Sex queen, gossip girl, media mogul
By Jasmeet Sidhu
Toronto-born Bonnie Fuller admits she has a lot of nicknames through her storied and prolific career in the media industry: Sex queen, gossip girl, media mogul, washed-up editor, to name a few. She has had her fair share of public hits and high-profile rejections, but she emphasized with gusto to her home crowd in a speech in Toronto Wednesday, that despite her 20-year plus accomplishments in the industry and her perceived falling star, that “the last thing I’m going to do is retire.”
That tenacity wouldn’t surprise anyone who is even the slightest bit familiar with Fuller’s career. A University of Toronto graduate, and winner of Ad Age’s “Editor of the Year” twice, Fuller has fundamentally shaped the way North American women consume magazines and celebrity news. From having been Editor-in-chief for Flare, Marie-Claire, Cosmopolitan and Glamour magazine bringing those magazines to their highest circulation and ad revenues in history, to converting US weekly into the first celebrity newsweekly and shifting Star from a tabloid into a magazine, Fuller has left her indelible imprint on the industry, and isn’t quite finished yet.
Fuller was back to her hometown on Wednesday at the “Women of Influence” Luncheon series, describing how she first got started in the competitive industry, her very public rise and falling out with Glamour magazine amongst others, and discussing her latest venture as President and Editor-in-Chief of Hollywoodlife.com to more than 400 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. I was lucky enough to score a ticket to the event and hear Fuller speak on everything from the current state of the celebrity news industry, to lessons learned from Madonna.
On her beginnings:
Rejected from Canada’s only journalism school at the time, Ryerson University, Fuller first showed signs of her resiliency by freelancing for papers, including the Toronto Star, and magazines on the weekends while attending University of Toronto. “If you want a lot in life and out of life, you have to put a lot in,” she advocated, describing how there is no such thing as a normal trajectory to any career or any goal. “Make the most of this life you’re in now.”
Bouncing back after rejection and “becoming your own Madonna”
After moving Glamour magazine to its highest sales and circulation, Fuller got the call she wasn’t expecting: she was abruptly fired. This could have signaled the end to her career in the magazine and publishing industry. But instead, she took a lesson from a woman who has seen her own ups and downs: Madonna. “Become your own Madonna … all women at various points need fresh ideas and fresh takes on you – you will essentially stay the same, but your packaging won’t.” And she warned: “If you don’t change it up, you will get stale.
Celebrity news is becoming mainstream
“What have been the three biggest stories that dominated mainstream media in the last year? Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods, and Sandra Bullock.” Fuller doesn't believe celebrity news is the pastime of bored housewives or the end of intelligent society. She believes, more than ever, we view celebrities as a connection to our own lives. Stories about cheated spouses and Celine Dion’s infertility problems compel and draw all of us.
On why she’s been so successful in the industry:
“I’ve always been my best customer,” Fuller says
simply. “If you don’t want to buy or read your own magazine, then who
Jasmeet Sidhu is a summer reporting intern at the Toronto Star who has never been on a celebrity gossip news site, despite what her browser history says. When she is dutifully avoiding Perez Hilton, she also writes a blog for the Star on climate change, where she covered the UN Climate Change conferences in Copenhagen and Poland. Follow Jasmeet on Twitter.