The venerable icon who shaped the fashion world as the former editor in chief for Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown has died at the age of 90 in New York City. She was briefly hospitalized at New York Presbyterian Hospital for undisclosed reasons just a few days earlier. Brown provided many ladies with a voice since the 60’s as a sexual revolutionist, author, women’s right activist, and fashionista, paving the way for how fashion magazines could be engineered into a successful brand.
Brown rose from tragedy at eleven when her father was killed in an elevator accident. As a child of the depression who provided dance lessons to other children in her neighborhood, Brown moved to Los Angeles from Arkansas as a teenager with her sister and mother. She began working for a radio station and answered fan mail for six dollars a week, ultimately working for a Beverly Hills talent agency as a secretary and as an advertising executive for the William Morris Agency. Years later, the rail thin legend went on to work as a copy editor, eventually marrying Twentieth Century Fox vice president, David Brown, a man who was responsible for the success of films like, “Jaws,” and “The Sting.” He passed away in February in 2010. Their marriage surpassed over fifty years.
At the age of forty in 1962, she published her first novel titled, “Sex and the Single Girl.” It transformed the literary world by revolutionalizing the women’s right movement. She encouraged women all over the world to expand their sexual side by embracing their single life. It depicted them as glamorous and powerful, assertive in making their own choices. In 1965, Brown was then hired as the editor-in-chief for the Hearst publication, Cosmopolitan magazine. The former faltering publication was revived when Brown took ownership of the helm with her witty attitude and sharp style. Within four issues, sales spiked an additional 50% with covers going from 30 cents to 50 cents.
Brown penned the term, “Cosmo Girl,” and gave female readers something to look forward to. “You can’t be sexual at sixty if you’re fat.” As someone who was an advocate for cosmetic enhancement and re-corrective surgery, Brown adopted the more is more approach during the aging process, encouraging other women to take pride in their appearances by upholding and respecting their bodies, imploring them to do whatever it took to keep their man by the bedside. In addition to her success at Cosmo, Brown wrote an additional five books, including the infamous, “A Semi-wild but Practical Survival Plan for Women Over 50.”
From 1965 to 1997, Brown reigned as the editor, collaborating with some of the biggest names in fashion and show business. “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere,” proclaimed Brown when discussing her career to a fan. Wherever she is, Helen Gurley Brown will forever be treasured and most certainly, not forgotten.
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