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Crack open the August issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, and you’ll find Editor in Chief Kate White sharing her readers’ “favorite man-meeting MOs”: “I’ve met men at the hardware store. Pick up a brush, solvent, anything, then turn to a cute guy and ask him to explain how to use it.” Mixed messages abound in waiting-room husband-hunting primers like Cosmo, which this month spotlights “fun, fearless females” (as if the two were mutually exclusive), and then, 96 pages later, unabashedly doles out sex tips with the caveat “Sure, it took time for Heather to figure out how to morph into her man’s ultimate passion partner…”
Fun? Sure. Fearless? Maybe. Feminist? Er, no.
To hell with morphing. Click on www.talulamag.com, and you’ll find Sabrina Naqvi, editor in chief of the new Web ‘zine Talula, eschewing Cosmo’s “When Should You Marry?” for a roundtable titled “In What Ways Have Women’s Views on Marriage Changed?” Talula, says Naqvi, “is about who women are, rather than what women should be.” Wait, like, I don’t have to be my man’s ultimate passion partner to be a fun, fearless female?
“I can say I understand them; I’ve read all those magazines,” says Naqvi. “But Talula offers women the opportunity to learn from a new perspective. It’s not about living for other people; it’s about living for yourself.” Sounds pretty straightforward. No cognitive dissonance here.
What Talula lacks in tradition it makes up for in moxie. Naqvi, 25, a first-generation Pakistani-American, has a pan-global, ecumenical staff producing pieces such as “Tales From a Young Woman in Beijing,” a review of Sister Souljah’s new book, and an interview with groundbreaking artist Christa Larry.
Since she first identified a market for a “fun, progressive, cutting-edge women’s Web ‘zine,” Naqvi’s army of one has expanded to include writers, Web and graphic designers, photographers, models, and…men. “I’m just reflecting the changes I see in the women of today,” she says. Believing that “women of today” won’t be sucked in by a whitewashed fashion spread is maybe Naqvi’s most salient marketing tool, making what mainstream mags view as a niche work to her advantage.
Though she won’t disclose the number of hits her site has received since its July debut, Naqvi says Talula has been successful on word of mouth alone, though it is not yet linked to other sites. But that’s all about to change: Naqvi, who graduated from the University of Maryland with a marketing degree, will soon take a sabbatical from her full-time job as a marketer for an entertainment firm to promote Talula to search engines and women’s sites. So when the next issue goes out on Sept. 25, women may finally have the option of trading Cosmo’s Agony Column for Talula’s Advice from Shanti.—Amanda Fazzone