The faithful flock have returned to Michael’s. A smattering of boldface names (Star Jones, Donny Deutsch, Bill McCuddy) were sprinkled around the dining room. No one — but me, of course — seemed to notice that television titan Dick Wolf slipped in just after 1 o’clock with Edie Falco. Could the Emmy-winning actress be headed back to series television? Stay tuned.
I was joined today by Elizabeth Goodman Artis, Shape’s editor in chief, and Meredith’s vice president of communications, Patrick Taylor, who came armed with the latest issues. Actress Kate Beckinsale, who is currently making the PR rounds promoting her new film, is on the January/February cover. I told Elizabeth I noticed a decidedly more stylish and stylized look to Shape’s covers last year and found the issues that featured Khloe Kardashian and Lea Michele particularly eye-catching. (More on those ladies later)
Elizabeth is a veteran of the health-fitness books, having worked at Fitness, Prevention (and prevention.com) before joining Shape three years ago. Her first order of business when she landed at the top of the masthead was “to bring joy to the magazine.” A longtime scuba diving enthusiast who is planning to go “wreck diving” in March, Elizabeth said, “I wanted to figure out ways to make exercise joyful. There is a connection between emotion and physical health. They’re not silos.”
Strict edicts about diets and the ‘Lose 10 pounds in 10 days!’ type of thing have no place on Shape’s pages. “That type of thing is over as far as I’m concerned,” she said. “We don’t make easy promises.”
“It’s about personalized goals,” she said. “For years the readers in this space were underestimated.” Women in Shape’s key demo of ages 18-40 consider “wellness” a lifestyle. “Millennials want a flexibility to live their life. It’s not finite.”
Elizabeth is also on a mission to do away with pages of exercises that differentiate between “beginners” and more “advanced” exercisers. ” Her solution: the forthcoming “scale” symbol which will appear on the pages and can be scanned to give readers different options depending on their fitness level. “Anybody can do a plank for two seconds. Scale it down If you can only do that, do two seconds and the next time try for three. It takes the intimidation out of exercise.”
Between bites of salad nicoise, Elizabeth sounded most passionate when she talked about the issue of body shaming that permeates the culture. “I say to women ‘You are not fat! Stop calling yourself fat! Women have been subjected to so much body shaming for so many years. There is so much anxiety about women’s bodies. I want to change the conversation.”
With a total audience of 14.5 million, Elizabeth has the opportunity to change a lot minds. Shape’s digital platform garners an average of 6.2 million monthly uniques. Thanks to New Year’s resolutions, this month that number has spiked to nearly 9 million. Readers have embraced the “Love My Shape” campaign with #LovemySHAPE generating over 200 million impressions and 11,000 user-uploaded media.
Elizabeth has twice weekly meetings with Shape’s digital editor to keep the brand messaging in sync. The print and online staff write for both platforms. “The online editors love print because they get a byline and long lead time,” she said.
Shape’s full slate of consumer events is also part of the brand’s emphasis on positive messaging. The Women’s Half Marathon is one of the largest women’s-only race in the country which attracts 10,000 runners to Central Park every year. The next one is scheduled for April. The twice yearly Body Shop daylong event features workouts with celebrity trainers and workshops in New York and Los Angeles. “Lea Michele came in November and hung out and did Facebook Live,” said Elizabeth. All proceeds from the event go to the Movemeant Foundation which is dedicated to promoting positive self-image in young girls.
While Elizabeth told me she is planning to incorporate more “real women” into the pages of the magazine, she knows celebrity sells. Celebrity covers are “part of the DNA of the Shape brand,” said Elizabeth. Getting the famous figures to do a cover shoot and interview is “a chess game.” She enthused over the “great booker” at the magazine and added, “There’s an art to it.” Social media — and Instagram in particular — have made celebrities “more accessible” which can result in a lot more eyeballs for the magazine in print and online. “The great thing is now, if they like their cover, they’ll post and tweet about it. Khloe did.”
I can see why. Shape’s cover of Khloe is probably the most flattering photo of I’ve ever seen of the reality star. The photos inside the issue that accompanied her interview reminded me of Harper’s Bazaar, when the late and much loved Liz Tilberis was at the helm. “I wanted her in full make-up at the gym. She worked hard on her body and it shows.” Elizabeth told me Khloe “loved the inside story” but had one criticism. “She tweeted that she would have worn something else for the cover, but I think she looks great.”
Beckinsale was “a bit” shy said Elizabeth, “But by the end of the shoot she’d warmed up.” To a point. “Most of the celebrities in the magazine answer when we ask what they like about their bodies for Love My Shape.” Khloe said she’d “earned every curve” and feels “empowered and badass.” Lea Michele said, “I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.” But Kate declined to answer. “I think it’s a British thing.”
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Star Jones presiding over a table full of pals
2. Catherine Rowan
3. Wayne Kabak
4. Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav and comedian David Steinberg
5. Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman
6. Don Peebles, who according to a one regular, might be mounting a mayoral campaign against Bill de Blasio
7. Glenn Horowitz and Frank DiGiacomo
8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia, Quest’s Chris Meigher and a few well-heeled folks we didn’t recognize
9. Alexandra Penney, who was, you might recall, the founding editor of the late lamented Self magazine. She’s an artist now
11. Ninna Lynne
12. Bill McCuddy
14. Jimmy Finkelstein; Act Two: Donny Deutsch
15. Mitch Rosenthal; Act Two: Television titan Dick Wolf and actress Edie Falco
16. GreenGale’s Jim Smith
18. John Josephson
20. Joan Jakobson
21. PR maven extraordinaire Judy Twersky with fledgling filmmaker Joan Kron. Ageless Joan was celebrating her 89th birthday (“You can say that — I’m proud of it!”) and told me that her film, Take My Nose … Please! will be shown at the Miami Film Festival in March and several film festivals around the country this year. Congrats!
23. Charles Randolph
24. Janice Brown
25. Jim Casella
27. Elizabeth Goodman Artis, Patrick Taylor and yours truly
Diane Clehane is a FishbowlNY contributor. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.