Helen Gurley Brown Made Me a Cosmo Girl

Guest Blog: I am grateful to Helen Gurley Brown for helping me to feel like a sexual creature

I am a Cosmo girl, thanks to Helen Gurley Brown, and proud of it.

I once was photographed for Cosmopolitan in an editorial photograph with the logo, “What will happen to you if you become a Cosmo Girl.” Well, opportunity came my way due to the credo of Helen Gurley Brown, who impressed upon her readers and models that we could look sexy, have a career and stay single for as long as we wished and still have an active sex life … like a man.

As a result, I went on to become a model for De Beers Diamonds, Faberge Tigress, Chevy, Woolite, Spiedel, Clairol, Revlon, Hanes. The list goes on and on and made me financially independent — which was a part of Helen’s credo.

I also was photographed for many other magazine covers such as Esquire (yes, the men wanted my image to sell their copy), New York Magazine (chose me to promote a book, “The Sensual Summer,” by X, and used a photo of me in a bikini being splashed by a fire hydrant), GQ (more men picking up on Brown’s choice of sensual women), Newsweek (“Logo Fashion 71 — Anything Goes”) etc.

Yes, even esteemed Newsweek chose to have Helen Gurley Brown’s sensual image of me wearing red pantyhose and hot pants, a Romanian blouse, a big hat and a smile on its cover. The cover outsold all other Newsweek covers in the ‘70s except those on Watergate.

In 1971, Helen chose me to be photographed by Francesco Scavullo for her cover of Cosmo in a T-shirt with the image of a pussycat and logo ‘’Stroke me I’ll purr.” The shirts were sold and sales went through the roof.

Today, actresses are used for covers, but when I became a supermodel in the early ‘70s, models with European sensuality were chosen. Helen chose me to be photographed for many inside lingerie shots, done most frequently by J. Fred Smith and Pete Turner.

But the emphasis was on beauty and sensuality, not sexuality. There was no nudity in Cosmo, and Helen frowned on the Playboy image. In fact, all of the models on the East Coast — primarily Ford models — rejected Playboy’s desire to have us in its pages. I know I did. Being in Playboy in the early ‘70s would have damaged my saleability to the valuable advertisers and would have made a deep wound in my strict Pennsylvania Deutsch puritanical heritage.

Helen’s models had class. Kim Basinger and Rene Russo were two cover girls at the top of the celebrated cover-girl list.

I am grateful to Helen for helping me to feel like a sexual creature instead of the Puritanical school teacher and Pan Am stewardess I was prior to meeting her. She jump-started something that was covered up in me that roared out of me as my image for Tigress Perfume by Faberge.

Today, I am a professor of creative writing, have written a memoir and a novel, and review books and movies. I am read and listened to and this is a pleasure, but I would never have had this opportunity without first having been a Cosmo Girl.

The late and charming Helen Gurley Brown created part of my arsenal of experiences from which I draw upon to write.