that I bought when I came to America. I arrived in 1978 and I believe the first issue of SELF came out in January 1979. SELF was born with a bang. The magazine was a major new launch from a major publisher. From that beginning and through all of the changes and different editors that the magazine has seen over the years; what is SELF today under your guiding hand? Do you still adhere to the original DNA of the early 1980s or is it a brand-new SELF Magazine?

Joyce Chang: You know it’s funny; I was looking through some old issues of the magazine not too long ago and I believe we were looking at one from 1983. I flipped to the middle of the book and there was a column that was called “Self-Made.” And it was about a self-made reader. And one of our cornerstones in this “new” SELF is the idea of the self-made woman.

It was so amazing to me to see this sort of time capsule of the headspace and the mental space of the SELF woman then and how similar it was to the SELF woman of today in a very essential way. Many of the trappings and references have changed, but the essential spirit is very much the same.

And reading through the Self-Made column of this reader; she was entrepreneurial; she was trying to balance all the many aspects of her life, but was also very focused on the things that mattered to her, which were work, business and her family; the people that she loved, and also taking care of herself. That is still very much who we are today.

I think we probably put an even finer point on it today and really look at ourselves as the motivated woman’s guide to life. The message that SELF began with has even greater relevance and the voice has grown even stronger because we have yet another generation, two generations of working women. And I think there has never been a time in history where we have had such a span and spectrum of accomplished women helping other women get to the next level.

So I think that we’ve just been building on the foundation that SELF is built upon, this very all-American idea of being self-made. And the way we look at it is; my mother always said to me a successful person is successful in all aspects of her life, you can’t just do it on one thing and call it a day. So successful people want to have meaningful relationships; they want to bring that same passion to their work, and that same discipline to the physical and to their health.

And so we really look at life as this 360° view of success. That’s what we aspire to; that’s what we want to inspire our readers to pursue and also that anything is possible. And in order to do all of these things, you have to take care of yourself. So, I think that’s very much in keeping with the origin story of SELF. And because it is such a universal message, it completely works today. But I think it’s even more resonating.

Samir Husni: And is it because we are today bombarded by information and surrounded by noise everywhere that you are becoming more vocal with the covers, so to speak? Like “Go For It” or with the big typography screaming in your face, insisting that readers have to do something about themselves?

Joyce Chang: No, I don’t think that’s really our message, to do something about themselves. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Joyce Chang: Rather, it’s do something for yourself. And I really don’t think our covers scream, I actually think our covers are really clear and really strong, that’s why we use the typography that we use. That’s why our cover subjects look the way they do. And actually, I feel like the newsstand is constantly screaming at you. Every cover has a thousand lines and a thousand gimmicks. There are bursts and bubbles and tons of color and of course, hair everywhere.

All of that works for a certain kind of magazine. It sends a certain kind of message or multiple messages. And for us, I feel like our message is more focused than anyone else’s message, which we are all about confidence and positivity. Supporting you and whatever your goals are. So, that’s why you get “Go For It,” because it’s us just cheering you on. We know that life is busy, demanding and hard and we could all use a pick-me-up.

The point of all of this is not to tell you to do something or to scream at you; the point is for you to know that we’re cheering for you. And we want you to get whatever it is you want out of your day and out of your life.

Samir Husni: If I gave you a magic wand that you could use to strike the ink on paper magazine and instantly a living, breathing human being would materialize; would I see Joyce appearing from the pages of SELF or someone else? Who is the magazine?

Joyce Chang: I think the magazine reflects many women. It reflects many of the women that I know. It reflects pretty much every single woman that I interact with. They each have an element of SELF within them.

And yes; it reflects my own thoughts as well. As I said, we are part of this generation of really motivated women who want the most out of their life. They want to make an impact on the world; they want to have careers that have impact, and they want to have really meaningful relationships. And these are all of the goals that I and my friends have. And these are the goals that so many women share with me when I go out and meet them.

And even in the process of when I was hiring and people were coming to talk to me about why they wanted to join SELF, everyone was sharing these stories of looking for the next thing, and the next thing being something that made them really happy, the next thing being an outlet for their passion and creativity. And the next thing that they really wanted was something meaningful to them.

And I think that there has been such a shift in what success means to people, but particularly women. I think this answers that need to know what that next thing is. It might not give a clear-cut answer, but it has a lot of paths and a lot of ideas on how to pursue your answer to that question.

Samir Husni: Since you became editor-in-chief of SELF; what has been the major stumbling block that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

Joyce Chang: We changed everything. We changed offices, just everything. There’s nothing that’s the same except for the name, even the logo is different. And being evolved to taking something that’s such a heritage brand, that has a long history as you said; people have such good feelings and such historical feelings about SELF, and just feeling confident in my vision of this is where it’s supposed to go was challenging.

It’s pretty different. As much as it was used to this original DNA; it was really different. It was a complete rewrite of the visual formula and it was a complete change in terms of tone of voice. So, it was a total overhaul. And it was like once you dove in, you just found more and more. And you just had to do it systematically.

It was something that I had learned when I was at Cosmo because we also had a total change; a transformation. And so I had done that the year before, so I felt ready and comfortable with SELF’s transformation. But nevertheless, it’s never easy to come in and take something as legacy as SELF and make it something totally different. So, that was obviously really hard, but also really rewarding and energizing in its own way.

I think personally the thing that was hardest for me was when you’re introduced to high-level worry. It’s a different level of stress when you run a brand than when you are the #2. And I always thought I was so busy and I always felt like I had a certain level of stress, as all New Yorkers have; we’re always competing with each other, who’s busier and who’s more stressed, but when you’re actually the person for whom the buck stops with you and you’re making all of these big decisions that affect people, readers and dealing with bottom lines, that’s another level of stress and another level of worry. And getting used to that was something that was hard. I never slept; I was always worried.

And I think as member of the media, the landscape is changing so quickly, we all want to be superheroes for our brands. We all want to figure out how we save print or how can we transform media so that we come out on top. How do we navigate this Wild West that nobody seems to really have an answer to? Everybody wants to be a superhero.

Actually you have to make peace with yourself and know that you don’t really have to be a superhero and you don’t have to be the one person who figures everything out. What your day-to-day comes down to is doing a really good job with what you have in front of you. And doing the best work that you can, and just figuring it all out day-by-day, so that you can get better at what you’re doing. What else can you do? You can’t solve the world’s problems overnight in your sleep. That was the hardest thing for me, letting go of some of that stuff and just doing the work instead.

Samir Husni: And what has been the most pleasant moment?

After the cover shoot of the November issue Joyce received a collection of nesting Ninjas which were displayed behind her desk.  I took a picture of the cover story and the Ninjas.

After the cover shoot of the November issue Joyce received a collection of nesting Ninjas which were displayed behind her desk. I took a picture of the cover story and the Ninjas.

Joyce Chang: I love this job. And I love this brand and I love this magazine. Every day I look out at the view from my office window and I think how amazing this all is. What a wonderful, inspiring place to be, to think about a brand that is about inspiration and motivation like SELF is. That’s all really satisfying.

Every time I see one of our covers come together I feel really happy and really satisfied. This Ronda (Ronda Rousey) cover is everywhere and that’s really satisfying to me. When I go to the airport and I see our cover stand out on the newsstand, that’s really rewarding and satisfying to me.

We were the exclusive media partner for a fitness retreat with the Tone It Up girls who are superstar trainers that have a huge fitness following. My fitness director and I went to the fitness retreat and we had a SELF photo booth and we did all of these different activations with them. And the women, 500 women from all over the country, from all different walks of life, were talking about what SELF meant to them and how they had grown into themselves through SELF. And how they’ve seen the change in the magazine over the last year and how much they appreciated it and how it had affected their lives. And when I get emails and letters from women who feel like SELF has changed their lives. That’s really rewarding and that’s why you do this kind of thing.

Personally, my mother is a cancer surgeon and she runs the Breast Center at UCLA. One of the causes that SELF has always been behind is breast cancer awareness. This year I’m able to help her with program. She’s had a program and an event that she’s done every year. And this year SELF can be a part of it. It’s something that’s important to my mother and it has always been a part of my life and it’s something that’s important to SELF. So, it’s really nice to be able to do things like that.

Samir Husni: As your job has changed, going from the #2 to the #1 at SELF, are you more than an editor-in-chief in today’s world? Do you think an editor’s role has changed since the dawn of the digital age? Are you more involved in events and in directives? Are you no longer just sitting behind your desk and editing a magazine?

Joyce Chang: I don’t know if it’s because of the dawn of the digital age or not, but I do think the role of editor-in-chief has changed. It’s gotten bigger and I feel like the world has gotten bigger. And we have much larger appetites and we all want more out of our products. So, as the leader of a brand you have to come up with that “more” and you have to always be thinking about what else you can do.

I don’t stay awake at night worrying about losing things; I stay awake at night thinking about what else we can do. There’s so much momentum to what’s possible with the brand and that’s exciting.

And I think that’s the pivot of what being an editor-in-chief is now; we’re actually brands, like all of these titles within the building, within this industry, we’re all brands. We’re all media brands and there’s so much more than just the book. There’s more than the digital platform. There are events, community, products; there are TV shows. There are a thousand things that fill this world we’re creating. And that’s really exciting. We do have to be multidisciplinary because we are creating this immersive world, that’s what a brand is, an immersive world.

Samir Husni: And now with that brand and teaming up with your mom in your first issue as editor-in-chief; does it feel like you’re catching up to your audience who might be a mother/daughter dynamic when it comes to the SELF life?

Joyce Chang: Sure, I think it’s very possible. I think SELF is an ageless link; the things that we talk about at SELF are ageless propositions. We’re talking about taking care of you; it’s a universal message.

To me, when I’m speaking to our reader, I speak to the age that she is in her own mind’s eye. And I think when you’re 21, you’re aspiring. You’re kind of thinking ahead to when you’re 25 and it’ll all make sense, or something like that. You’ll have a little more money and more control; there’s an aspiration there.

At the same time, I think when I go to a yoga class in Tribeca, I look at all these women and I have no idea how old any of them are. They could be 20, 30, 40 or 50 years old. So, I do think there is this ageless spectrum of where women are now. And what they really care about is the important things. They really care about their health, having meaningful experiences and a lot of market research shows that is what the millennial mindset is. I believe we have a very strong core audience in the 18-34 realms, but I also know plenty of mother/daughters who read the same SELF and get the same satisfaction out of their experience.

Samir Husni: What do you believe is the cornerstone for the SELF brand? Is it the printed magazine, the social media, the events?

Joyce Chang: I think it functions holistically. When we think about our health holistically, we don’t just say if we run we’ll be healthy. Or I eat right, so therefore I don’t have to exercise. They all have to work together, but I think we are stronger for figuring out how they can all work together in meaningful ways and support each other.

We get amazing cover subjects on the cover of our magazine. And there is no better poster for the brand than the magazine and that’s why we put so much time, attention, effort, thought and creativity into making these covers. And then these covers go everywhere. They’re on the homepage of Yahoo; they’re being spread socially through all of Ronda Rousey’s fan pages, and my sister, my best friend; everyone is a part of this.

It’s all of equal importance because one branch brings one thing and another branch brings another. Together we’re able to push this message out and amplify it to as many people as possible. And we think we have a very meaningful message and a very resonate one for right now. So I’m happy more people can see it.

Samir Husni: What would you like to tell me about SELF if we’re sitting and talking together one year from now?

Joyce Chang: That it all worked. It’s amazing. Everything worked.

Samir Husni: (Laughs)

Joyce Chang: It was just as I thought! (Laughs too)

Samir Husni: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Joyce Chang: In this landscape, the strong will survive. And we are a magazine about strength and strong women and we’re just really starting to dig in when it comes to thinking of the most creative and innovative ways to, not just survive, but thrive.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get up in the morning and say it’s going to be a great day?

Joyce Chang: I love this life. This is exactly what I wanted to do; just as you had a hobby of getting first editions since you were a child, I was a magazine junkie too when I was a kid. When I was 12-years-old, with some of my friends, I made up a rendition of The New Yorker for kids. And we published our own magazines. This is what I’ve always imagined and always dreamed of, so of course I’m going to jump out of bed; this is what I asked for.

And we just have so much going on and the opportunities are vast. There has been so much tremendous feedback and support, and other brands coming to us and wanting to partner and there are so many ways in which we can do that to expand our reach. It’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to get up and get going. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of the things that you’re supposed to do. That’s the natural momentum of when you’ve hit the right message and that’s where likeminded people are.

That gets me up and out in the morning and I also feel like that I’ve created a life that I really like down to the last detail. When my feet hit the floor; I love that rug that I have. And I love the coffee place down the corner from me. I live on the Upper East Side; my office is all the way down here at the World Trade Center and at first I was dreading the commute, but I found that being in the car for half an hour, driving down the FDR, with the river running alongside, was really a peaceful way to start the morning.

There are really all of these great things and it’s exciting. I have a lot of breakfasts in the morning with people who I am really excited to meet and so there are a thousand different ways to start the day that are positive and rewarding and that make you want to get up and get going.

Husniandjoyce Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Joyce Chang: I try not to engage so much in that worry zone, but I do stay up at night because we have so many ideas and I wonder how we’re going to do them all. We need more pages; we need more platforms, more outlets for all of these ideas. I feel like sometimes that I stay up at night because my mind is racing with things that we can do and about how we can get it all done.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: