Marianne Mairesse - Chief Editor #2

by Emmanuelle Christ

This month, we are heading off behind the scene of Marie Claire Magazine with Marianne Mairesse, its managing editor since 2016. This committed and faithful woman – who has spent all her career at Marie Claire Magazine – responds to our questions with great sincerity.

Could you please tell us about your career? How did you become a managing director ?

As a Master’s degree student in Literature at the Sorbonne, I was looking for an internship in the press, just to see. I was taken for a month, in October 97. I was so in tune with the Marie Claire “spirit”! I loved the boost, the work, and the thoughts of the great journalists and reporters of the time so much that I never left. It has been 21 years now. After writing about mental health, upward mobility, sexual assaults, etc., I specialised in Culture and the interviews of leading figures. I loved doing “The Little World”, a regular appointment for which a journalist and I spent a whole day at a key figure’s place where she or he would tell us about her or his world and confide in us. I was appointed deputy editor-in-chief in 2013 and editor-in-chief in 2014, then managing editor in 2016. Building up a magazine with my team is exhilarating.

You successfully launched a new version of Marie Claire in 2016, what was your vision for this title?

A high class, intelligent, and intimate Marie Claire. Getting back to the Marie Claire style, great fashion series and travels in particular, a kind of beauty that thinks and considers itself, a watchful and constructive involvement towards women, with men. Trying to build up a beautiful magazine while constantly thinking about its readers.

According to you, what is the future of Fashion print magazines?

Only titles with a vision, a strong identity, and an assumed uniqueness will remain. The press will get closer to beautiful books in terms of their required level and their committed stance.

Women's magazines have always been torn between clichés of women's image and women's liberation. How does your magazine cope up with such schizophrenia?

Actually, we are not schizophrenic. The Marie Claire woman is a subject, not an object: we are far from an outrageous sophistication, from disguised women, from disembodied images. We show rather natural, free, honest women who look you in the eyes. We do not give injunctions to our readers; on the contrary, we address their intelligence and free will. Our role is not to tell them what to think or what to wear, even less so to come up with more injunctions. No, plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine are not prerequisites, and yes, fashion is an inspiration and not enacted guidelines. We want to get into the reality of women's life and tell about it, its most galvanising aspects as well as its darker sides – such as life can be. Sharing them creates a genuine connection with women.

If I am not mistaken, in the history of Marie Claire, I have only spotted one cover featuring a plus size model (May 2012) and spotted only one back model (July 2014). How can one act towards more diversity in women's magazines?

Our last cover featuring a black woman was 3 months ago (January 2019): Liya Kebede posing with her two children Raee and Suhul. They have become too rare indeed, it is obvious for us to show all types of women: all skin types of course but also different ages, which is what we have mostly focused on. Lately, 74-year-old philosopher Chantal Thomas was telling about the benefits of swimming as an introduction to a beauty column.

Which issue are you the most proud of? And why?

I believe there is a before and an after the August 2015 cover: Angela Lindvall and the cheetah. This cover showed our intention of showing a natural and powerful woman in the desert in the middle of summer and with a wild animal. This was in contradistinction with the predictable image of a model wearing a bikini at the beach under a big blue sky. We keep trying to create images in which women are neither predictible nor stereotypical. We keep looking.
I am mostly fond of Elina Kechicheva's cover for the 2018 Fashion issue: it features a woman wearing braids – I love braids – in a Chanel suit, right in the middle of buildings in Georgia. It is unusual to have a melancholic cover: this one is. I find it both realistic – melancholy is part of life – and poetic. An elegant woman with her hands in her pockets, and her stately bearing.

Your biggest professional faux pas?

Honestly, I can't think of anything. I am an honest person, I like saying things clearly and I am comfortable with it.

Marie Claire is involved in making laws evolve, namely by campaining in favour of an extended paternity leave and Think tanks on gender equality. Beyond its role as a women's magazine, is Marie Claire a fully-fledged societal player?

Totally! In the 60s, Marie Claire's editors fought in favour of contraception, and for abortion rights in the 70s. Two years ago we fought in favour of the extension of prescription period for statutory rape and the law changed (from 20 to 30 years). We always have been and are still builders of gender equality. Today, with our “Acting for Equality” think tank we are surrounded by key figures helping us think about and making practical suggestions such as gendered medicine or the extension of the statutory paternity leave. This is a crucial fight: society cannot keep assuming that a father only has 11 days to be spent with his child (the length of France's statutory paternity leave). Women have an excessive mental workload. We want equality.

Tell us about your greatest professional encounter, and why?

Marie Claire's editor-in-chief in 1997, Isabelle Maury, taught me to accept and develop my subjectivity while writing articles. She is the best editor-in-chief I have ever met. She is so professional.
As far as interviews are concerned, I will never forget Alain Bashung's gracefulness, politeness, and poetry a few weeks before he passed away. And François Cluzet's honesty and sensitivity. I spent a few hours with him in the box room of the photographer's studio in order for us to be alone together. I have experienced very strong moments of humanity while interviewing key figures.

What about your own little world?

The craziest thing you have done for your job?

Being in charge of Marie Claire with no experience in management whatsoever. I had nothing else but my own convictions.

Any tips for a young woman getting into the world of women's magazines today?

Develop your subjectivity, give your point of view, stay honest.

April 2018

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“Only titles with a vision, a strong identity […] will remain.”