ELLE (Australia) - - Contents - @JUSTINE_CULLEN

I was 14 years old the day I first walked into the ELLE magazine of­fices, in the same build­ing I write this from now. It was a daunt­ing place, full of beau­ti­ful, glam­orous, pur­pose­ful women. I was fresh from the ‘burbs and the only time I’d ever known women to look so beau­ti­ful, glam­orous and pur­pose­ful was on TV – Mad­die on Moon­light­ing, An­gela in Who’s The

Boss? – but even they weren’t nearly as cool as this. The edi­tor was ter­ri­fy­ing. I hadn’t caught my breath be­fore she sent me on a mis­sion to take some Chanel bags to a shoot across town. “Guard them with your life,” she warned, with­out a hint of warmth or irony in her tone. Pet­ri­fied, I got in a cab – my first ever with­out my mum – and dragged the bags to the shoot. In the stu­dio, pho­tog­ra­pher Gra­ham Shearer and his wife, ELLE’S French fash­ion direc­tor Pasha Merk – an iconic and im­pos­ing duo in Aus­tralian fash­ion – were shoot­ing Elle Macpher­son. At one point, for quite a long time, Elle wasn’t wear­ing a top. I thought it was the height of so­phis­ti­ca­tion that no-one seemed mildly in­ter­ested in this fact. I was al­lowed to sit at the ta­ble for lunch, so ob­vi­ously that was the mo­ment when I knew I’d made it. I don’t think I said any­thing ex­cept, “Yes, thank you” for the en­tire day. “Would you like some salad?” “Yes, thank you.” “Tape these shoes.” “Yes, thank you.” No-one has ever been so ap­pre­cia­tive about be­ing or­dered to pick up a chicken and sun­dried tomato fo­cac­cia (it was 1990). I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, and so my fate was sealed.

That ver­sion of ELLE even­tu­ally closed down, but the in­ter­na­tional edi­tions were al­ways my favourite magazines and I sub­scribed to them, saved for them, de­voured them. They were my bea­con of what to wear, read, do, lis­ten to and think. The ELLE woman – some­one who was as spir­ited and smart as she was stylish, and prob­a­bly had a filthy sense of hu­mour – was the woman I des­per­ately wanted to be. Even­tu­ally I was an edi­tor my­self (maybe not quite so ter­ri­fy­ing, but 10 years of in­terns may beg to dif­fer) and when I heard a ru­mour that the com­pany I worked for was think­ing about re­launch­ing ELLE into the Aus­tralian mar­ket, I be­came a woman pos­sessed in my de­ter­mi­na­tion to get the gig. It’s no spoiler to say that I did, and here we are.

That was five years ago and I am so proud of what we’ve done in that time. It’s been a real thrill to head up a magazine as com­mit­ted to women as ELLE is, at a time that women have found their voices and banded to­gether to fight for our rights in a way we never had be­fore. It’s been an hon­our to edit a magazine that is al­lowed to be brave and play­ful – I’m re­mem­ber­ing the mir­ror is­sue where we al­lowed the reader to be our cover star, the Gemma Ward flip cover with 35 dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties, the im­age of Ni­cole Trun­fio breast­feed­ing that went around the world. I’ve loved every minute of it.

It’s now time for me to hand the baton on to some­one else while I en­ter the next phase of my life. I do so with al­most over­whelm­ing love – for this mast­head, the team who make it, and the au­di­ence who love it as much as I al­ways have – and also quite a lot of fear, as be­ing the edi­tor-in-chief of ELLE, or want­ing to be, has been a part of my iden­tity long be­fore it was ever a re­al­ity. I’m not quite sure I know who I am with­out it. But that’s part of the won­der of be­ing a woman, isn’t it? Grow­ing and evolv­ing in ways you never knew to plan for. And the best bit of all is that now I get to be a reader and fan of ELLE again. My bet is I’ll love it even more.



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