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Showstopper Magazine: Celebrating Its First Anniversary With 40 Years Of Teen Dance History & Experience Behind It – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Founder, Debbie Roberts & Editor In Chief, Holly Childs…

August 20, 2018

“One thing that stands out to me, and one thing that made me really want to do the magazine is we’re not just full of ads. And many of the others are so heavy into ads. We’re trying to honor dancers; we’re trying to get as many kids as we can into each issue. We’re trying to look and look, study and study, and reach out to find which kids have great stories and get them in the magazine. We want them to be honored.” Debbie Roberts…

“We combined the digital element with it, with our app and our VIP site and it’s basically the online version of the magazine where we can push people with QR codes to video content and behind-the-scenes footage and extended interviews, plus extra content as well. So, we mixed both the print and the digital because teens aren’t normally drawn so much to print, but I think with the distribution method of the shows and Barnes & Noble and mixing it with the digital it really comes together.” Holly Childs…

A magazine devoted to dance, teenaged dance, that is; Showstopper magazine is celebrating its first anniversary in print, but the powers-that-be behind the colorful, photo-packed title are far from newbies when it comes to the world of teen dance. Debbie Roberts and her husband, David have been honoring and promoting dancers through their competition shows and sincere caring of the teens for 40 years. Showstopper events for them are more than a career, it has been a way of life for decades. And now they have brought that same excitement and care to print.

I spoke with Debbie and editor in chief, Holly Childs (a former Showstopper dance talent herself) recently and we talked about the magazine and its mission for the world of teen dance. It means so much to these two ladies as it represents the kids that are so important to them both, which is the one of the main reasons that Debbie wanted to start the magazine, to have a vivid place to showcase these teen dance stories and bring them to life within the pages of print. And from the beautiful photographs to the stories themselves, it’s a venue that Debbie hopes fulfills her mission: to honor the dancers.

And with no ads, its success is dependent on that hope, as distribution ranges from newsstand to the competition shows, where Debbie says the differentiation factor of the title from others out there, is born. The shows provide the Roberts’ with a venue that allows them to connect with the teens and get their input for content, something Debbie believes gives them a very high leg-up on magazines who maybe don’t have that type of interaction.

So, grab your sequined dance uniform and some confetti and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with two women who are “showstoppers” themselves, as they take us into the world of teen dance, Debbie Roberts, founder and Holly Childs, editor in chief, Showstopper magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On how she got the idea for Showstopper and when she decided to actually do it (Debbie Roberts): I was actually always very interested in journalism, even in high school. I was editor of the yearbook and just had a great journalism teacher. And I had always wanted to start a magazine. I read Seventeen magazine all of the time and I just thought it was an incredible way to communicate. So, at age 16 I really wanted to do it. And when I met Holly I thought if I ever did it she would be the person who could help me make it come true, because she is such a go-getter.

On whether they both dance (Debbie Roberts): Dance has been my whole life. I had a dance studio for 25 years. I actually started teaching when I was 16, so that’s 50 years that I’ve been working, not 40. But no, not anymore, now I just work, work, work.

On whether they both dance (Holly Childs): I danced from age two to about 14 and I danced at Showstopper’s, so when I got the job, almost three and a half years ago, it was coming full circle for me because I used to attend their competitions when I was around nine-years-old.

On why they thought teenaged readers in today’s day and age would want a print magazine (Holly Childs): We also combined the digital element with it, with our app and our VIP site, which is http://www.showstopper.vip, and it’s basically the online version of the magazine where we can push people with QR codes to video content and behind-the-scenes footage and extended interviews, plus extra content as well. So, we mixed both the print and the digital because teens aren’t normally drawn so much to print, but I think with the distribution method of the shows and Barnes & Noble and mixing it with the digital it really comes together.

On how they are curating Showstopper’s 40-year history with teen dance, with what’s happening today (Holly Childs): We’re always working on curating the history with what’s happening today in a better way in each and every edition. And in this upcoming one we’re really focusing on telling the story of Showstopper and focusing a lot more heavily on dance, just to make sure that’s really seen on almost every page. I think we’ve realized as we’ve gone forward that the reach has really extended beyond our in-person shows and so it’s more important with every edition to tell Showstopper’s story and history, and also what’s happening with the brand today.

On Holly’s ability to write, edit and design and whether she has a favorite of the three (Holly Childs): Design, for sure, I have to say. It’s just the most creatively and aesthetically pleasing; it’s just very fulfilling to see the design of an artist. I love writing too and that was actually my major in college, English, but graphic design is always changing and can always be made better, so definitely design. But I love the other two as well.

On Showstopper’s point of differentiation (Debbie Roberts): One thing that stands out to me, and one thing that made me really want to do the magazine is we’re not just full of ads. And many of the others are so heavy into ads. We’re trying to honor dancers; we’re trying to get as many kids as we can into each issue. We’re trying to look and look, study and study, and reach out to find which kids have great stories and get them in the magazine. We want them to be honored.

On the biggest stumbling block they’ve faced this year and how they overcame it (Debbie Roberts): Both Holly and I can tackle a lot. I’m used to handling problems; I’ve had 40 years of a lot of challenges and I would say that we don’t have a lot of big stumbling blocks, because when something happens we just regroup and go on and do something else. We don’t let anything become a stumbling block more than just a couple of minutes.

On what has been the most pleasant moment (Debbie Roberts): I would say our photo shoots are just so inspiring because you get all of these kids together and they’re so excited that they are going to be honored for what they’ve done. These are kids who are hardcore dancers and they’ve worked themselves to the bone. They take seven days a week to dance. They just love it and they’re willing to do it as a career and they don’t even care if they make money. They’re just giving everything a million percent and that’s every photo shoot that we have.

On what has been the most pleasant moment (Holly Childs): Another amazing moment is seeing the pictures of the dancers holding up the magazine when they get it in the mail or see it in Barnes & Noble, that’s another amazing moment.

On what they would hope to say the magazine has accomplished if they were talking to someone about it one year from now (Debbie Roberts): I would say that we strive, just like we do in the show, to be better than we were before. Every article to be better than it was the last issue just to try and give more to kids. And maybe to make the magazine 20 pages bigger to honor more kids or more dancers, just to always be better and always have more quality. We’re so learning right now and we’ve seen mistakes that we’ve made and just try to go on and do better next time. Every magazine is so exciting and we just strive for the next one to be better.

On anything either of them would like to add (Holly Childs): One thing to add is that we also have a theme around each edition, the last one was the gold edition and the next is the explore/adventure edition. Exploring new genres of dance and new hobbies and new travel locations. We always try to have a theme around each edition.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Debbie Roberts): I would say that we always did the very best and when we hit the best we said that we could do better. We just always want to be better and give more, that’s our philosophy.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Holly Childs): I like that too. That’s perfect; I wouldn’t add a thing to that. Never be satisfied.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Holly Childs): Planning the next day of work. (Laughs)

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Debbie Roberts): You’d find me working on the magazine, that’s my very fun thing to do and because it’s a lot of research. I’d be looking at YouTube videos or at letters that kids have written to us about maybe why they want to be in the magazine, those kinds of things. Researching new trends or old trends that are coming back; who’s doing what; those are things that I’d be doing.

On what keeps them up at night (Debbie Roberts): Definitely the magazine. It’s not work at all, it’s just fun to gather up ideas, and after 40 years of really working hard loading trucks and working in a warehouse, getting everything ready for a show, now the magazine is just my sheer fun. Just giving back through the magazine and then seeing the end result. So, it’s definitely the magazine that keeps me up at night, no doubt about that.

On what keeps them up at night (Holly Childs): I agree. I am always thinking about how we can make things better. We’re both never satisfied with the last thing we did, which is why I think a year from now, if you were to ask us, it’s going to be 10 times better than right now because we’re never satisfied. We’re always thinking about how we can improve and what we can do different; what are the latest trends that we can do for the next photo shoot, things like that. It’s more of a morning and afternoon thought for me, but if I think of a photo shoot idea in the middle of the night, I grab my phone and write it down.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Debbie Roberts, founder and Holly Childs, editor in chief, Showstopper Magazine.

Samir Husni: Showstopper magazine is celebrating its first anniversary; tell me a little bit about the conception of the magazine. When did you get the idea and decide that you were actually going to do it?

Debbie Roberts: I was actually always very interested in journalism, even in high school. I was editor of the yearbook and just had a great journalism teacher. And I had always wanted to start a magazine. I read Seventeen magazine all of the time and I just thought it was an incredible way to communicate. So, at age 16 I really wanted to do it. And when I met Holly I thought if I ever did it she would be the person who could help me make it come true, because she is such a go-getter.

So, I just woke up one day and said to myself, I’m 65-years-old and it’s either now or never, somehow or someway it’s going to happen. And I talked to Holly and she said yes, absolutely let’s do it. And we both kind of dove in and just said we don’t know what it’s going to take, but we’re going to learn. So, we started learning and digging in and that’s how it all started.

Samir Husni: And do you both dance?

Debbie Roberts: Dance has been my whole life. I had a dance studio for 25 years. I actually started teaching when I was 16, so that’s 50 years that I’ve been working, not 40. But no, not anymore, now I just work, work, work.

Holly Childs: I danced from age two to about 14 and I danced at Showstopper’s, so when I got the job, almost three and a half years ago, it was coming full circle for me because I used to attend their competitions when I was around nine-years-old.

Samir Husni: Why do you think teenaged dancers in today’s day and age want a print magazine?

Holly Childs: Debbie and David Roberts started Showstopper, which are national dance competitions, and they have regional and finals competitions and dance conventions all over the U.S. and now the world, including Japan. The history of Showstopper Dance Competitions began 40 years ago and they’re celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. They have so many in-person events that it’s a perfect distribution method for something that teens can relate to and hear other teen dancers’ stories, which is really the primary reason I feel that Debbie started the magazine, to tell all of the stories that were heard nationwide for 40 years.

We also combined the digital element with it, with our app and our VIP site, which is http://www.showstopper.vip, and it’s basically the online version of the magazine where we can push people with QR codes to video content and behind-the-scenes footage and extended interviews, plus extra content as well. So, we mixed both the print and the digital because teens aren’t normally drawn so much to print, but I think with the distribution method of the shows and Barnes & Noble and mixing it with the digital it really comes together.

Debbie Roberts: To go back a little bit, every weekend of my life I’m with dancers, and all of these young kids at all different levels, and I was thinking that these kids are so inspiring that we had to do more stories about them. With their heart and soul, they just love dance and they’re so excited about dance. So, I wanted to take that to another level, and we said that this is the time; this is the time to do it. And I was very discouraged with some magazines that were just ads, that’s really basically all they are. So, we really don’t do ads, we just want to honor dancers and their hard work. And inspire other dancers.

Samir Husni: Just from looking at this current issue, it seems as though you’re documenting teen dance. From 40 years until now, that involvement with the teen lifestyle and the teen dance really shines through. How are you curating Debbie’s 40-year history with teen dance, with what’s happening today?

Holly Childs: We’re always working on curating the history with what’s happening today in a better way in each and every edition. And in this upcoming one we’re really focusing on telling the story of Showstopper and focusing a lot more heavily on dance, just to make sure that’s really seen on almost every page. I think we’ve realized as we’ve gone forward that the reach has really extended beyond our in-person shows and so it’s more important with every edition to tell Showstopper’s story and history, and also what’s happening with the brand today.

Samir Husni: Holly, you write, edit, and you design; any favorite child among those three?

Holly Childs: Design, for sure, I have to say. It’s just the most creatively and aesthetically pleasing; it’s just very fulfilling to see the design of an artist. I love writing too and that was actually my major in college, English, but graphic design is always changing and can always be made better, so definitely design. But I love the other two as well.

Samir Husni: There are other dance magazines in the marketplace; what is Showstopper’s point of differentiation, besides you and David starting Showstopper Dance Competitions 40 years ago?

Debbie Roberts: One thing that stands out to me, and one thing that made me really want to do the magazine is we’re not just full of ads. And many of the others are so heavy into ads. We’re trying to honor dancers; we’re trying to get as many kids as we can into each issue. We’re trying to look and look, study and study, and reach out to find which kids have great stories and get them in the magazine. We want them to be honored. And I know for sure that they don’t have that passion now, because we’re not worried about selling ads and making money and they are. We’re just worried about having an incredible magazine that gives back to teenagers and we’ve expanded more into the dance lifestyle, such as what would they wear to school, so we have a bit of fashion, fashion that’s maybe been inspired by dance. Just give kids more than a magazine that’s filled with a lot of ads and just a few articles.

Holly Childs: We focus very heavily on the well-rounded approach of showing everything dancers are interested in, from healthy snacks to fashion, inspired by dance, and to technique and the inspirational stories. We’re not just focusing on people who have the strongest technique and who have made it, of course we love those people, but also in each edition we really tell a story about someone who has overcame something or who has struggled and made it through and can inspire other dancers who might also be going through something similar. We just focus on capturing all facets of a team dancer, not just a dancer.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block for you this year and how did you overcome it?

Debbie Roberts: Both Holly and I can tackle a lot. I’m used to handling problems; I’ve had 40 years of a lot of challenges and I would say that we don’t have a lot of big stumbling blocks, because when something happens we just regroup and go on and do something else. We don’t let anything become a stumbling block more than just a couple of minutes.

Holly Childs: I think the only “challenge” is since our magazine is in stores a lot longer than other magazines, we have to make sure that we’re not just doing that viral, happening right now, content. It has to be content that’s going to be relevant from February to May or from June until August, which that really helps us to tell more in depth stories or talk about things that aren’t just going to be irrelevant a week from now. You could pick up that magazine five years from now and the things inside would still be interesting because they’re not time sensitive.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment?

Debbie Roberts: I would say our photo shoots are just so inspiring because you get all of these kids together and they’re so excited that they are going to be honored for what they’ve done. These are kids who are hardcore dancers and they’ve worked themselves to the bone. They take seven days a week to dance. They just love it and they’re willing to do it as a career and they don’t even care if they make money. They’re just giving everything a million percent and that’s every photo shoot that we have. You see these kids on paper and I meet them quickly, maybe at a show, but then to work with them for a whole day is really fun. And I know a lot of magazines don’t even do photo shoots, they just get pictures from the kids. But we do a long photo shoot where everybody interacts and it’s a lot of work. Holly puts all of that together and it’s so rewarding.

Holly Childs: We do a big group photo shoot where it’s like one big fun day. We have some photo shoots where there are just one or two kids, but our main photo shoot is with the group we call “The Circle Society” who are the featured group for that issue of the magazine. They are a group of talented and inspiring dancers and we get them all together for one to two days and it’s one of the most inspiring times, just seeing all of the talent and hard work come together.

Another amazing moment is seeing the pictures of the dancers holding up the magazine when they get it in the mail or when they see it in Barnes & Noble, that’s another amazing moment.

Samir Husni: If we’re having this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me about Showstopper magazine and what it has accomplished?

Debbie Roberts: I would say that we strive, just like we do in the show, to be better than we were before. Every article to be better than it was the last issue just to try and give more to kids. And maybe to make the magazine 20 pages bigger to honor more kids or more dancers, just to always be better and always have more quality. We’re so learning right now and we’ve seen mistakes that we’ve made and just try to go on and do better next time. Every magazine is so exciting and we just strive for the next one to be better.

We try to do focus groups at our shows, and that’s the big thing at our shows that nobody has but us; we see probably 5,000 kids per weekend, so we can set up a little booth and ask the kids what they want to see in the magazine. I can put someone there for the whole day and ask the kids these things and nobody else can do that because we’re so connected with the competition and with these kids.

We can ask them what they want to see and what they don’t want to see. We have a whole survey that we do and we try to really stay with the kids, with the dancers, at all times. And nobody else can do that; nobody can touch us. They’re in an office in New York, not that that’s a bad thing, but they’re in an office and they never really meet any of the dancers. Anyone else’s main goal is to sell advertising and the magazine is secondary. And we’re just not that way, not that that’s a bad thing because that’s how they run their business and make money, but that’s not how we run things and make money. The bottom line would be the interaction with the kids. And it’s our lives.

Samir Husni: Is there anything either of you would like to add:

Holly Childs: And one thing to add is that we also have a theme around each edition, the last one was the gold edition and the next is the explore/adventure edition. Exploring new genres of dance and new hobbies and new travel locations. We always try to have a theme around each edition.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Debbie Roberts: I would say that we always did the very best and when we hit the best we said that we could do better. We just always want to be better and give more, that’s our philosophy.

Holly Childs: I like that too. That’s perfect; I wouldn’t add a thing to that. Never be satisfied.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Holly Childs: Planning the next day of work. (Laughs)

Debbie Roberts: You’d find me working on the magazine, that’s my very fun thing to do and because it’s a lot of research. I’d be looking at YouTube videos or at letters that kids have written to us about maybe why they want to be in the magazine, those kinds of things. Researching new trends or old trends that are coming back; who’s doing what; those are things that I’d be doing.

Holly Childs: I agree that no matter what we’re doing, whether on social media, or like Debbie said, on YouTube or flipping through magazines, watching commercials; it’s always in the back of our minds how we can use things that we’re drawn to in the magazine. So, even if we are relaxing, we’re always thinking too. (Laughs)

Debbie Roberts: Photo shoot ideas too; I’ll have a stack of magazines and go through them and say, if we could just get one big, wow photo shoot in every magazine. And the next issue is really cool because we have an elephant, so one big, wow photo shoot and how we can pull that off. What are the ideas; just all of those kinds of things. That’s it and it’s totally my life.

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

Debbie Roberts: Definitely the magazine. It’s not work at all, it’s just fun to gather up ideas, and after 40 years of really working hard loading trucks and working in a warehouse, getting everything ready for a show, now the magazine is just my sheer fun. Just giving back through the magazine and then seeing the end result. So, it’s definitely the magazine that keeps me up at night, no doubt about that.

And Holly is a newlywed, so that’s a whole different thing. (Laughs)

Holly Childs: (Laughs too) I agree. I am always thinking about how we can make things better. We’re both never satisfied with the last thing we did, which is why I think a year from now, if you were to ask us, it’s going to be 10 times better than right now because we’re never satisfied. We’re always thinking about how we can improve and what we can do different; what are the latest trends that we can do for the next photo shoot, things like that. It’s more of a morning and afternoon thought for me, but if I think of a photo shoot idea in the middle of the night, I grab my phone and write it down.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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