The perils of the freebies

It’s been a long time since my last post – 5 days is a lifetime on the web – so let me make it up to you by giving you all another insight into the wonderful world of magazines.

While debating whether to highlight the use of free labour (aka Interns and Work Experience who are lured with the carrot that is a potential job one day), the truck loads of freebies received by magazines every week, or the other freebies of the cosmetic kind. I decided it was the freebies of the cosmetic kind are my topic of choice this sunny Friday afternoon.

My story starts with a girl. She can be pretty, but usually just average looking with average skin, pretty eyes, hair, lips, body and can throw a decent outfit together at least 6 days and nights a week.

Put her in a magazine office, most likely as an editorial assistant, and before long she is introduced to the likes of Dior, Chanel, Estee Lauder, and MAC thanks to the joys of a beauty cupboard. Then throw in her first visit to a rather expensive hairdresser where she gets highlights or even a whole hair colour change along with a GHD.

Then suddenly you have an ugly duckling blossoming into a beauty girl (AKA beauty writer, beauty editor, beauty assistant, etc).

A few months later you will find the beauty girl behind bags of free beauty products, but after a while products are not enough.

She wants more. She needs to try every beauty treatment in hope of getting picture perfect skin to look better than the other girls at the beauty launches. She wants to have that glossy magazine air about her so she can get her photograph in the weekend social pages online and in the Sunday newspaper (because sadly that kind of stuff matters to some girls).

Suddenly she’s then getting regular facials, which turns into face peels (like Samantha in Sex and the City), and perhaps even Botox and collagen to stiffen or boost.

Pretty soon after that you feel like you’re looking at a Mattel Barbie, it’s all too perfect and if you touch it could shatter and come crumbling down.

Ah the joys and downfall of people who enjoy the beauty freebies too much.

Watch out for faux pouts and un-wrinkled skin at a magazine office near you. You’ve been warned.


P.S. Thanks for all your comments and feedback during my hiatus from posting, things have been quite busy on the work front. No rest for the wicked as they say so we’re definitely glad it’s Friday and Australian Fashion Week is coming up. I shall see you there my dears.

72 responses to “The perils of the freebies

  1. angelaseesangelablogs

    oh lets add shes also rather desperate, and fake.

    kudos for a wonderful post


  2. you forgot the spray tan… they love a spray tan

  3. Oh yes, how could I forget? The girls are always leaving work early to get sprayed in time for a party or a date.

  4. yeah, they leave straight after their free lunch, whoops I mean, beauty function

  5. angelaseesangelablogs

    ^^^^ pffffffffffffff LOL

    urhhhhh spray tans are so gross. heavy tans in general is gross.

  6. Aww that’s sad.
    It’s a bit like Andy from the Devil Wears Prada – starts out as a regular girl not a care in the world for fashion, and by the end turns into the girls that she once made fun of for taking their job too seriously. I didn’t even know that happened in real life, at magazines…

  7. Anne Onymous

    Secretly, you all just wish they’d share.

  8. Oh Anne, I don’t need help of the cosmetic surgery kind.

  9. The beauty ed I know shares product but she still has a spray tan! Wont eat a thing either. Lives on organic vegetables, water, and air. She doesn’t like to eat preservatives but she is happy to inject botox and collagen, and slap on creams full of chemicals.

  10. Shallow shallow shallow…

    It’s not as if most of them know what they’re talking about anyway. And that’s why I skip the how-tos in beauty mags from beauty eds. I like the recommendations but seriously these girls are not make-up artists!

  11. angelaseesangelablogs

    qoute girl-“The beauty ed I know shares product but she still has a spray tan! Wont eat a thing either. Lives on organic vegetables, water, and air. She doesn’t like to eat preservatives but she is happy to inject botox and collagen, and slap on creams full of chemicals.”

    ohh but she practicly has no life.
    what a hypocrite!

  12. Larek I often skip the ‘how to’ section for the very same reason 🙂

  13. To play devil’s advocate, the how-tos are often quotes from real experts in their field like make-up artists and hair stylists. I think I’m with Anne-Onymous.

  14. But realistically, everyone has a similar desire to look picture perfect don’t they? Plus it’s probably not done on purpose, but a supposed medical / mental condition, that won’t let them appreciate what really is, and what they really are.

    But each to their own, as they say, right?

  15. It is a fickle industry like that, beauty “editors” get flown all over the world by PR agencies as well as getting an abundance of free “gifts” and instead of having some integrity and writing something that is unbiased by their free trips and gifts, it’s all gushing and glamourised. How can people take what they write seriously? Even the few serious beauty journalists accept the free trips which should be seen as bribes. Magazine companies have policies on accepting gifts worth over a certain amount but no one is enforcing it. Newspaper journalists have to abide by the rules, so if magazine writers want to call themselves true writers/journalists, then they should abide by the same rules to some extent at least and say thanks but no thanks to some of the ridiculous freebies they get.

    You can say I’m just jealous or I want in, but if I’m reading a piece that is gushing about a recent trip the editor made to Japan or New York and how fabulous so and so’s make up director is, then I’m less inclinded to believe a word they say about the product.

  16. Dear Babs,

    You do seem to have a fair point. I mean the majority of any industry is not without it’s corruption. So one has to ask, who there is left to believe with gifts being handed over, or should I say, under the table?

    But by the same token, should it be fair to assume that the ‘author / journalist’ is biased because of whom they are sponsored by? Sure there’s the high chance that it’s most likely the case, but certainty does not preclude itself on chance. That’s just like saying that the fashion editor in our office, only seems to want to report on the fashion that she seems to be sporting that week. Which mind you is generally the case, because seriously, the Zac Posen range is okay, but come on… But I will hold out that there is some integrity left in the industry.

    I guess if you were receiving the benefits, then you would be more inclined to ‘understand the product’? And if you do happen to get the gifts, do you mind sharing them around, because I have yet to come across any. Must be all of those other ‘journalists’ getting to them first!

  17. would love to know your take on free labour aka interns. had a friend who interned at at a fashion magazine where she was bullied- well it happens..

    but yeah, maybe a post on interns? 🙂

    anyways, first time reader. i’m really liking what i’ve read so far!


  18. I wanted to ask you mag hag why do you have a beauty editor blog in your blog list if you don’t like them???

  19. As people, beauty people can be lovely girls. It’s just interesting to see how the job changes them and certain priorities.

    Babs… love your thoughts. Keep them coming!

  20. I would love to hear about interns to, I was an intern recently, but I felt more like one of those chinese kids thrown in a warehouse to do all the hardwork, all i got out of my experience was a sore back, headache and hunger pains

  21. It drives me nuts – the old beauty sale! They get all the products free – because of their position on the magazine – then make their co-workers on the very same magazine buy the stuff! Oh for charity, of course! It’s not even legal to sell the freebies…

  22. Agree with Babs 100%.

    And bismuth, it’s not the PR freebies that are the worry — it’s the forced coverage from advertisers that’s concerning.

    Beauty editors are forced to gush about crap products, simply because they advertise in their magazine.

    Ever wondered why Beauty editors all say in print that they love love love Maybelline and L’oreal, but then if you chat to them in person, none of them actually use the stuff?

    I have worked on both sides – as a beauty writer and as a publicist, so i know what goes on.

    It’s despicable, and if it was happening in any other facet of “journalism’ Media Watch would be all over it like the rash i get from using last month’s “best beauty buy”.

  23. ps – i once heard that the beauty editors gushed all over a certain product they thought was crap, simply because the publicity agency for the brand gave them all free ipods.

    how’s that for integrity?

  24. i tell you who’s got one beauty secret i’d love to know – christine from harper’s. she has the glowiest skin i’ve ever seen…

    also how tempting is it for these girls to try these procedures when they’re free? i’m against botox, but i have to admit if someone offered me a go for free i’d have to think twice about it… it’s all a bit downhill from there isn’t it.

  25. Well said Maxie
    My tip is look for the brands that don’t spend thousands on advertising dollars – there are some who pretty much choose not to advertise – then see what the beauty eds are saying about them. It’s the most honest review you can hope for

  26. RE Beauty Ed’s charging colleagues for the products- Instead of spending the money on Friday night drinks, it would be nicer if they donated the money. But i’ve never heard of it happening.

    One mag i know does send a box of unwanted freebies to a women’s shelter every so often.

  27. Come on girls, yes its a bit dodgy, and I know plenty of beauty eds who hate the fact they have to recommend one brand, when they’d rather talk about another, but they all still try and make sure the actual good products are getting much more coverage than the ‘value add’ advertisers.

    Plus its not just the beauty industy is it. Doctors get given ridiculous “incentives” from drug companies so they prescribe their brand of drug, which may or may not be the most suitable one for the patient (makes saying you love Loreal mascara look pretty harmless doesn’t it?). Plus most beauty gals are on a tiny salary (and are expected to look a million bucks) so can you blame them for making the most of the freebies.

    Seriously it’s been beauty ed bashing month this month and its gotta stop. Most of them are just perfectly nice girls who are just making the most of having a fun job.

    The end.

  28. zanziiibarrr

    aah! i’m another one who’d love to get an insider’s perspective on interns and work experience girls.

    while in my first year at uni, i did work experience at a mag at a certain three-lettered publishing company and it was pure hell. the insane thing is, that it wasn’t at a magazine that you’d expect it to be at. it’s not a fashion mag, more your ‘older women’s’ mag.

    the editorial assistant was a complete bitch as was the fat queen that made my life hell for a week. i was treated so badly there, no doubt because of my looks (i was overweight back then and quite ‘fashion retarded’). funny thing was that the ed ass was a chunky girl herself as was the queen. they were such disgusting human beings and i was so ecstatic to get the hell out of there on friday.

  29. Oh, I know 3 beauty editors and they are really gorgeous lovely sweet girls. They like their products and freebies but if you were offered these things you would take them too! (I know I would!!!) And I’m not into their scene at all, ie fashion impaired, but they embrace me anyway.

    The worst thing is though that they don’t get employed to write great beauty stories for the magazines readers – they employ them to be really gorgeous lovely sweet girls to schmooze with the advertisers.

    They HAVE to write about Loreal etc all the time but this ALL comes from the advertising department (called ‘editorial mentions’). The control the advertising people have over editorial is astounding. Do a test – next time you read a mag – see how many ads you can link up with mentions of the same company/product in editorial. And it’s not just the beauty eds – art directors are told to include shots of product, features editors are told to write whole stories!

  30. zanziiibarrr, that would be a mag right near photography studios. I think complete bitch has taken her 4 inch much needed heels and moved on… saw her in the Wizard of Oz under a house. Editorial assistant now days is shy and sweet. Don’t know much about the queen…

  31. Anne Onymous

    Word to Magette, and has anyone thought that if these girls weren’t flown to these places and offered these treatments by the companies, we’d never get to hear about it at all, especially if they’re writing for an independant! You think the mag will pay for a spa travel story to get writen? Or perhaps the girl on the 30K p/a wage should have to pay for her own work flights?? (is not actually a beauty ed)

  32. Re: interns. Honestly, it’s real bitchy but I do feel like they should be given the shitty jobs and made to do as much as possible. We all had to do the hard yards when we first started in mag land. Plus often they are considered to be more trouble than they’re worth (ie annoying and slowing the whole process down) which is probably why most mag hags are mean and impatient with them. It doesn’t help that often the interns you get now are arrogant and seem to think that they are experts in putting together a magazine. I’m all for passing on knowledge and giving someone a chance to break the industry, but only if they’re deserving and willing to work hard without complaining.

  33. 30K p/a!! You could earn more as a check-out chick! I would have thought salaries started nearer to 40K…does anyone know what the average is?

  34. I agree with magette to stop beauty editor bashing. They are the only mag girls you ever pick on so no wonder people think your jealous of them. As for interns, on my internship at an ad agency all i did was fetch coffees and pack away magazines and newspapers. It was boring but at least I got to see what goes on in an ad agency and isn’t that what it’s all meant to be about? Do magazine interns think they are gonna suddenly get to write a story because they are doing some work experience??! As if!

  35. 30k is bad, but i remember a year or three ago when Dolly was looking for an Editorial Assistant and they were offering 26k.


  36. ok, and about the interns. As you may have guessed I work in mags, and have worked in quite a few. Most people are generally lovely to interns (they are helping them out aren’t they), and most people also started out as interns. What I can’t stand is the interns/ workies that swan in thinking they can go style photo shoots or write features and then have tantrums when they are asked to do some photocopying. Mags aren’t a babysitting service, if people want work experience thats what they’ll get… and guess what not all work is fun, and you have to “work” quite hard to get to the fun jobs (and they are still damn hard work once you are there). I actually did work experience at a CD shop when I was at high school, and the boss was really horrible, so again its not just mags. Seriously!!

  37. AND then of course there are all the stolen beauty products and fashion items that leave the office in interns handbags.

  38. Being a workie is tough at the company most people are talking about. Sometimes there are a ton of girls scheduled on and the editorial assistants are so busy having to retrain people every day. You just have to be patient and willing to jump when you’re asked to do something.

    Though I remember doing work experience at Cosmo and Mia Freedman was still there as EIC. Mia walked straight past me like I didn’t exsist and asked the editorial assistant to ask the work experience to buy a banana for her son. I WAS SITTING RIGHT THERE. Then I was sent to go get her usual lunch from Sumo salad.

  39. Lala you have no idea what you are talking about, most of the interns are hard working eager young ladies with a heart, soul and brain. They have no right to be pushed around and made to stay in a store room all day. With my experience hardly any of them EVER get in the way, without them, god forbid, the actual staff at the magazine would have to pick something up, and then the staff might miss an update on net-a-porter or

    Free work experience isnt even legal, I think we should ban it and aim for paid slave labor

  40. Magette, the difference is that Doctors are publicly called into question regarding the freebies they get in exchange for prescribing medicines, and the government is holding an inquiry into the practice.

    It doesn’t matter what industry you’re talking about – it’s completely unethical no matter which way you look at it.

  41. Work experience is entirely legal — schools organise it.

  42. Talk about propelling the sick cycle…

  43. Magette, I agree with your comment…the girls are on tiny salaries and are expected to look a million dollars.. I think we need to give them a break – it’s a job that’s as valid as anyone else’s and let’s face it, most of us at some stage in our lives have wanted to be one of them/have been one of them. And after all…..we all keep reading the mags and buying the products (except when we can get freebies of course!!)

  44. My thoughts exactly Magette. And Eloise, I think I do know what I’m talking about: I’m the one who often ends up babysitting interns. OK, they’re not all bad; some are actually quite helpful for getting me coffees/returning samples/cleaning my shoes etc.

  45. Sorry Bunny,
    There is no such thing as unpaid work experience (in fact, it is illegal under the Department of Workplace Relations Act)

    and i am not a student which goes for a lot of work experience people

  46. I agree with Lala…. Eloise I think you must be the exception in this day and age if your interns are “hard working eager young ladies with a heart, soul and brain”….or perhaps you are one yourself. This generation are generally incredibly arrogant, overly self confident and expect to come in at a level that most of us have worked up to. They drive me mad with their attitude of “I’m too good for just photocopying and I went to university to be an editor….”. Maybe schools and uni’s should teach about good old fashioned respect and the benefits of working for your own success rather than just being handed it on a platter.

  47. I believe in hard work and recognition, and i am of ‘that’ generation Ali

  48. Ali, You simply cannot generalize the way you just did. Gen Y’s do have a reputation for being impatient regarding their careers, but it was not so long ago that i was an intern and i am proof that not all interns are as you described.

    During my time as an intern i was polite, hard working and helpful. In fact, i’ve never met an intern that wasn’t. Any intern who was “arrogant” or “overly self confident” is crazy- why would they waste their time working for free when it is obvious they will never get anywhere with that attitude?

  49. Well well well ladies aren’t we all getting hot under our collars this afternoon!

    Re-interns/workies…I was one myself at quite a few different magazines before I began PAID work at the 3 letter company in question and yes, I did allll the crappy jobs, from filing to getting coffee to sorting the storeroom etc etc but thats just the nature of the beast. This industry is so competitive that you gotta do the hard yards if you want to get in. And in reality if the workie/intern can’t hack it or thinks they’re above the menail tasks then they should probably quit while they’re ahead.

    Also re- the average for Coordinators, I’m pretty sure its around 30k. IF YOU’RE LUCKY!

  50. Dear Ali,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly; today’s youth expect the everything for nothing. They expect to live in the so called uptown areas, like the North or the East, but expect to pay rates like in the West.

    But you think that the education system is to blame? You must be in upper management, because to me that sounds like you’re shirking responsibility, and passing it onto others. You’re in the fashion industry for crying out loud! It’s oversaturated with prima donnas, thinking that everything must be served on a platter. At least everyone around this office thinks so.

    Sure the education system, is partly to blame. But to think that the industry, and the current lifestyles that people wish to attain, does not have any party to this, is just naive.

    Plus the attitude of those dishing out the work, would probably help with the whole situation. Making interns grovel just for a bit of sunshine, is surely going to create people with arrogance; it doesn’t hurt to interact like humans, as opposed to ‘Here, clean my shoes’ (As lalala indicates. Now that’s despicable behaviour). I’m guessing that just because you’ve probably been put through hell, that the new interns deserve to go through it as well. Guess the old saying, treat people how you wish to be treated has flown out the window, like last season’s shoes.

  51. zanziiibarrr

    i briefly met mia while doing work experience at the now defunct SHE when cosmo was directly across the hall from the SHE office. she was actually quite lovely.

  52. angelaseesangelablogs

    in got work experience at a modeling agency(for dec ’08). how fun fetching coffee and scanning stuff

  53. FYI ladies, I was being a smart arse re: getting interns to clean my shoes. And come on Nobody, we work in women’s magazines – making sweeping generalisations is our job!

  54. I assumed lalala was joking about the interns cleaning her shoes. However, i once came across some interns from a very, very popular teen magazine cleaning mud off gumboots from a shoot the day before! Oh, the glamour of magazines.

  55. Eloise, sorry, but NSW high schools have a work-experience component for year-ten students, and the students organise week-long placements for themselves. Did you not go to high school?

  56. Dear Bismuth,

    Yes, I’m in upper management – after working bloody hard to get here….and priding myself on being fair and not abusing the system of being able to get interns to do only the little shitty jobs but giving them the chance to experience as much as possible. I had an intern inform me last year that she was trained to be in management…..not to be anyone’s lackey or junior!!! I was amazed as I would never have said that to anyone at that age or level – my generation knew that we started on the ground floor and worked our way up – and that it extremely valuable experience in my opinion.

    I don’t know if the education system is to blame or whether this is just one of the new trait’s of a society that in my view is sadly lacking. I know that the industry contributes to it, but it’s a different type of prima donna these days – much more lethal than in my day…god I really am dating myself!! And I’m not shirking responsibility – I know we contribute to it..but these kids are entering the industry already like this….

    Nobody, of course there are lovely people in your generation – but the overwhelming majority I see are of that stereotype….and that’s across a number of industries I have constant exposure to.


  57. Bunny I did actually go to high school, and college. I am saying that i am NOT a student (now) and when you are not a student which a lot of work experience are, it IS illegal not to be paid for it. Please remember, it is illegal for people not in a course to be unpaid for their experience

  58. Ok Eloise, it might be technically illegal, but that doesn’t stop so many people wanting to do it (students or not), it’s not like they are forced too, they volunteer!

  59. Sometimes you go into work experience not knowing how bad and discriminating it will be, worst thing is that people that do experience who do not study, have to pay over $100 in insurance to do it. Its kind of like paying to be pushed around.

    Not even being introduced to any of the staff (at all) and being stuffed in the store room hhhmmmm….

  60. Well, being stuck in the store room isn’t such a bad thing… depending on who you’re stuck in the room with… 😉

  61. angelaseesangelablogs

    well i dont care what i do at work experience. as long as i do it well and i give it my best adn they can see that i dont really care

    dear ali,
    i’m a teen myself looking for work experience. call me weird but really i don’t care if i clean their shoes or wipe their floors. they let me do it so im greatful.


  62. Angelaseesangelablogs – you sound like my kind of intern. Someone needs to give you a job!

  63. angelaseesangelablogs

    oh haha….

    i hope u were not been sarcastic… coz i was serious

  64. Leigh Campbell

    Four Inch Heels,

    If you are going to continue with this blog then make it factual, witty and worth reading. Right now it contains incorrect, regurgitated second-hand information.

    If you are an employee in this industry you would understand the importance and process of interns. That’s how I got my job. That’s how every fashion and beauty journalist I know got their start. This makes me think, are you a disgruntled intern? Or, are you claiming that your subbing is terrible because you really are one?

    If you expect us to believe you actually attend these parties and functions, then give us a little more credit by getting the dates, names and venues correct.

    If you had any sort of knowledge or idea you would know that beauty editors are just as hard working and passionate as any other journalist or publishing employee. No day begins at 9am and ends at 5pm. Wages in this industry are modest. If we could offer our land lord mascara to cover our rent, most of us would. If we could trade in the lip loss for more time with our kids, or sick parents, hell – just to do our washing, most of us would. We enjoy and excel at our jobs because they bring us satisfaction, not freebies.

    If you worked harder with a humble attitude instead of time wasting on this petty project of yours then you may find yourself in one of the roles you are obviously jealous of and aspire to.

    If you are so bitter and unhappy then leave, find something that makes you happy and better yourself. Right now your negativity is poisoning you and the world has no time for pathetic people.

    If you have one brave bone in your body, post this comment.

    Yours in pity,
    Leigh Campbell, beauty editor, Cosmopolitan.

  65. What a rant Miss Leigh Campbell. If only the beauty pages of your magazine reflected some of the intelligence you show in your comment.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love reading about beauty, but I think I’ll stick to Suzanne Wangmann’s journalist pieces for Sunday magazine which inform without talking about “a hot colour” or “innovative new nail polish”.

    Just my two cents worth, and I work in the industry too but find this blog rather amusing but have no time for people like Perez Hilton who just draws on photos then posts them on to his blog.

  66. Wow, this is one hot topic.

    Get over it already. We all know no pay sucks, little pay sucks, and cosmetic surgery on young women? None of you need it!!

    Also, Leigh, I’m quite sure you got your first job at Shop when they first launched thanks to your friend Laura who worked for Cleo at the time, so how much did you really slave away for free?

  67. LMFAO@Leigh Campell.

    You’re not only a hypocrite, but I’m going with an unintelligent one at that.

    Why would someone start a blog if it didn’t make them happy? You’re the one replying with your negativety. If you don’t like this site, why are you wasting your energy A. By visiting and B. By commenting?

    Obviously, you’ve run out of lipsticks to try on…..

  68. Leigh Campbell….what a bitter humourless woman you truly are!

    Come on, you work for Cosmopolitan – not exactly at the forefront of intelligent, witty and cutting edge fashion….

    This blog is all about DICUSSION and ranting and raving and being downright nasty is not wanted nor invited here. We all enjoy the banter and arguments that happen on this blog, but really – your out and out nastiness belongs on the 6 inch heels blog…..hhmm perhaps you were the sad second runner that started that…

    Take your negativity and get back into your little kennel (apologies to my gorgeous little westie).


  69. Oh leave Leigh alone.At least she had the guts to stand up for her job and her friends.You are all as jealous and bitchy as each other.

  70. I actually feel sorry for Beauty Editors in that their jobs are so desperately desired by other women, so they cop lots of nastiness for it. I mean, it really is a dream job (though the hours are very long), and as a result bitchy, jealous girls resent them for it.

    I know a few Beauty Ed’s, and they are lovely, genuine girls who worked really hard to get where they are and are grateful to be there.

    People need to stop wasting time bad mouthing others and spend time improving their own lives instead!

  71. I think everything that needs to be said has been said here.

    Comments closed.

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