ATOOSA’S ALTAR: Flattery will only get you so far in the magazine business. The real strivers have moved on to out-and-out idol worship — and it may be working.

Consider the case of Brianne Burrowes, a contestant on the MTV reality series “Miss Seventeen.” The show featured 17 college-age girls vying for a grand prize consisting of a scholarship, an appearance on Seventeen’s cover and, perhaps most important, a summer internship at the magazine. To say that Burrowes failed to win the competition is an understatement; in fact, she quit the contest three episodes in, tearfully declaring, “I’ll just go ahead and get an internship on my own….I don’t want to be affiliated with a house of liars.”

Prophetic words, as Burrowes is now interning at Seventeen, where she’ll soon be joined by the show’s winner (and Burrowes’ on-air rival), Jennifer Steele, who’s been busy traveling the country giving speeches on behalf of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. (Steele’s is a paid internship, while Burrowes is receiving academic credit.)

What quality did Burrowes display the other runners-up didn’t? Some wonder if it wasn’t the abundant, er, appreciation she showed for editor in chief Atoosa Rubenstein. A journalism major whose stated career goal is to be editor in chief of her own magazine, Burrowes declared on the first episode, “Atoosa is, like, who I want to be.” Another contestant added, “For Brianne, meeting Atoosa was like meeting Jesus” — a comment that was picked up on various blogs and featured in the show’s promotional clip.

But Rubenstein, noting she does not personally handle the hiring of interns, said it was Burrowes’ “enthusiasm for magazines” that clinched her the job. “It’s a great opportunity for Brianne, but certainly a different experience from what Jen is getting,” she said. No doubt they’re both ever so grateful.
Jeff Bercovici

This story first appeared in the June 19, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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