Noted editor Bonnie Fuller has launched Bonnie Fuller Media to meet the evolving needs of her longtime loyal following. Twice named Advertising Age's "Editor of the Year," she's been responsible for some of the magazine world's most well-recognized titles, including having served as Vice President and Chief Editorial Director of American Media (Star, Shape, Men's Fitness, Natural Health, and Fit Pregnancy) and Editor-in-Chief of US Weekly, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, YM, and FLARE magazines. Generally credited with inventing the “celebrity lens" school of journalism, she is a frequent contributor to a variety of media outlets including HuffingtonPost.com and Advertising Age and regularly participates on media industry panels.
Question: How did you get your start in the media?
Fuller: Well I always wanted to be a reporter when I was a teenager. I always loved to read the newspaper, so I started working at the college paper called Varsity at University of Toronto. And it was great because it came out three times a week, and I loved it, and I just would cover whatever they would ask me to do. And I decided to try and get into journalism school, but I had to go in Toronto just for financial reasons because that’s where I’m from. I didn’t get accepted, so I went to law school instead. But I was so bored that I would work in the evenings and on weekends for the Toronto Star, which is a big daily paper there. I’d freelance for them, and again cover whatever they needed, and I just loved it. So I decided to . . . after a year to quit law school and to focus on it full time and try to get a full time job. And I ended up getting a job as a young fashion reporter for the Toronto Star because that’s all there was open. I mean it seems like . . . like my career has always been in a recessionary time. Every time that I’ve had to find work it’s always been a recession. So there was a recession then too, so there weren’t that many jobs. And so I knew nothing at all about fashion, but figured that was the job so I learned, and I did; and did that for three years and then ended up getting it. I really wanted to move to New York because I had a boyfriend who threatened to move to New York. And I got the idea to apply to Women’s Wear Daily because it was a trade publication I read all the time. And they gave . . . did not give me the time of day until I actually turned up in New York. And then they said, “Oh okay, since you’re here, then sure, come up.” It turned out though that when I got there and they saw what I did, that they had a hard time finding young fashion writers at that time, too. So they offered me a job on the spot. And it was at Women’s Wear that I made the transition to magazines because I would freelance, again, just to pay the rent for a Canadian magazine. It was a fashion . . . a young fashion magazine called Flair, and I did a column for them every month from New York. And one day their editor up and quit – she just got upset about something so she quit. And they were desperate for an editor, and somebody recommended me. And I was like, “Wait. I’m 26 years old. I’ve never even worked at a magazine. How can I be the Editor-in-Chief?” But they . . . It was such a growing field. It was new. People weren’t doing fashion magazines. It makes it sound like it was ancient times ago, but it wasn’t that long ago that there were that many . . . that Canada even had a fashion magazine, and this was really the first. So I had experience in fashion, so that’s how I ended up getting the job. So that’s how I got started.
Question: How did you get into covering celebrities
Fuller: That didn’t happen until after I’d edited a lot of big magazines. After Flair I edited YM, which was a teen magazine. And then I launched Marie Claire in the States. Then I was promoted to be Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan, and then from there I went to Glamour. And at Glamour I ended up not getting renewed, and so I was again in the middle of a major recession and looking for work. And Us Weekly had been launched as a weekly. It had been a monthly magazine, and it really hadn’t taken off yet. And so _____________ was looking to . . . The Editor-in-Chief got . . . actually got a great job. He got a great job at Sports Illustrated as Editor-in-Chief, which was really what he was more interested in. So _____________ was looking for an editor. I was unemployed. I’d always loved reading European celebrity magazines. There was nothing like them in this country, and I just thought, “Why wouldn’t American women want to read something like that, too? I want to.” So I went and talked to ____________ and I actually created, like, on my family room table . . . like cutting and pasting and then xeroxing at Kinko’s . . . like created a whole bunch of pages for what I thought Us Weekly should be, and he loved it. So that’s why I got into a celebrity magazine.