I used to read Vanity Fair pretty regularly in the 1990’s. I’m unsure how that got started, but I liked the pageantry and almost otherworldly insight into the world of the rich and powerful.
So much did I appreciate the magazine that I was compelled to submit a letter to the editor, my very first ever in the summer of 1995. I was living in rural Elkton, Kentucky working as a missionary for the Catholic Diocese of Owensboro.
Anyway, I read the June 1995 issue profiling Courtney Love. And I was pissed because I thought the author was holding her to a different standard than they would any male rock star (or parent.) So I dashed off a letter and mailed it with my catchy phrase “Keep on shocking them, girl.”
It was published in the August 1995 issue. I was so pleased. I’m sure I packed it all up somewhere, but I lost track of the physical copies after awhile. But I never forgot the thrill of seeing my words in print. And it inspired me to write letters elsewhere, mostly newspapers, of course. 25 years later, here we are …
Now and back then, I was not a big fan of Courtney Love or Hole. I was living in a very rural part of Kentucky so most music was country with a few pop stations. No alt-music. No overt appreciation for anyone using cocaine. Not any local stores selling Vanity Fair.
But I was a budding feminist. After several years immersion while studying at LSU, I felt myself pulling back from my liberal tendencies and feminism. Maybe it was the never ending gospel music. Still, I was going through a process of shaking off those scales from my eyes and getting back in touch with feminist identity. The letter was part of that process – I could see the injustice and bias so I did something new for me, a new political action.
I recently subscribed again because I wanted to support the issue edited by Ta-nehisi Coates about Breonna Taylor. And found myself thinking about that long-ago letter to the editor. So I looked it up in the archives.
Maybe I need to flex that skill now in contemporary publications.
You can read my letter to the editor of Vanity Fair below.