In September, Redbook will break away from the traditional celebrity cover model. Instead, the Hearst title will feature a group of real women—all winners of the magazine's second annual Real Women Style Awards—on the cover of its fall fashion issue.
Redbook editor in chief Meredith Rollins acknowledged that putting a group of unknowns on the year's biggest issue could be a risk, but she said she wanted the cover to make a statement.
"We put great celebrities on the cover, and we've been lucky on the newsstand, but this is just a way to put our money where our mouths are and actually celebrate these women as being just as cool and exciting and inspiring as any celebrity out there," Rollins told Adweek. "In a month where the big fashion books are really celebrating high-end, gorgeous runway style, we wanted to celebrate real style that's just as beautiful but is infinitely more accessible."
Dove, which has been visibly pushing its own female-empowerment message in recent years, will sponsor the awards, including a multicover unit in the magazine and digital activations. In turn, Redbook is adding a beauty component of this year's awards, with each of the women offering their personal beauty tips in the magazine.
"We came to Dove with the idea, and they were so receptive to it because it just felt like a perfect synergy," said Rollins.
The contest to select the winners of the Real Women Style awards begins today. Women are asked to submit at least three photos of themselves on Redbook's website—according to Rollins, more than 3,000 photos were sent in by readers last year—by April 17. In addition, readers are encouraged to share their nominations on social media using the #realstylerealbeauty hashtag.
After the pool is narrowed to 25 finalists, a panel of judges (including Fashion Police co-host Brad Goreski, makeup artist Mally Roncal, stylist Louise Roe, designer Jodi Arnold and blogger Gabi Fresh) will select five winners, while readers will choose a sixth via online voting. All six winners will appear on Redbook's September cover as well as in an editorial spread within the issue.
Although putting "real" people on magazine covers is rare, it can pay off: Last November, Men's Health was widely applauded for featuring Noah Galloway, an Iraq War veteran and "Ultimate Men's Health Guy" contest winner, on its cover. Galloway, in fact, will appear on the upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars.