Let’s Read YM, April 1997!

Young and Modern, or YM, was one of the longest running magazines in the teenage girl market. It definitley lacked the polished All American Girl appeal of Seventeen, and as it focused heavily on subjects like dating and dieting, it knew its appeal to the tween-age and kept its editorial language informal and teen-friendly to the point of being hopelessly mired in the vernacular of a boy-crazy ninja turtle. Meanwhile, the July 2018 cover of Seventeen boasts an article about teen roles in gun reform and Teen Vogue regularly features columns about subverting the Trump Administration. It’s a very different world out there.

Take it away, Wikipedia:

The magazine was published for 72 years.[2] It was the oldest girls’ magazine in the United StatesYM got its start as two magazines in the 1930s—Compact, which was aimed at older teens, and Calling All Girls, which was intended for younger girls and pioneered the signature embarrassing-moments column, “Say Anything”. By the late 1960s, the publications merged into Young Miss, a small digest-sized mag. The 1980s saw a change in size to a regular magazine on glossy print (similar to ‘Teen) designed by Mark Borden. Several years later, still another title change (this time to Young & Modern) under Bonnie Fuller‘s direction as editor-in-chief. The final title change came in 2000 (this time to Your Magazine), though the abbreviation “YM” was the title by which it was commonly referred. In early 2002, then editor-in-chief Christina Kelly announced that the magazine would no longer run articles about dieting. YM ceased publication in 2004,[1] with the December–January issue.[3] Subscribers received Teen Vogue subscriptions in replacement.

For further reading, have a wonderful article on the history of defunct teen magazines, including YM, courtesy of The Hairpin.

This was an issue that I actually owned back in 1997, and I read it cover to cover to cover to cover because, well, we didn’t have the internet at home at the time. This is Tragic Kingdom Gwen at the height of her bindi-sporting, track pants and crop top-wearing, red lips and razor-thin eyebrow power. Something about this look, as there are now over twenty years of distance in between the last time I took a good look at it, screams SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ART SCHOOL CHOLA deafeningly loudly, with a cough and a whispered but-removed-of any-traces-of-actual-ethnicity-as-deemed-threatening-by-record-company-management.


This ad, like it or not, is iconic. This was part of a massive campaign that ran for a few years in every magazine geared towards females, and this was the best of them. Nowadays Jenny McCarthy makes us all uncomfortable for a much different set of reasons, but back then her image as “the hot blonde chick with no shame” made her a perfect fit for this ad campaign.

Girl, what is that on your head.

In the mid-90s Disney marketing had to really work to up-sell to teen girls as something grownup and classy, whereas in 2018 teenagers just go to school in Princess Jasmine cosplay.

Misandry of 1997!

Speaking of Mickey Mouse, how about those pants?

“Those girls look far too gay. We’re not a lesbian deodorant brand!”

“But we didn’t take any pictures of men for this ad and it goes to press in six hours!”

“Just go over to the rock climbing magazine office next door and see if they have something we can use. Girls won’t buy our products if there isn’t a shirtless man in the ad.”

As far as 90s graphic design goes, we’ve finally pulled ourselves out of the hole of neon colors and migraine-inducing backgrounds. They’re still in the “floating collage” style of layout, which is mostly readable except when the model’s ugly pants run right over the text. Also they couldn’t seem to get straight whether they were doing everything in lower case or respecting initial caps.

Speaking of getting straight, this magazine and particularly this issue is just BLINDINGLY heteronormative. And while the models of color number more than zero, it’s also overwhelmingly white in representation. I don’t know if teen magazines nowadays make an effort to be more inclusive, but I really hope they do.

If the New York Post is to be believed, the Editor-in-Chief Christina Ferrari left YM in 1998 to launch Teen People, then dropped everything in 2003 to run off to Europe with her Time editor boyfriend. Get Amy Schumer and Eugenio Derbez on the phone right now, this is shitty rom-com gold!

Hello 1997: a biracial person describing themselves as “half Vietnamese, half American” is really off-putting, in the sense that it implies white people are the default for Americans.

She really looks like Mila Kunis, but Mila Kunis would have been 13 or 14 at the time of this ad so I’m thinking no. Also every scrap of clothing in this ad is horrible.

The story about kicking the used pad under the bathroom stall still haunts me to this day. Most of these follow a pretty solid pattern of “I inflicted some kind of bodily harm to myself or the object of my affection”, and of course they are all editorial-styled to the point of sounding like the continuing misadventures of one very horny and very unlucky teenage girl.

You better believe that as soon as I got this issue I flipped right to this page to see if it still smelled like CK One. AND IT DOES.

Even when I was fourteen I’d read some of the faux valley-girl language in this magazine and cringe at the thought of some middle-aged woman sitting at her desk writing things like “the babe-o-rific bun”. Hey, Cheryl, should ‘babe-o-rific’ have one or two f’s? You wanna go get lunch?

The default makeup aesthetic of the late 90s was “Buy makeup, put on makeup, pretend you aren’t wearing any makeup”. You could probably walk up to the Kat Von D counter at Macy’s right now in 2018 and pick up a bunch of products called “Thick and Vampy”, “Too Shocking”, and “Harsh”. In fact, “Thick and Vampy” sounds a lot like a drag queen catchphrase.

This magazine is also really big on “Yes, but what do guys think?”, which I didn’t care for then and I don’t care for now. There’s way too much of the “hot girls don’t need so much makeup to be hot” school of thought here. They all look like they’re wearing the exact same amount of makeup to me – Brandy seems to be getting unfairly attacked here.

This seems…gross, and somehow even more invasive than that survey in Disney Adventures which questioned little kids about their consumer spending habits.

Be the coolest girl in school with your free mail-order granny panties!

Most of these models went on to brief and very bright careers, and they now do other things like breed horses and run lifestyle blogs. Amy Wesson achieved immortality as the girl on the cover of The Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore album. Neato.

It doesn’t get more “1997 Male Model” than someone named “Quin Huntly”. Quin appears to be doing fine for himself these days, presumably after he added the E back into his last name so that he didn’t sound like the hottest teen male model of 1997.

Well, that’s certainly the first time in a very long time that these eyes have seen the name “Merril Bainbridge”.

“It’s been five years, and I know it’ll last forever”

“The AIDS Quilt Brought Us Together (But We Broke Up Like a Month Later), A 90s Love Story”

There was a whole series of these. I always liked them.

Another instance of I’m Pretty Sure No Male Would Ever Write To A Teen Girl Magazine To Whine About Virginity, so if it’s a plant it seems like one geared towards reminding girls that boys who feel overly entitled to having sex are losers. Which is nice.

I remember a time when “wench” was used in slang as a bowdlerized version of bitch.

We also used “wretch”. Like “You used up all my Exclamation, you little wretch!”

Again, picture a grown-ass woman who most definitely has a BA in Journalism at minimum from probably some nice place like Northwestern, writing “feast your eyes on 20 totally tasty biscuits!” in a dimly lit cubicle full of pictures of her kids.

Please resist the urge to stalk these people to see where they are now, as they aren’t public figures and it’s weird. I think YM was a little naive in publishing these guys’ full names and their home cities, as the Internet did exist at the time and it might have been possible to invade their privacy online even back then. But whatever – onto the Undiscovered Hunks of 1997.

Francisco Perez was my number one pick back in the day. He has Dreamboat Hair AND he seems to appreciate wearing clothes.

Wh-why are some of these guys in their 20s? Robert up there already graduated from college?! And he’s being pimped out to rando horny thirteen year old girls?!

Teenage me was rather uncomfortable with all the guys posing shirtless, although I spared an exception for Donni Johnansen and his pretty face. It looks like his sister may have been the one who nominated him, though, so scratch that one. I imagine Courtney Butler also submitted a shirtless photo, but the overwhelming pastyness of his skin rendered half of the YM staff blind when they opened the envelope.

As a Serious Internet Historian, I was compelled to do follow-up research to find out who the heck won this contest, and found the October 1997 issue for sale via used bookstore on Amazon. In search of answers without actually wanting to buy the thing, I sent the owner of the store a message in which the words “hunk” were used way too often. Here is the very charming response that he sent back to me.

Hi – the hunk winner for 1997 for YM was…( drum roll)… from a list of several candidates, all of whom look like they would have beaten me out had I been a candidate then, which I wouldn’t have been…is..(was)…Billy Iser. I don’t personally know of the gentleman, but I believe that he would indeed have been considered hunky, and then some, by the fair gender demographic which constituted the circulation for YM – including you! Don’t know what’s happened to Young Mr. Iser since, but I’m sure you could Google that…

– Best, Jeff

So, thank you very much, Jeff, for answering a question that had haunted me for twenty years. And now I can be officially upset that it wasn’t Francisco Perez, because Billy Iser up there looks like a major creep-biscuit or whatever this magazine would want me to say.

Are your boobs too small? Does your lipstick keep disappearing? Is there a truck coming out of your face?

Again, why are we hearing from 24 year old guys?!

I look forward to the zany adventures these kids have with their new friend, Jason Voorhees.

If you don’t want your models posing like they’re incredibly embarrassed to be in your ad, maybe don’t put them in such hideous shorts.

The genius of this ad is that it could run for decades and no one would know.  I’ve always felt that this ad is weirdly off-character for both Bart and Lisa, from the awkward syntax to the church clothes. I didn’t think it was possible to make cartoon characters sound like they were stumbling over lines, but here we are. If Bart was ruining a nice picture like the little scamp he is, why would they be drinking milk in the picture in the first place?

This is actually a fairly well-known article, as it captures a juicy little spat between Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal that I’m sure got Jonathan Bernstein whatever the teen girl magazine equivalent of the Pulitzer is that year. It’s commonly cited as an example of the band’s history of Gwen getting singled out for the cover and putting her in focus for most of the interview.

“No boys liked me in high school because I was chubby” was this weird tentpole “Wow, she’s so relateable!” anecdote that was used a lot in the band’s/Gwen’s early marketing. Which is just awful. And no natural English speaker in the history of the English language, outside of perhaps a Ninja Turtle, has ever said “A rad slice of pizza”.

15 years later, Gavin screws the nanny and the fairytale is over! Love is dead!

Hey, look! There are guys in this band too! Ones that didn’t even date Gwen! The editorial heavy-breathing-valley-girl voice is really trying to please Interscope Records’s marketing team by running heartthrob-style profiles of everyone who is not Gwen and it’s so awkward.

Because all diets should have names that invoke The Holocaust!

I still have no idea what The Final Solution that they’re selling here is. They’re really up front about telling you what it isn’t – not a pill, not a thigh-master, not a crash diet – so I think it’s probably a piece of paper that tells you to eat less and exercise more. It appears to still be around, and I am yet at a loss to figure out what the heck the Final Solution Diet strategy actually is.

Two of these people went on to play Bruce Banner’s girlfriend!

Who needs to look good for themselves, right?

Chunky platform wedges! So comfortable for falling over and breaking your ankle!

“Well, I have been saving up for a pair of snappy orthopedic shoes”

Gosh, I hope Reese Witherspoon got to work with BRYAN FILLIPE! Magic Hour was apparently released as Twilight, and had dreamy Paul Newman in it, but none of this matters because Pleasantville is just around the corner.

Just in case you needed a refresher on the buzz band’s rad top tunes that awesomely rule:

The band now sells beer and weed vapes.

What’s Christian Bale up to since we last saw him in 1993? Well, they didn’t give him much room to complain about everything this time, so we’re left to learn that he likes females and he is getting a terrible haircut for some movie that no one will see.

Maxwell got steamrolled out of popularity by D’Angelo, because I guess America has room for only one hot singing black guy at a time.

A List Of 100% Accurate And Not At All Bullshit Things That I Learned About Leonardo DiCaprio From This Staggering Work of Gonzo Journalism That Seems Really Unsettling in The Year 2018:

  • The habit of plowing through piles of models who all look exactly the same was already ingrained in him in his early 20s
  • He learned about sex from Pauly Shore
  • He really seems to enjoy putting down people who kiss him
  • He got to kiss David Thewlis?

He’s also gearing up to play someone named James in this really expensive guaranteed-flop called Titanic. Hope that works out for him. Who wants to watch a boat sink for three hours, am I right?

What’s that? Kidnap Paul Rudd?

Love’s Baby Soft – because love is never simple. Tell it like it is, deodorant.

I’m a 9. Guess I should go find a yearbook staff to sign up for.

The Delia’s Catalog was a staple for many. I’d talk about it more, but I’m really distracted by the pained smile on the face of the woman who is trying to show off her plastic boob enhancers.

The writers really outdid themselves on the Drew Barrymore one.

Finally, I usually take note of Chanel ads because in most cases they’re striking and timeless. This is the worst Chanel ad I have ever seen. I don’t know what was happening in this era where the default design was to just put a model against a backdrop of the perfume and call it a day. Your perfume costs more than the average teen’s entire part-time paycheck. Give me a story! Give me fashion! WORK FOR IT, CHANEL!

Thank you for reading another week with me! Next week will be the Cavalier from April 1965 that I promised last time. The last few weeks have been a personal clusterfuck for me, so getting to indulge in some 1997 nostalgia was a real treat for me this time.

For those interested in the feedback survey I put out a few weeks ago…

  • A surprisingly overwhelming majority (65%) of you like to be surprised with what I’m putting out for the week ahead.
  • Most of you are fine with the quality of images, but as noted they could be better. There IS a workaround that may help with fuzzy text, as WordPress automatically resizes/compresses the photos that I upload.
    • Right-click on picture and open in a new tab.
    • Look at the URL and take note of where the jpg extension ends. Delete that little bit that starts at the ? so that it’s just the .jpg.
    • Refresh the tab. Better?
  • You were evenly split between wanting content now, being willing to wait for clearer images, and telling me that it was not a big deal, which I appreciated.
  • Most of you are fine with how many images per post.
  • There’s another even split between people who comment, people who occasionally comment, and people who never comment. I’m thankful for all of you.
  • I’m sorry that I put 55% of you through an existential crisis when I reminded you that the 2000s were almost 20 years ago.
  • 28% of you expressed some interest in doing a guest column, which is wonderful!
  • 41% of you were fine with me including a Trump in a feature if I see one in the wild, and a delightful 48% want to make sure I’m mean about it.
  • 48% of you wouldn’t mind either way if I moved the timing of this feature, but a sizeable 24% and 20% had opinions on either staying or posting later. This was really helpful to know and I’m going to stick to Friday afternoons for now, but I’ll keep that in mind for the future.

As for responses to comments:

  • There were some really good ideas for magazines like The Advocate, Smash Hits, Time, and National Geographic, so I’m looking at all of those. I have just acquired a very in-demand 1988 issue of Sassy, which I know will make several readers extremely happy!
  • Fair use: we’re definitley in the grey area here, copyright-wise. A few things that keep me out of trouble are that 1) I don’t reproduce the whole publication, and 2) Neither myself nor The Avocado makes any money from writing and publishing this. If someone comes after me with a good reason to pull their magazine review, I’ll pull it, but for now I don’t think there’s anything off the table. I do get a little uneasy when I realize that magazines like The Saturday Evening Post have their fully digitized archives paywalled, as I feel like I’m undercutting them. So probably no more SEPs in the future.
  • I like the idea of a high-res showcase and will plot something for a later project.
  • Unfortunately the only weekday that works for me to publish this is Friday, so as much as I’d love for this to go up on a less bonkers content weekday, it’s Friday or nothin’.

So THANK YOU, YOU BEAUTIFUL HUMANS who responded to the survey and provided your excellent feedback. See you next week!