5 Things I Know About Working On DOLLY Magazine

5 Things I Know About Working On Dolly Magazine

I absolutely loved working on DOLLY magazine. I had two stints on the iconic Aussie teen bible. The first was as Deputy Editor in 2004 (I left to edit Cosmopolitan Bride, Hair & Beauty and Pregnancy magazines). The second stint was as DOLLY Editor-In-Chief from 2007-2008. And boy oh boy was it an experience. Here’s five things I know about working on DOLLY magazine…

1. It was fun!

And surprisingly, not that dissimilar to what’s it’s like in the movies (I’m thinking more Kate Hudson’s 10 Ways to Lose a Guy than Devil Wears Prada). My first experience at DOLLY was as a workie (aka work experience student) in 1999. I sat in awe of the team, wishing for their jobs, and sifting through the DOLLY mailbag – a huge sack (like Santa’s) stuffed with thousands of letters addressed to DOLLY Doctor or begging for cute boy posters in the mag’.

5 Things I Know About Working On DOLLY Magazine Covers Miranda Kerr & Rhianna

Miranda’s modelling career began with DOLLY. Rhianna is still a hit 10 years later.

Fast forward to 2004, and I returned as Deputy Editor for a brief time, and then boomeranged back as Editorial Director in 2007, just when Facebook exploded onto computer screens and email replaced the DOLLY mailbag. It was a revolution – readers could write directly to the editor and get a personal reply! We were a team of young (all in our 20s), passionate (we took pimples and periods very seriously) hip chicks with our finger on the teen-pulse. The office walls were literally plastered in boy band pin-ups and boys on the box (aka TV guys like Adam Brody and the Home & Away hotties). The team worked together, hung out on weekends and achieved great career successes – launching DOLLY events and spin-off magazines.

DOLLY Magazine Covers Rachel Bilson & Hilary Duff: 5 Things I Know About Working On Dolly Magazine

Rachel Bilson always guaranteed good sales. Hillary Duff on tour in OZ = great sales.

2. The pay was rubbish but the perks were amaze balls…

Think of the kookiest teenager you know, add hoarder tendencies, a pinch of goth, a dash of teenage hysteria, three tablespoons of boy infatuation, 500mls of insecurity and two litres of fluro pink. Got that? That’s what the DOLLY office looked like when you combined all the perks we were sent in. In one day, it would not be unusual to be sent a miniature bonsai tree, VIP tickets to Pink’s concert, polka dot-printed panty liners and a Witchcraft For Beginners kit… There were movie premier invites, beauty loot galore (granted, most was lip gloss and acne treatments), fashion freebies and a constant stream of stars coming through the office door. The pay was totes rubbish – it barely covered the rent and there were times I actually missed meals – but the work was awesome and the friendships lifelong.

5 Things I Know About Working On DOLLY Magazine Cover Mischa Barton & Ashley Tisdale

Ashley Tisdale ROCKED! Bad girl Mischa Barton.

Related: Cleo Magazine’s Closure: My Personal Experience

3. It was also hard work…

There was a massive responsibility on our young shoulders and the scrutiny was fierce. Social watchdog groups pulled us up about everything, and I am sure some of those trumpet mouths had never actually read a copy of DOLLY for years. We had a strict code on ‘sex’ topics that were covered editorially by Australia’s leading health and teen experts, and made sure every issue featured a cross-section of teens of all body shapes, sizes, ethnicities and locations in Australia. We filled the pages with reader-supplied photos and stories they sent in (and posters!). There were fashion and beauty pages too, which I will not apologise for. I know as a teenager experimenting with make-up, fashion and how I presented myself to the world, was a huge part of my personal development and self-awareness. Knee-high socks worn with a back-combed bouffant was ‘in’ one minute, the next it was all about fluro anklets with chemically straightened. It was fun! We knew we had to feature a snapshot of society – if teens can’t pick up a mag’ and see their reflection in the pages, or a representation of their mates, they won’t buy it and they won’t feel good about the mag.

5 Things I Know About Working On DOLLY Magazine Cover Mischa Barton & Ashley Tisdale

Selena Gomez breakin’ a sweat. Kristen Stewart’s vampire look.

With mag’ sales declining globally, we had a big job to do. It was the start of massive internet consumption and teens were the first to flock online and spend their cash on other luxuries, like phone credit… This sparked a bitter tip-on battle (free gifts with the magazine) against Girlfriend magazine – who was number two in the market. If there are two similar mag’s on the news stand and one has a free phone cover/designer T-shirt/handbag, the reader is going to buy that one. Loyalty is fickle. All the same issues that rock the mag’ world today, really.

5 Things I Know About Working On Dolly Magazine: DOLLY Magazine Covers Scarlett Johanson & Vanessa Hudgens with Ashley Tisdale

Scarlett Johanson’s prom queen rendition. Vanessa Hudgens & Ashley Tisdale were BFFs.

4. We dealt with divas… and twats

But only sometimes. Mainly the celebs were lovely and grateful they were receiving publicity in the magazine. There are exceptions though. One reality pop star let her five minutes of fame go to her head. I will refer to her as ‘Alex’ for discretionary purposes. The DOLLY team loved Alex. She was Aussie, broke the Barbie doll pop star mould, appeared genuine, fun and real. So we featured her in the mag all the time – she was our poster girl, and even invited her to headline one of our reader concerts. I was gagging to meet her, and as Editorial Director felt it appropriate to introduce myself and thank her for performing. But when I popped backstage to introduce myself, she literally looked me up and down, gave me reluctant ‘hi’, and turned back to her friend, ignoring me. I was gob smacked! It went against everything we stood for at DOLLY and was bitterly disappointing. Another actor, who was the number-one talent on screens at the time, refused to answer any of my questions because he believed I hadn’t ‘researched him enough’ (apparently I should have already known the answers to some of the questions). Well, mate, hate to break it to you but I need the answers in your words, not mine… Most celebs loved being ambassadors for teens. And there were some real gems, including Fuzzy (Video hits presenter), Natalie Bassingthwaighte, and many sporting greats.

DOLLY Magazine Covers Blake Lively Rachel Bilson: 5 Things I Know About Working On Dolly Magazine

Blake and her cutesy furry friend! Quintessential good girl Rachel Bilson.

Related: 500 Things I Know About Working On Cosmopolitan Magazine

5. It was emotionally rewarding…

Despite the tears, tiaras, tantrums and divas, I absolutely loved working on DOLLY. I made it my mission to address issues of peer-group pressure, bullying, body image, self-esteem, boys – dating and rejection.  It was an honour and a privilege to feel like I had helped young women in some way. I remember vividly what it was like to go through all of these issues. Reliving my teens again via DOLLY was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.

DOLLY Magazine Covers Miley Cyrus & Amanda Bynes: 5 Things I Know About Working On Dolly Magazine

Miley Cyrus was always a cover risk. Pink + leather + bad ass Amanda Bynes.


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