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NO MORE INK: What does Mary J. Blige have against her tattoos these days? It’s hard to say, but it seems the Grammy-winning singer requested that Hearst monthly Redbook airbrush them out of her cover shot on the May issue. Blige appears as one of three separate covers of the magazine, along with Meg Ryan and ‘My Name Is Earl” actress Jaime Pressly. The singer is shown sans her two arm tattoos — one of a cross on her left arm and her name in English script letters on the other. The photos inside don’t include them, either, though the strap on her dress is strategically placed over her right arm to hide the ink.
Photographer Matthew Rolston wasn’t allowed to release the photos to the magazine until the tattoos were removed. ‘We think [Blige] is just gorgeous — tattoos or no tattoos,” said Redbook editor in chief Stacy Morrison. ‘We were just disappointed that her management requested that we airbrush them from her photos because they are so much a part of who she is. But the ink doesn’t make the woman.”
This wouldn’t be the first time Blige is up in arms over her image on a magazine cover. In 2005, the singer blasted urban lifestyle monthly Vibe after the title ran what Blige felt was an unflattering photo. During an acceptance speech at the Vibe Awards, she called out then-editor in chief Mimi Valdez, saying: ‘For so many years, Vibe has given me great, great, great covers, but I must say, I’m very, very disappointed at the cover this time, so Mimi, me and you really need to talk, as women. No disrespect, but I really hated the way you guys shaved off my head, pushed my forehead way back behind my ears.” Valdez at the time responded to Blige with a post on Vibe’s Web site: ‘Besides your desire to make a private conversation public, your accusations are untrue. How your hair looks on that cover is between you and your hairstylist. I swear, your hairline is no different than the Polaroids you saw at the shoot.”
Since then, Blige appeared on Vibe’s 150th special issue in March, with her tattoos in plain view, and a source close to the magazine said the singer usually doesn’t request that her tattoos be removed. So did Blige clean it up specifically for Redbook? A representative for Blige did not respond to calls for comment. — Stephanie D. Smith
EARLY START: One can never start cultivating fashion’s next big stars early enough — at least according to Teen Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. They’ve just created the CFDA/Teen Vogue Scholarship, an annual program that aims to help high school students with financial aid and guidance toward degrees in fashion design.
Teen Vogue’s editor in chief, Amy Astley, said readers constantly ask her how to best break into the fashion industry. The annual scholarships will go toward the tuitions and fees at the recipient’s school for the fall 2008 semester. The participating schools are the Fashion Institute of Technology, Parsons The New School for Design and Pratt Institute, in New York City; Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y.; the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I.; Massachusetts College of Art in Boston; the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles; the Academy of Art University and the California College of the Arts, in San Francisco; Drexel University and Philadelphia University, in Philadelphia; Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, and the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati; the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga., and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago.
To apply for the scholarships, students must be U.S. citizens and in their junior years of high school. The recipients will be selected by a group of Teen Vogue editors, CFDA members and industry experts, and revealed at Teen Vogue’s second annual ‘Fashion U.” weekend, Oct. 26 to 28.
The fund is supported by Teen Vogue, though Astley said the program hopes to find sponsors. The guidelines are available at cfda.com, and the call for submissions is featured in Teen Vogue’s May issue, which hits newsstands Tuesday. — Marc Karimzadeh
LET’S MAKE A DEAL: The news that marketing and communications firm HL Group sold a majority stake to MDC Partners caught fellow public relations firms and fashion observers off guard, even if they didn’t see it in The New York Times on Monday. MDC is buying a majority holding in HL with minority operational control for an undisclosed amount, although sources said it wasn’t likely to be for a massive sum, as the going rate generally is nine to 11 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Hamilton South, one of HL Group’s co-founders with Lynn Tesoro, declined to talk about the numbers behind the deal, but traditionally, these transactions aren’t valued as much as other industries, according to one source, because there is no tangible product involved. South said HL had been approached by several firms, but liked MDC’s model better than the rest of the field. ‘This gives us the ability to grow and offer more to clients,” he said.
Paul Wilmot, managing partner of Paul Wilmot Communications, said a low multiple of earnings is likely for a majority stake in a communications company and nine times EBITDA (or less) for a buyout. ‘There are no fixed assets,” he explained. ‘It’s all goodwill and betting that the company can retain and grow its client base.” Wilmot added that MDC’s strategy of maintaining a majority stake in a company while allowing it to largely maintain operational control isn’t common in the p.r. and marketing business, but it’s a good motivational tool for ‘the original people to come up with fresh, new ideas and maybe share in the growth of the company.”
Alison Brod, president of Alison Brod Public Relations, said she is ‘very familiar with MDC and the executives there.” And, like many in p.r., she is often approached by ad agencies. That trend may grow, she added, because as ad pages continue to decline, ad agencies are looking in other directions. Brod said that, while the concept of accepting outsider money for new office space, additional technology or more senior staff can be attractive, the downside is that money can be spread over several years and the possibility that ‘you are giving up a lot of control if the company is growing.” Having said that, she has not ruled out the possibility. — Amy Wicks
THE GREEN MACHINE: The green media trend shows no sign of exhausting itself — at least not between now and Earth Day on April 22. Hearst Magazines said Thursday that on Earth Day it will launch a Web site, Thedailygreen.com, aimed at ‘green consumers.” The other reigning media buzzword, ‘user-generated,” is also in evidence: ‘While content will be an important element of The Daily Green, it is the community of followers of the green movement that will inform the sensibility of the site,” said Hearst. The statement cited a feature called ‘Weird Weather Watch,” a user-generated photoblog documenting climate change. House Beautiful will pitch in with editorial coverage, and The Daily Green will have MySpace and Facebook profiles.
And, for anyone who has missed the ubiquitous Sundance channel ad campaign for its weekly prime-time earth-friendly programming, the channel will be airing the first episode of a 13-week Tuesday prime-time series on the environment on Tuesday. ‘The Green,” a total of three hours of programming, includes an original series entitled ‘Big Ideas for a Small Planet,” followed by a premiere of an eco-oriented documentary. A segment on green fashion featuring designer Linda Loudermilk and Patagonia, with requisite tart commentary from Carson Kressley, will air May 8. In the meantime, the likes of Isabella Rossellini, Avril Lavigne and Moby were expected at the launch party at ABC Home Thursday evening, where Rufus Wainwright was to perform. — Irin Carmon
FROM WEBCAST TO BROADCAST: First, it was all about the Internet. Now, publishing companies are rushing to get their content onto television. Hearst unveiled a deal with Fox TV earlier this week to codevelop TV programming, and now Meredith Corp. is out to grab the next generation of its Baby Boomer service titles with Better.tv, a broadband network with female-friendly content. Better.tv will include 20 channels with food, home, style, entertainment, relationships, fitness and health information, with programs ranging from two to 30 minutes long created by the company’s in-house production division, Meredith Video Solutions. Better Homes & Garden’s Web site, bhg.com, is the first to carry Better.tv content. The programming then will roll out to the rest of Meredith’s sites: lhj.com, fitness.com and the parenting portal launching in the summer. Additionally, Meredith this fall will launch Better, a daily, hour-long show based on the Better.tv broadband content, on eight of its broadcast stations. The company hopes to eventually syndicate the program to other networks. A separate television production team will edit the content for the show. — S.D.S.