Whenever I find myself in an ice breaker situation and people ask me that annoying “Who would you want to have dinner with, alive or dead” question, I always answer the same: Cosmo’s EIC and best-selling author, Kate White.
There’s just so much I want to know about her and to learn from her… and I’m sure she’s collected some pretty great sex tips over the years. What? If anyone can dole out sex tips, it’s Cosmo’s editor, right?
Well, I didn’t get the chance to share a pizza and a beer with Ms. White, but I did get the chance to talk with her about her climb to the top, what it’s like to rule the Cosmo empire, and her latest thriller, Hush.
CC: You got your start in magazines when you were featured as one of Glamour’s Top Ten College Women. What did it take to become one of these girls and what were your qualifications?
KW: Oh, that’s such a good question. I wanted to win really badly. I not only thought winning would help me break into the magazine business but I also believed that if I became the cover girl (which I later did), any guy who had rejected me in the past would have to eat his heart out. The contest required writing an essay explaining what your top goals were for the future. I knew I had to stand out from the pack so I wrote mine on why I had no goals for the future (though of course I wound back to explain why I really did). When I won, it was my first lesson in how breaking the rules can make all the difference.
CC: If you had to go back and change one thing in your career path, what would it be?
KW: I feel I did pretty well with my career. It was balancing my career with motherhood that sometimes left me flustered. I wish I had periodically taken a day off just to take care of my to-do list. I often felt it hanging over my head–and I couldn’t deal with it on weekends because I spent all my time with my kids. If I’d taken a day off here or there to do all those things, I believe I would have been much less stressed. A simple trick. Please promise we you’ll try it yourself someday.
CC: You have written several novels empowering and giving advice to women. We totally admire your confidence and self-respect, but we want to know what the source of this confidence was? What advice would you give to young girls to be make them believe they can “set the world on fire” as the title of one of your book suggests?
KW: My parents were great; they really said nice and encouraging things to me growing up and that makes such a difference. But a lot of confidence comes from taking risks and seeing that it pays off. Get your toe in the water and see how good it feels. You’ll also discover how well taking risks and breaking rules pay off. It will make you do it again and again.
CC: You also have written fiction novels, where do you find inspiration for new plot ideas?
KW: I keep a big fat file of clippings about crimes and weird stuff, and I go through it whenever it’s time to start a new book. But as I writer, I think it really also help to keep asking “What if?” Lets say you see a scarf lying on the sidewalk. Ask yourself “What if…?” What if, for instance, the woman who owned it was abducted and left it as a clue? Etc, etc, etc.
CC: You are constantly so busy between novel writing and Cosmo, how do you balance your career and family time?
KW: I have had a fabulous life but to be honest, I’ve had to let go of some thing to make it all work. I think you make your list and decide what matters to you and what doesn’t. I could have gone to all the fashion shows in Milan and Paris twice a year, like all the editors of fashion magazines n New York, but I chose not to because I never liked being away from my kids for long stretches when they were young. I didn’t go to many of the screenings and openings and events when they were little. But I have no regrets.
CC: What is your favorite part of being editor-in-chief at Cosmo?
KW: Omigod, every part. It’s the most outrageously fun job in the world. Working on Cosmo cover lines is probably the best part, though. I wrote one for the April cover that I love. “The Sex Article We Can’t Put on the Cover.” Don’t you have to check it out?
CC: What is your overall vision for Cosmo and what do you want readers to take away from reading it?
KW: I want readers to feel that Cosmo talks to them in a candid fresh way they love and that they can turn to us for tons of great info. I want to always be their bible.
CC: What is the craziest thing you’ve seen or experienced while working at Cosmo?
KW: There are so many things. I find it hilarious that male models come in and drop their pants so that the model editor can take their picture with their boxer briefs on. And she does it with a straight face.
CC: What’s the best piece of advice (sexy or not) you’ve discovered while running Cosmo?
KW: A few years ago, when if first became popular, I heard the expression, “Go Big or Go Home.” I love that phrase. To me it says that if you are going to put the time in to doing something, do it with all the energy and passion you can summon. Don’t do things half-assed. When you go for the burn, it can make all the difference.
CC: It’s obviously quite difficult to work your way to the top in the magazine industry. What advice would you give young women who are trying to make it in similarly competitive industries (which, right now, could be just about anything)?
KW: You don’t’ have to be a bitch like that she-devil in The Devil Wears Prada. If you learn to deal with the stress–and it takes a bit of practice–you can be a nice person in tough times. But you also have to work hard, follow orders in the beginning and learn the way things are done, show up early and stay late (lard asses never get ahead), and once you get a sense of the landscape, begin to break some rules (by that I mean submitting bold ideas and being innovative). As I said before, Go Big or Go Home.
CC: College girls don’t get a lot of time to read for pleasure; tell us why we should make the time for Hush.
KW: It’s a great, juicy read, I think, a story of a woman named Lake Warren who makes a stupid choice one night that ends up turning her ordinary life into a nightmare. She sleeps with someone she should have avoided and he ends up brutally murdered. The police suspect her and the murderer realizes she was on the scene. Everyone seems to be after her and she has to save her skin. I love that reviewers keep calling it a total page turner.