Cosmopolitan (magazine)


September 2015 cover featuring Demi Lovato
Editor-in-Chief Michele Promaulayko[1]
Categories Female
Frequency monthly
Total circulation
3,032,211 (USA)[2]
First issue 1886 (as a literary magazine)
1965 (as a women's magazine)
Company Hearst
Country United States
(other countries also available)
Language English
ISSN 0010-9541

Cosmopolitan is an international fashion magazine for women. As The Cosmopolitan it was first published in 1886 in the United States as a family magazine, it was later transformed into a literary magazine and eventually became a women's magazine in the late 1960s. Also known as Cosmo, its content as of 2011 included articles on women's issues, relationships, sex, health, careers, self-improvement, celebrities, fashion, and beauty. Published by Hearst Corporation, Cosmopolitan has 64 international editions, is printed in 35 languages and is distributed in more than 110 countries.[3]


Cosmopolitan began as a family magazine, launched in 1886 by Schlicht & Field of New York as The Cosmopolitan.[4]

Paul Schlicht told his first-issue readers that his publication was a "first-class family magazine", adding, "There will be a department devoted exclusively to the concerns of women, with articles on fashions, on household decoration, on cooking, and the care and management of children, etc. There was also a department for the younger members of the family."

Cosmopolitan's circulation reached 25,000 that year, but by November 1888, Schlicht & Field were no longer in business. John Brisben Walker acquired the magazine in 1889. That same year, he dispatched Elizabeth Bisland on a race around the world against Nellie Bly to draw attention to his magazine.[5]

Under John Brisben Walker's ownership, E. D. Walker, formerly with Harper's Monthly, took over as the new editor, introducing colour illustrations, serials and book reviews. It became a leading market for fiction, featuring such authors as Annie Besant, Ambrose Bierce, Theodore Dreiser, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Willa Cather, and Edith Wharton.[6] The magazine's circulation climbed to 75,000 by 1892.

In 1897, Cosmopolitan announced plans for a free correspondence school: "No charge of any kind will be made to the student. All expenses for the present will be borne by the Cosmopolitan. No conditions, except a pledge of a given number of hours of study." When 20,000 immediately signed up, Walker could not fund the school and students were then asked to contribute 20 dollars a year. Also in 1897, H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds was serialized, as was his The First Men in the Moon (1900). Olive Schreiner contributed a lengthy article about the Boer War.

In 1905, William Randolph Hearst purchased the magazine for US$400,000 (equivalent to $10,553,000 in 2015) and brought in journalist Charles Edward Russell, who contributed a series of investigative articles, including "The Growth of Caste in America" (March 1907), "At the Throat of the Republic" (December 1907 - March 1908) and "What Are You Going to Do About It?" (July 1910 - January 1911), and "Colorado - New Tricks in an Old Game" (December 1910).

Other contributors during this period included O.Henry,[7] A. J. Cronin, Alfred Henry Lewis, Bruno Lessing, Sinclair Lewis, David Graham Phillips, George Bernard Shaw, Upton Sinclair, and Ida Tarbell. Jack London's novella, "The Red One", was published in the October 1918 issue[8] (two years after London's death[9]), and a constant presence from 1910-18 was Arthur B. Reeve, with 82 stories featuring Craig Kennedy, the "scientific detective". Magazine illustrators included Francis Attwood, Dean Cornwell, Harrison Fisher, and James Montgomery Flagg.

March 1894 issue

Hearst formed Cosmopolitan Productions (also known as Cosmopolitan Pictures), a film company based in New York City from 1918 to 1923, then Hollywood until 1938, for the purpose of making films from stories published in the magazine.

Cosmopolitan magazine was officially titled as Hearst's International Combined with Cosmopolitan from 1925 until 1952, but was simply referred to as Cosmopolitan. In 1911, Hearst had bought a middling monthly magazine called World To-Day and renamed it Hearst's Magazine in April 1912. In June 1914 it was shortened to Hearst's and was ultimately titled "Hearst's International" in May 1922. In order to spare serious cutbacks at San Simeon, Hearst merged the magazine Hearst's International with Cosmopolitan effective March 1925. But while the Cosmopolitan title on the cover remained at a typeface of eight-four points, over time span the typeface of the Hearst's International decreased to thirty-six points and then to a barely legible twelve points. After Hearst died in 1951, the Hearst's International disappeared from the magazine cover altogether in April 1952.[10]

With a circulation of 1,700,000 in the 1930s, Cosmopolitan had an advertising income of $5,000,000. Emphasizing fiction in the 1940s, it was subtitled The Four-Book Magazine since the first section had one novelette, six or eight short stories, two serials, six to eight articles and eight or nine special features, while the other three sections featured two novels and a digest of current non-fiction books. During World War II, sales peaked at 2,000,000.

The magazine began to run less fiction during the 1950s. Circulation dropped to slightly over a million by 1955, a time when magazines were overshadowed during the rise of paperbacks and television. The Golden Age of magazines came to an end as mass market, general interest publications gave way to special interest magazines targeting specialized audiences.

Helen Gurley Brown arrives

Cosmopolitan's circulation continued to decline for another decade until Helen Gurley Brown became chief editor in 1965. She remodeled and re-invented it as a magazine for modern single career women.[11] The magazine eventually adopted a cover format consisting of a usually young female model (in recent years, an actress, singer or another prominent female celebrity), typically in a low cut dress, bikini or some other revealing outfit.

The magazine set itself apart by frankly discussing sexuality from the point of view that women could and should enjoy sex without guilt. The first issue under Helen Gurley Brown, July 1965,[12] featured an article on the birth control pill,[11] which had gone on the market exactly five years earlier.[13][14]

This was not Brown's first publication dealing with sexually liberated women. Her 1962 advice book, Sex and the Single Girl, had been a bestseller.[15][16] Fan mail begging for Brown's advice on many subjects concerning women's behavior, sexual encounters, health, and beauty flooded her after the book was released. Brown sent the message that a woman should have men complement her life, not take it over. Enjoying sex without shame was also a message she incorporated in both publications.[17]

In Brown's early years as editor, the magazine received heavy criticism. The magazine ran a near-nude centerfold of actor Burt Reynolds in April 1972, causing great controversy and attracting much attention.[18]

In April 1978, a single edition of Cosmopolitan Man was published as a trial, targeted to appeal to men. Its cover featured Jack Nicholson and Aurore Clément. It was published twice in 1989 as a supplement to Cosmopolitan.[19] Hearst abandoned this project after the company purchased Esquire.

Cosmopolitan today

Cosmopolitan stand at The Brandery fashion show (Barcelona, 2010)

The magazine, and in particular its cover stories, have become increasingly sexually explicit in tone, and covers have models wearing revealing clothes. Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the United States, used to cover up Cosmopolitan at checkout stands because of complaints about sexually inappropriate headlines.[20] The UK edition of Cosmopolitan, which began in 1972, was the first Cosmopolitan magazine to be branched out to another country. It was well known for sexual explicitness, with strong sexual language, male nudity and coverage of such subjects as rape. In 1999 CosmoGIRL!, a spinoff magazine targeting a teenage female audience, was created for international readership. It shut down in December 2008.

The magazine currently features topics including sex, relationships, beauty, fashion and health. The advice and feature articles in the US edition are written to a presumed audience of white women.[21] On September 2016, Michele Promaulayko was named the new Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan after Joanna Coles was promoted to Chief Content Office of Hearst.[22]

Cosmopolitan has 64 international editions worldwide published in 35 languages with distribution in more than 100 countries making Cosmopolitan the largest-selling young women's magazine in the world.[3] Some international editions are published in partnerships, such as licenses or joint ventures, with established publishing houses in each local market.

Cosmopolitan has since the sixties been a women's magazine discussing such topics as sex, health, fitness and fashion. Cosmopolitan also has a section called "Ask Him Anything" where a male writer answers readers' questions about men and dating.

Over 3,000,000 people are subscribed to Cosmopolitan.

Awards and features by Cosmopolitan

Fun, Fearless Male of the Year

For more than a decade, the February issue has featured this award. In 2011 Russell Brand received the magazine's Fun Fearless Male of the Year Award, joining Kellan Lutz and Paul Wesley (2010), John Mayer (2008), Nick Lachey (2007), Patrick Dempsey (2006), Josh Duhamel (2005), Matthew Perry (2004), and Jon Bon Jovi (2003).

Fun, Fearless Female of the Year

Nicole Scherzinger received the 2012 Fun, Fearless Female of the Year honor, a title that had been previously awarded to Mila Kunis (2011), Anna Faris (2010), Ali Larter (2009), Katherine Heigl (2008), Eva Mendes (2007), Beyoncé (2006), Ashlee Simpson (2005), Alicia Silverstone (2004), Sandra Bullock (2003), Britney Spears (2002), Debra Messing (2001), Jennifer Love Hewitt (2000), Shania Twain (1999) and Ashley Judd (1998)

Bachelor of the Year

Cosmopolitan's November issue features the hottest bachelors from all 50 states. Pictures and profiles of all the Bachelors are posted on, where readers view and vote for their favorite, narrowing it down to six finalists. A team of Cosmopolitan editors then selects the Bachelor of the Year, who is announced at an annual party and media event in New York. The 50 bachelors generally appear on programs such as The Today Show.[23]

Past winners include:

Practice Safe Sun

In the May 2006 issue of Cosmopolitan, the magazine launched the Practice Safe Sun campaign, an initiative aimed at fighting skin cancer by asking readers to stop all forms of tanning other than tanning from a bottle.[26] In conjunction with the campaign, Cosmo's editor-in-chief, Kate White, approached Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), known for her support of women's health issues, with concerns that women weren't fully aware of the dangers of indoor tanning and the effectiveness of the current warning labels.[27] After careful review, the Congresswoman agreed that it was necessary to recommend that the FDA take a closer look. She and Representative Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) introduced the Tanning Accountability and Notification Act (TAN Act - H.R. 4767) on February 16, 2006.[26] President Bush signed the act in September 2007, and the new federal law requires the FDA to scrutinize the warning labels on tanning beds and issue a report by September 2008.[28]

Cosmo Blog Awards

Cosmopolitan UK launched the Cosmo Blog Awards [29] in 2010. The Awards attracted more than 15,000 entries and winning and highly commended blogs were voted for in several categories including beauty, fashion, lifestyle and celebrity. The 2011 Awards launched in August 2011 and nominations are open until 31 August 2011. All UK-based bloggers and blogs written by British blogges abroad with a British perspective can be entered.

Cosmopolitan, The Fragrance

In May 2015, Cosmopolitan UK announced they were launching their first ever fragrance. This is considered a first in the magazine industry. Named 'Cosmopolitan, The Fragrance', the perfume takes on the notion of their much-loved phrase 'Fun, Fearless Female' and is set to launch in September.[30][31]


In September 2014, Cosmopolitan began endorsing political candidates. The endorsements are based on "established criteria" agreed upon by the magazine's editors. Specifically, Cosmopolitan will only endorse candidates that support equal pay laws, legal abortion, free contraceptives, gun control and oppose voter identification laws. Amy Odell, editor of, has stated that under no circumstances will the magazine endorse a political candidate that is pro-life: "We’re not going to endorse someone who is pro-life because that’s not in our readers’ best interest.”[32] According to Joanna Coles, the magazine's Editor-in-Chief, the endorsements of Cosmopolitan will focus on "candidates in swing states or candidates who are strongly in favor of issues like contraception coverage or gun control."[33] In the 2014 U.S. elections, Cosmopolitan officially endorsed twelve Democratic candidates. However, only two of them won their respective political campaigns.[34]


In its January 1988 issue, Cosmopolitan ran a feature claiming that women had almost no reason to worry about contracting HIV long after the best available medical science indicated otherwise. The piece claimed that unprotected sex with an HIV-positive man did not put women at risk of infection and went on to state that "most heterosexuals are not at risk" and that it was impossible to transmit HIV in the missionary position.[35] This article angered many knowledgeable people, including AIDS and gay rights activists.[36][37] The protests organised in response to the article's publication were turned into a 30-minute documentary titled "Doctors, Liars and Women: AIDS Activists Say NO to Cosmo" by two members of ACTUP, a New York City based collective of HIV/AIDS activists.[38][39][40]

Whilst considered a magazine for adult women, Cosmopolitan has been accused of subtly targeting children.[41] Former model Nicole Weider accused the magazine of using slang "which is used by young people not adults" and using (then) underage celebrities, such as Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, as well as other celebrities popular with teens such as Ashley Greene and Dakota Fanning, in an attempt to gain the attention of underage girls.[41]

Victoria Hearst, a granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst (founder of Cosmopolitan's parent company) and sister of Patty Hearst, has lent her support to a campaign which seeks to have Cosmopolitan classified as harmful under the guidelines of "Material Harmful to Minors" laws. Hearst, the founder of an evangelical Colorado church called Praise Him Ministries[42] states that "the magazine promotes a lifestyle that can be dangerous to women’s emotional and physical well being. It should never be sold to anyone under 18".[41] Donald Clark, the secretary of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has also shown interest in the matter.[41]

Cosmopolitan was criticized by Katie Yoder of the Campaign Life Coalition for its September 2014 decision to exclude pro-life candidates in its endorsements, stating "Yes, Cosmo deeply cares about 'all young women.' Minus those pro-life women voters, women candidates – and unborn females, of course."[43]

Editor in chief (American edition)


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  11. 1 2 Benjamin, Jennifer (September 2009). "How Cosmo Changed the World". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  13. Marks, Lara (2001). Sexual Chemistry: A History of the Contraceptive Pill. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08943-0.
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  17. Gianoulis, Tina (2002). "Cosmopolitan." Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Gale Virtual Reference Library. pp. 867–868.
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  20. New York Daily News - The Ticker, New York Daily News.
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  25. "Ryan Mickey McLean Interview - Ohio Bachelor Ryan McLean Quotes". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
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  27. "Cosmo to Promote 'Safe Skin' | Mediaweek | Professional Journal archives from". 2006-04-10. Archived from the original on March 28, 2009. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
  28. American Academy Of Dermatology Association Commends President Bush For Signing Tanning Accountability And Notification (TAN) Act
  29. "Cosmo Blog Awards". Cosmopolitan UK. Archived from the original on September 10, 2011.
  30. "The Home of Cosmopolitan, The Fragrance". Cosmo Fragrance. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  31. "Cosmopolitan launches Cosmopolitan The Fragrance - Hearst UKHearst UK". 2015-05-26. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  32. Berry, Susan (6 September 2014). "Cosmo to Endorse Political Candidates, and No Pro-Lifers Allowed". Breitbart. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  33. "The new Cosmo: Love, sex, politics?". Politico. 2014-09-04. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  34. Ashe Schow. [> "The 8 biggest losers of the war on women"]. Washington Examiner.
  35. "AIDS in New York: A Biography - New York Magazine". 2006-06-05. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
  37. Rossi (1998-06-01). "Cosmo Confessions". Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  41. 1 2 3 4 McKay, Hollie (September 6, 2012). "Victoria Hearst says her family's Cosmopolitan magazine "pornographic", joins campaign to get it brown bagged". Fox News.
  42. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  43. Yoder, Katie (4 September 2014). "Cosmo Mag set to endorse candidates, says pro-life is a 'deal breaker'". Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  44. DAVID CARR and CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY (4 September 2012). "New Editor at Cosmopolitan: Joanna Coles Replaces Kate White". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
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