When news broke that Associated Media Publishing would be closing down permanently, it meant something deep to the many women that were raised by its brilliance.
I must have been about 13 when I discovered Cosmopolitan magazine. The bond was immediate; I knew, even though I was not a woman at the time, that I was that kind of woman. There was something radical, free and game changing about what I understood the women on those pages to be and I wanted in.
Throughout my high school years, not a month went by when my dad wouldn’t buy me my stack of magazines, with Cosmo always being right at the top and a non-negotiable. It was in Standard 7 or 8 that I decide that my dream job was to write for Cosmo.
It turned out to be the only dream job I would have until I co-founded an agency.
In my early twenties, I saw a job posting for a writer at my dream job. I had been working towards that dream, doing other writing jobs, gaining experience and biding my time. The interviews went well; I went to two. At the second one , my mom was parked outside, my driver and constant cheerleader. I was told I made it to the top two, but that did nothing to get me to my dream job.
More years, articles and interviews went by and the dream job came my way again. This time I got it and had to leave a job that I actually loved and was excelling at. When I resigned, my boss said, “How can I even be mad when a girl says she’s going to work for Cosmo?”.
Off I went, dreamy eyed and in awe of the fact that I was going to be doing what I had wanted to do since I was a teenage girl.
With hindsight, I look at my years at Cosmo as the years I became myself both career wise and as a woman. Like all fantasies, reality was a bit more stressful than reading the magazine had been in years gone by. But still, in those corridors where Marie Claire and its well-dressed team were down the hall, where there were brain storming sessions that induced belly aches and long-lasting friendships, I started to become the woman I would be.
As with all great love stories, a little bit of disappointment is inevitable. When Sbu Mpungose strutted into the Cosmo offices to be our new commander in chief, there was a buzz in the air. The first black editor of this powerhouse title.
We shot Lalla Hirayama for what was going to be an epic cover. She even turned down another cover to do this one. Once the final product was done and dusted, the cover was shot down by the powers that be, not agreeing with Sbu’s direction. It was a chance to move with a changing tide and the company missed it. They only started seeing it about five years later. A missed opportunity and hopefully a mistake I can avoid on my own journey as an entrepreneur.
Their own story
Most people have their own Cosmo story. Whether as a reader, another woman whose dream we made come true when we called asking to feature them or someone who disagreed with what the brand stood for. Associated Magazines [or Associated Media Publishing as it became] was a powerhouse and will remain so through those who were trained in those hallways, studios and offices.
As we all keep writing our own stories and pivoting as needed by our own lives, the lessons that raised us stay alive, taking up new form in a million little directions.
At Associated, my love for women and the brands that speak to them was born. It would show parts of itself in every job I’ve held since and ultimately in my new dream of building Asante Blush, where women, brands and connections are at the centre of what we do.
What Jane Raphaely did for girls like me and girls nothing like me is something to celebrate and be lauded for its revolutionary way of changing this country’s landscape. Associated touched the careers of Zodwa and Zanele Kumalo, Norma Young, Kim Garner, Carla, Calitz, Linda Mali Lilian, Osagie, Mbali Soga, Lutho Vuso, Mathahle Stofile and many more incredible women who found and carved bits of themselves under that umbrella and continue to flourish in other spaces.
So as this institution closes its doors, I am reminded that the future relies on us doing the most right now. Daring to dream, daring to act, daring to create a new landscape from which other generations of women will thrive. It is after all what Jane Raphaely and Associated Media Publishing did for us.
‘The end of an era’: CEO of Associated Media Publishing, Julia Raphaely, broke the news on Thursday that the company would be closing for business. The following day, 1 May 2020, it ceased publishing, marking the end of one of South Africa’s most renowned independent publishers.
“This is the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. For the last 38 years, AMP has been one of South Africa’s leading publishers and our titles have been part of many people’s lives. It’s a big blow for magazine media brands in South Africa as they hold a special place in our country. We never thought this day would come, but we are left with no choice,” Raphaely said in a statement.
The “unexpected and devastating impact of COVID-19 lies behind the decision. The closure of printing and distribution channels, the massive hit on ad spend and being unable to host events, so much a part of publishers’ revenue these days, “made it impossible to continue trading, despite large amounts of personal funds going into AMP”.
Raphaely’s mother, Jane, launched the company in 1982.
Zama Nkosi-Mabuye, with Cuma Pantshwa, is a founder and director of Asante Blush, an agency designed to serve and help brands and organisations elevate women’s voices.
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