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Meet the New Editor-In-Chief of Cosmo

She credits transcendental meditation with part of her success.

By: Laurel Pantin
Styling: Stephanie Mark
Photography: Jake Rosenberg

We’re willing to bet the first non-teen magazine you ever bought (probably well before you would qualify as an adult, or understand what half the racy cover lines meant) was Cosmopolitan. The magazine, which launched in 1886, boasts some of the highest circulation of any women’s title, and the website gets more visitors than...well, 99 percent of the rest of the internet.

Oh, and did we mention they have a show coming out on E!? Because they do. It’s called So Cosmo, and it premiered last night.

This fall, Michele Promaulayko took over the helm from Joanna Coles, and has hit the ground running, bringing the brand’s print and digital branches closer together, and continually working on Cosmo’s signature tone that’s “equal parts smart and sexy, but also a thought leader in the conversations that matter most to young women.”

Considering she’s editor-in-chief of one of the most storied magazine titles out there, not to mention one of our favorites, we had to head to Hearst Tower to check out her new digs and hear all about her plans for the brand, along with exactly how she deals with the stress of the job.

 

The long road (back) to Cosmo:

“Becoming the editor-in-chief of Cosmo was a bit of a homecoming for me because I was the executive editor of Cosmo—the number two—from 2000 to 2008, under Kate White, who was the editor-in-chief here for 14 years. I always called that position editor-in-chief boot camp, because being the number two at Cosmo is a huge job and Kate was very generous in affording me a lot of responsibility.

“It was amazing training to then go on and become the editor-in-chief of Women’s Health magazine. I did that for almost six years and I loved it. Then Yahoo came calling and they were attracting a lot of very interesting talent. I wasn’t looking to leave Women’s Health, but I was excited by what they wanted to build and also excited to immerse myself in digital. So I took the crazy leap of faith and left my corner office for the open floor plan that is digital [laughs]. That lasted a year and a half. Yahoo’s going through some pivots and that freed me up to come back here, which was a dream come true. It actually ended up being insanely good timing in the end.”

 

Her plans for the brand:

Cosmo is such a unique magazine in that we’re equal parts smart and sexy, but also a thought leader in the conversations that matter most to young women. We’ve always advocated for reproductive freedom and rights, we speak to our readers in an extremely frank and candid way, and readers expect that from us, so that’s a tradition that I plan to continue. We cover so many topics—fashion, beauty, wellness, health, all of that stuff. I probably will expand the health and wellness because it’s so important to young women who now see wellness as an integrated part of their lives. Interestingly, young women see health, wellness, fitness, and nutrition as a tool in their arsenal to accomplish other things. They see it as a conduit to success.

“One of my initiatives is to break down the silos [between print and digital] a little bit and have the quote-unquote print editors contribute more content to Cosmo.com and to facilitate more shared content. That’s the way the world’s going—the web is a hungry beast and they can never have too much. I’m excited about facilitating some of that collaboration and I’m sort of uniquely positioned to do that. But the web team doesn’t report to me, they function autonomously and they’re doing a kick-ass job. It’s a structure that’s been very successful for Hearst, the way that it’s structured now.”

 

How she’s confronting the challenges facing the publishing industry:

“The [challenge is that] we’re dealing with a fragmented audience. There are lots of places to go for content and people are occupied by lots of different distractions. Even when you go to check out at the grocery store, other products are crowding that checkout, if you’re even looking at them because you’re looking down at your mobile device. So the great news is that Cosmo, the brand, has a huge footprint on all of these platforms. We are where our readers are and the most important thing for me is to always bring them something special that they’re not going to be able to get anywhere else. That includes the totality of the Cosmo brand in its entire universe. And I think that kind of goes back to the honesty with which we communicate with readers. They know they’re not going to get bullshit when they come and ask us a question—we’re gonna give it to them straight [laughs]. And I think that’s an important role that we play.”

 

And then how she mellows out:

“[Down time] is critical for me to perform optimally to manage stress, and it’s important for me to show the rest of my staff that having that down time is an important thing. I’m a big believer in that.

“I’m trained in transcendental meditation. I’m a huge proponent of it. One of the things I like about it is you can do it pretty much anywhere. You need quiet, you need to close your eyes, you need 20 minutes. It’s a very specific kind of meditation and it’s the most studied. There’s probably between 700 and 1000 studies on transcendental meditation that prove its efficacy in all these different areas: lowering blood pressure and increasing focus, helping sleep, boosting happiness, it does pretty much everything for you.

“It’s a brain dump, it’s like you’re clearing out the garbage. And so the more you do that, the more you feel this, for lack of a better word, serenity and evenness that really is such an incredible tool in anything. It makes you less reactive—and that’s a great thing in most situations. Whether it’s work or a relationship situation, or a frustration at the airline counter as I was dealing with on Sunday [laughs].”

Part of the series:

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