FACE GOOD ENOUGH FOR TV: Though Lifetime may not have “Project Runway” just yet, thanks to last week’s court ruling, the network is busy green-lighting other fashion-related reality shows. Up next is “Blush: The Search for the Next Great Make-Up Artist,” a competition between beauty professionals vying for a $100,000 prize and a contract with Max Factor. The series will span six hour-long episodes and was filmed in Los Angeles. The show’s judges include In Style’s fashion director Hal Rubenstein, and makeup artist Joanna Schlip, whose clients include Eva Longoria, Scarlett Johansson, Ellen Pompeo and Laura Linney. Charlie Green, who has made up faces including Heidi Klum, Naomi Campbell, Jewel and Tyra Banks, will serve as the show’s Tim Gunn, acting as mentor to the nine contestants. Actress Vanessa Marcil, who has played roles on “Las Vegas” and “General Hospital,” will host the show, which premieres Nov. 11 at 10 p.m.
While fashion can make for good television, what drama can applying eyeliner and lip gloss bring to the small screen? “Everybody starts out their days and says, ‘Oh my God, there’s my face!’” said Rubenstein. “You can have a closet full of clothes and still have that same face. We always want to look our best. The show sort of touches a nerve in every woman.” But what of the show’s face-offs? “It’s how well the makeup challenge serves the person made up. It facilitates different solutions the same way that a wardrobe does,” he explained. Rubenstein, who is more a judge of hemlines and red-carpet gowns than the skill used to apply mascara, admitted he is looking for an overall aesthetic achieved through makeup. “I’m not going to judge the intensity of an eyeliner. I can judge whether you made a woman look beautiful.”
The reality show is the latest move into television for In Style this fall: The show has partnered with “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style” for its second season, and managing editor Ariel Foxman and assistant managing editor Honor Brodie will appear on an episode of “Gossip Girl” later this month. — Stephanie D. Smith
PROJECT MARIE CLAIRE: It’s taken more than two years, but Marie Claire editor in chief Joanna Coles has finally completed the puzzle of her strategy for the magazine with the hiring of Nina Garcia as fashion director. And what that strategy apparently means is more brand extensions, a higher fashion quotient, celebrity profiles that hope to dig deeper than most and the real-life stories for which the magazine is known.
The arrival of Garcia, with her high-profile gig as a judge on “Project Runway,” couldn’t come at a better time for Marie Claire, given its newsstand performance over the last 24 months, economy aside. Coles admits TV brand extensions are important for the magazine going forward, and has already signed on to do another one: “Running in Heels” on The Style Network. Given “Project Runway,” Garcia won’t be deeply involved in the other program, although she’ll be featured in some segments.
Regardless, Garcia’s celebrity, both on TV and in bookstores, will no doubt help boost the title. Garcia has gone from what sources describe as politically squeezed at Elle, pre-“Project Runway,” to one of the most famous people in fashion, evidenced by the fact that her second book, “The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own,” has been on The New York Times bestseller list for “hardcover advice” for three weeks. And despite the legal imbroglio over the planned switch of the show to Lifetime from Bravo, Garcia has already begun taping the sixth season — which is scheduled to begin airing in January — skipping Milan Fashion Week to do so.
Hoping to lure some of the show’s 3 million viewers as readers aside, Marie Claire also wants to tap into Garcia’s point of view and experience. Her role will include using her Rolodex to bring in a broader array of photographers and stylists to the fashion pages — although the impact won’t be seen until the March issue. Not known for her mass taste, Garcia plans to keep the magazine’s high-low or “splurge vs. steal” mentality, which she noted was also part of her strategy at Elle (hello Harper’s Bazaar). “We want the fashion to be aspirational and inspirational,” said Garcia. “It has to resonate with women. I’m a big believer in that.” Garcia did, however, add that she will take the “fashion up a bit.”
While some observers question whether Garcia really sees her long-term future in fashion magazines over TV and books, she and Marie Claire need each other for now — Garcia because her “Project Runway” role requires a magazine link and Marie Claire because of the tough newsstand environment. Newsstand sales in the first half of 2008 dropped 12 percent to 289,700. Of course, Marie Claire is far from alone — almost all its competitors saw declines in the second half of last year and first half of 2008.
Coles acknowledged the pressures she faces at the top, but that doesn’t stop her from continuing to take risks, the most visible of which have landed on her cover choices, with some surprising choices for a mainstream title — including Maggie Gyllenhaal (twice), Sandra Oh and Tina Fey. “She speaks to all of our readers,” said Coles of Fey. Her instincts have proven right in some cases. The first Gyllenhaal cover turned out to be one of the stronger ones on newsstand in the second half of 2006, at 408,551; however, Oh’s cover sold 354,467 and the Fey cover only sold 209,071.
The editor admitted to WWD that her covers had been in a holding pattern until Suzanne Sykes, formerly of Grazia, joined the magazine as creative director earlier this year. Coles aims to “go deeper,” on her cover stories than the competition, noting the more access she gets to a celebrity, the better that cover tends to sell on the newsstand. Ashley Olsen, for example, allowed Marie Claire to shadow her for a few days and then stopped by the offices to further help the story along. The cover turned out to be the biggest seller for the second half of 2007, at 476,849 copies. October cover girl Lindsay Lohan opened up about rehab and girlfriend Samantha Ronson, revealing the duo has matching tattoos and eventually wants to adopt a child in need or a newborn from another country. Of Ronson, Lohan said, “Um, people can think what they want. I’m really happy, and that’s all that matters.” The issue is showing double-digit growth over last October.
Of course, Garcia will not be involved in cover subject decisions, but she’s now essentially the face of the magazine, a position that at times “can be uncomfortable and frustrating,” she admitted. “I stepped into this [‘Project Runway’] without knowing how big it would become. And it’s been great — it’s lead to books, more TV…it’s been rewarding. But it was never my ambition. It takes some readjusting.”
Part of that readjustment is the constant attempt to pit her in a catfight against her previous colleagues at Elle, which has its own TV reality show coming up, “Stylista.” Garcia said she bears no ill will toward her former colleagues and newest rivals. “I wish her [Elle’s Anne Slowey, who fronts the show] all the best, but this feels a bit like high school,” she said, adding she’s not seen a screener for “Stylista.”
“There is room for everybody in this business…right now I’m excited about my new book, the move to Lifetime,” said Garcia. “I’ve had a wonderful 13 years at Elle, but now it’s time to move on.” — Amy Wicks