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'Magazine Mavens' Discuss Cultural Leaders, Holiday Tips

Ms. DAMARYS OCANA (Associate Editor, Latina magazine): Thank you. It's a pleasure to here.

Ms. ANGELA BURT-MURRAY (Editor in chief, Essence magazine): Thank you.

Ms. AMY GROSS (Editor in chief, O, Oprah magazine): Thank you.


It's time to start thinking about things to buy for the holidays. I want to start with O. You've got several things from high in perfumes to cupcake mix. So, Amy, what makes your list of hot things hot?

Ms. GROSS: There's a panel, a bunch of us, who get walked through maybe 200 items. You know, some items they show us and we jump up and down, and we fight to taste. And others - goes, aww, not so much, not so much. So it's really like a group's sweep and we kind of all respond to the same things except Gayle King always likes everything in yellow, and I like chartreuse, but…

MARTIN: Well, that's because you don't fight, right?

Ms. GROSS: Yeah. And it seems - you know, it's very important to us that we address the range of women. So our price range here is from $13 up to what we call over-the-top. We like to deal with kids and beaus and boyfriends and lovers and mothers. And we just wanted to be able put stuff under the tree for everyone.

MARTIN: Okay. Angela, what about you?


MARTIN: Essence also has a list. What do you think is going to be hot this year for your readers?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Well, I think that everyone, including Essence readers, are most excited about the latest technology gadgets. So it's definitely anything that's coming out of Apple these days, also new laptops and gaming systems and things like that. So, you know, if you got to plug it in, it's probably going to be pretty popular this season.

MARTIN: All of you are also interested in traditions, how to maintain tradition while not being bound by it. Amy, I want to go back to you on this. I wonder how you manage this. You're magazine is very multi-cultural. Is that by design, number one? And how do you balance the fact that so many of your readers are going to be coming from very different senses of tradition?

Ms. GROSS: It's an interesting thing for you to picked up because this goes across the board. When we're planning a fashion page, we're talking to a woman who's 20 or 70. I always say somebody who's cleaning the house for you and somebody who owns the house. We've really are talking to a woman's heart. So when we think of who are readers is, it's every woman. We don't - I don't see an image. I've worked for a lot of women's magazines, like Elle and Vogue and Mademoiselle, and there was always a woman I could see. And I don't see any specific woman here. So when we're thinking about traditions, I mean, first of all, Christmas - Christian, there's a weight that we want to give to a holiday season because we're in America and it's a holiday season no matter whether you're Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist or Christian. But we really try to get at the idea of holiday in the sense that people really are going to be gathering.

And what we addressed this year, particularly, was how do we refresh traditions. We have a couple of pieces in this issue about one family that just decided to go gift-free. They just stopped it. It was so…

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: My children would leave me.

Mr. GROSS: Oh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GROSS: If any…

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: It's great idea though.

Ms. GROSS: Yeah, great. It could work to some families.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Oh, yeah.

Ms. GROSS: In fact, in this story, it was the son of the writer who suggested it.


Ms. GROSS: And so they've - they established another tradition. They go for a hike with the neighbors, but they make toffee and they make jam. And there's this ritual exchange of these homemade food stuffs, and it's lovely but without the pressure.


Ms. GROSS: There's another writer says they have a law of love the one you're with. So if you're going to be in the room with them in Christmas, you get a present, otherwise you don't.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Mm-hmm. Okay.

MARTIN: That sounds like Kwanzaa. It sounds a lot like Kwanzaa - the emphasis on the homemade. And, Angela, that brings me to you…

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Yeah, yeah.

MARTIN: …because I've noticed that Essence is also including a lot of religions, practices other than Christianity in their coverage of spirituality and acknowledging…

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

MARTIN: …other beliefs and faiths other than Christianity, and why is that?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Well, December is actually our family and faith issue. So this year, we decided to take a look at, as you said, a variety of faiths in a special package called How We Worship, which is actually a photo essay that we commissioned with New York Times photographer Chester Higgins Junior, who traveled around the country and took these beautiful portraits of different people practicing their faiths. And then, the copy that accompanies the photographs really takes the reader inside - how these people worship and what they get out of their special individual connection.

MARTIN: All of you also did pieces on fashion, of course, especially for the holidays. For the holidays are a lot of shine, a lot (unintelligible). I also want to point out something that Amy said that you - careful to make sure you have something for every size and every price range. So, Damarys, talk to me about what's in Latina. And what are some of the things that you think people are going to be excited around fashion-wise?

Ms. OCANA: Well, it's…

MARTIN: And really what all on us, can I get my sequins back out, please?

Ms. OCANA: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Can I get it without looking '80s, without having to bring the shoulder pads with it?

Ms. OCANA: No, you can absolutely get those sequence back out. And, in fact, if you see on page 145, we have a beautiful Escada dress that is all just head-to-toe bling. For Latin women, December is definitely family time. I mean it's family time for us every day of the year. Sometimes, you know, you just can't get away from your family whether you like or not. You know, it's - so that means parties at everybody's house. And no matter if it's a backyard barbeque or a dinner indoors, Latin women love to dress up, and Latin women come in all kinds of sizes and colors and shapes. So we really go out of our way to try to include something for everyone.

MARTIN: Is shine, the thing, this year?

Ms. OCANA: Shine is definitely a thing. Belts have been a thing all year. We have a couple of lacey little numbers. We have some lovely dresses that are -that have like lace over lay, over satin. And it doesn't have to be like white, traditional white lace. It can be a darker color.

MARTIN: Angela, and what's hot for holiday fashion for Essence readers?

Ms. OCANA: Well, you're in luck, sequins are back in a major way so you could bring them all out. You might want to take the shoulder pads out first, but…

MARTIN: I have to…

Ms. OCANA: …you could definitely use the sequins. And, you know, we're seeing a lot of short dresses. We're seeing a lot of jeweled accents and different things like that. So it's, you know, all about being comfortable in what you want to wear and just expressing your individual style.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. It's our monthly visit with the Magazine Mavens, Angela Burt-Murray, Damarys Ocana and Amy Gross.

We're getting close to the New Year and many who we pick people had some type of influence over the course of the year. Amy, you did a piece on the next generation of leaders, featuring folks like Kerry Kennedy, Martin Luther King III and Kristine Chavez. Why did you choose this piece?

Ms. GROSS: I, for one, am feeling really scared about war and threats to the planet, and I heard about this group called Gen2(ph). And I was so excited that people with clout were banding together to go behind the scenes to use their influence in ways that might actually make a difference to our world. These are names that inspire me so much. Naomi Tutu, for heaven sakes, I mean, her -Archbishop Desmond Tutu, we call him, you know, Desmond McDreamy Tutu.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GROSS: We are his fan club over the Oprah magazine. And he actually is part of a group called the Elders with Bishop Tutu, with Nelson Mandela, with Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson, the former prime minister of Ireland…

MARTIN: Ireland president. President of Ireland.

Ms. GROSS: …president of Ireland and great people. And they are again pulling their good intentions and their power to talk to world leaders and to try to have an effect that's using non-military means. So it's not necessarily the next generation of leaders. We're really talking about peacekeepers -peacemakers. So, it seems like, right now, we're calling this a gift of peace.

MARTIN: Interesting. It is very interesting. And Latina magazine also did a list of Latinos of the year. The number one person was musician Juanes. Damarys, why Juanes?

Ms. OCANA: He is just this fantastic, all around guy. What can I say? He's kind of our Bono because not only does he make great - very danceable, memorable music, but he's also very socially conscious and active in a lot of social causes. He comes from Colombia. And as you know…

MARTIN: A country, which has experienced a very great deal of violence also, of course, for the last few years.

Ms. OCANA: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Also, of course, in the last few years.

Ms. OCANA: Absolutely. And so his cause that he's taken up - he has his own foundation that helps soldiers that have been involved in fighting the FARC guerillas who have come back and don't have jobs, to sort of psychologically rehabilitate themselves and find jobs. He also helps children who are victims of the landmines to sort of get back on their feet. So he's kind of a big role model for us. And we love him for all that stuff and also for refusing to sing in English or any other language.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. OCANA: He feels very strongly about his Columbian and Latin roots. And we really salute him for that. This is the first time that we've included men in the - on the list. When you have an artist like this who sort of transcends race, gender, any of that stuff, people want to hear from Juanes. He's definitely the entertainer of the year.

MARTIN: Okay. And Angela, Essence did…


MARTIN: …your own list of influential people. And you had notable, such as Barack Obama, Mayor Cory Booker, 19-year-old filmmaker Carey Davis(ph). What were the criteria for inclusion on that list?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Well, actually…

MARTIN: And I noticed Condoleezza Rice was not on the list.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: She was not on the list. We actually - this is the first time that we put this list together and we really wanted to take a look at the, you know, bold-faced names like Barack and, you know, Oprah and people like that who, you know, have done extraordinary things. But we also wanted to make it a mix of ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things for the community. So we have people on the list like a fascinating young woman named Gina McCauley, who is the founder of a blog called

And this is a young woman who is an attorney, who has launched this Web site and has basically made it her mission to take to task, people who are putting out negative or exploitive images of African-American women. And also reporting on crimes against African-American women that are getting very little media attention. So this is a woman who basically single-handedly took on BET this year and got them to take a second look at a program that they were going to launch called Hot Ghetto Mess and…

MARTIN: Which is inspired by a blog, which is also by an African-American woman.


MARTIN: You are mentioning those one other person you wanted to highlight?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Oh, I was just going to say, environmentalist Majora Carter, who is really tackling the issue of environmental racism in urban communities. This is a very serious issue that, you know, the environmental movement has not really tackled the idea of poor communities and mostly, communities of color that are basically under attack by companies that are not being environmentally conscious. And, you know, this is just an extraordinary young woman that's done some amazing things in the Bronx and is really trying to take her message worldwide.

MARTIN: And don't be shocked when they appear on this program.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Oh, great. No, it's good.

MARTIN: I was going to wait a decent interval to…

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: There's no need to wait.

MARTIN: …to pass before, call I them up and…

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: There is no need to wait.

MARTIN: …pretend that it was my idea.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: That's okay.

MARTIN: But Angela, I have to say, I happen to notice that of…


MARTIN: …the 25 most influential people that you highlight, the 17 were men.


MARTIN: And eight were women. I was wondering if does that give you pause?

great deal in the office when we were putting the list together. And, you know, it leads me to a conversation that we've also been having internally about the idea that a lot of conversations being had in the African-American community have traditionally been led by men. And where are the women? You know, the women are the people that, you know, do a lot of the work behind the scenes, but they very rarely get a lot of the accolades and the support. But know that it's our mission at Essence to make sure that we find those women.

MARTIN: But the secretary of state is not on the list, African-American women, first one.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Yeah, she didn't have that great a year.


(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Ladies, before I let you go, do you mind - I hope I'm not putting you on the spot, but I would love to know what is your favorite holiday tradition.

Ms. GROSS: If we could start with Thanksgiving.

MARTIN: Sure, Amy.

Ms. GROSS: I love Thanksgiving dinner. I love every morsel we eat. I'm crazy about root vegetables.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GROSS: But I love that this family gets together year after year after year and now it's at the point where it keeps growing. I've got nieces who now bring boyfriend, now it's a fiancée, now it's a husband, now the other niece has just gotten engaged. And if the family grows, it's like - it's really life playing out right at the dinner table as we pass the pumpkin pie. I just love it.

MARTIN: Oh, that's lovely. Damarys?

Ms. OCANA: It's a beautiful sentiment.


Ms. OCANA: Well, for me, it's kind of a weird - I love Christmas. In my house, we have, with my parents and my sisters and now their husbands and kids. We always have a very traditional Thanksgiving, which I love. And that's sort of our nod to this great country for taking us in when we came from Cuba. But Christmas is, you know, all Latino. My mom makes this great pot roast with my favorite black beans and rice and tamales and things like that that are just very Latin. And every time I go down to Miami and have that stuff, I just feel totally at home, you now.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm. And you wouldn't be sending a care package down here, would you?

(Soundbite of laughter)


Ms. OCANA: Yes, I will take your address.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Angela?

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: I think I enjoy Thanksgiving also. But Christmas is very special when you have young children. And my boys are 6 and 8, and they still have that complete and total wonder in their eyes on Christmas morning, which is, you know, certainly a blessing that my husband and I are so thankful to be able to share the holidays with them and to have family come in from all over the country and just enjoy that wonderful day together. It's just - it's really special.

MARTIN: Well, that's lovely. Angela Burt-Murray is editor-in-chief of Essence magazine. Damarys Ocana is writer at large of Latina magazine. Amy Gross is editor-in-chief of O, the Oprah magazine. They all joined us from our NPR New York bureau. Ladies, thank you so much for joining us.

Ms. BURT-MURRAY: Thank you, Michel.

Ms. OCANA: Fantastic.

Ms. GROSS: Thank you.

MARTIN: Damarys Ocana, writer at large of Latina magazine talked a lot about musical artist and activist, Juanes. In case you were curious about his music, we've got a little bit for you. Here's Juanes' singing "Es Por Ti."

(Soundbite of song, "Es Por Ti") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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