My current read is Mama Mia by Mia Freedman. She’s the former editor of Cosmopolitan, Cleo and Dolly, and writes the popular blog which I frequent, Mama Mia. So far, I’m really enjoying the book. I couldn’t help but nod at every few sentences when she wrote about her love for magazines, because I was that girl too. I still am.
I remembered my first magazine. I was 9 or10, and it was an educational one, Kuntum, which my dad bought for me. As time went on, my dad continued to buy more advanced educational magazines for me, like Dewan Pelajar and Dewan Siswa. My mum, on the other hand, introduced me to girly, fashion mags. She bought me my very first Teen magazine when she was in Singapore, and then Teenage. My educational mags were, sadly, cast aside as I pored over every beautifully glossy page of Teen. From then on, I’d beg my parents to buy me a copy whenever they were in Singapore for business trips.
At that time, Female was far too “old” for me. It wasn’t something I appreciated. “Aiyo so aunty lah the clothes“, I’d exclaim, when I browsed my mother’s Female mags. As time went on, my parents stopped going to Singapore, hence my supply of Teen and Teenage mags depleted. Still hungry for more glossy pages, I started buying the Malay version of Teen, Remaja. I sneakily told my dad that I wanted to improve my Malay, hence Remaja mags would be very good for me (even though I was looking at the pictures more than reading the words). After a few months, it just wasn’t the same. I wanted more.
1996. I remembered the first Cleo that hit the news stands. It had Nikki Taylor on the cover. It cost less than RM5. I was in glossy heaven. It was LOVE. From then on, I never missed a single Cleo. Much to the annoyance of my parents, I’d bug them to go to every news stand at the end of the month just to see if the next month’s issue was out. I started reading Marie Claire too when I was 17, but it was never quite the same as my Cleo. I dedicated a large portion of my shelves just to store my magazines. I had just about every issue till 2000, when I left for the UK.
Now international magazines in Malaysia are very expensive. After adding import tax and whatnots, a magazine like Seventeen would cost the same as a paperback. It just wasn’t worth the money. I loved reading mags like Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, Allure and InStyle but could only do so, flipping the pages at a bookstore. So imagine the second level of heaven (if there was one), when I stepped onto UK soil, and entered WH Smith. I was no longer hungry for magazines, I was a girl obssessed. Ask my friends, they could vouch for me. I had so many magazines during that three years in the UK, it was crazy. I had to throw away stacks and bags of them when I left. It was heartbreaking.
Back in Malaysia, Cleo continued to be a monthly staple. However that “staple” started to include Female, Marie Claire, Elle and so on. When I was in Japan for a year, besides spending loads on international magazines, I bought Japanese magazines too. The latter’s a lot cheaper, the fashion and beauty section were extensive, and I didn’t even have to know Japanese to understand the context. Mooks (magazine-books) with freebies attached weren’t too popular back then, so I never bought any.
When I finally moved to Australia, things changed. In Malaysia, Cleo was intended for late teens to young working adults. The articles were relatable. Australian Cleo is completely different. It caters to teenagers and girls in their early twenties. Everything just screams teenybopper.
As much as I loved Cleo in Malaysia, I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy Cleo here. When I stopped buying Cleo, I felt as though I was betraying my love. I guess as I got older, my interests have changed. There’s only so much of partying and loud clothes I could stomach. My favourite magazines are now InStyle and Marie Claire. InStyle for the classic, elegant (and bloody expensive) clothes, and Marie Claire for the insightful articles on current issues. I’ve also started buying home design magazines too, which I adore.
With my love for magazines, came the secret desire to want to work for one. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. However, thanks to technology, blogs came about, and it wasn’t long before I hopped onto it. This beauty blog is nowhere near a magazine, but you know what? It feels damn good to be known as the Editor, even of a tiny website such as this.
Whenever I’m back in Malaysia, I never hesitate to get a current issue of Cleo. After all, my darling, you’ll always be my first (well, close enough) love.
Sidenote: A question to my Singaporean readers – is Teen and/or Teenage magazines still around?