The Seventeen Magazine Project: 30 Days, One Teen, Everything She Learned

Jamie Kieles Seventeen Magazine Project
Photo from Jamie Keiles
While we're complaining about how bad mags'  skinny mini post-pregnancy pics make us feel, what are all these mags doing to our girls?

Jamie Keiles, a Pennsylvania high school senior is trying to find out.

She's purchased the June/July issue of Seventeen Magazine and for the month leading up to her high school graduation will be following its tips to the T. 

She's calling it the Seventeen Magazine Project, and The Stir caught up with Keiles to talk about why teen girls should steer clear of teen mags.


Can you tell us the story behind The Seventeen Magazine Project?

I’m a high school senior, so I don’t really have much work to do. Consequently, I spend a lot of time just hanging out around school. One day, I went to the library and decided to read some teen magazines. I hadn’t read one in a long time and I was surprised at how silly and frivolous some of the advice seemed. I sort of got to thinking about the role of magazines in society and started wondering, “What would happen if I followed every piece of advice in the magazine at a literal level?”

You're going to do this until you're high school graduation; so then what?

I’ve got some other projects in the works-- nothing definite though-- mostly just ideas at this point.

Are you going to college?

Yes. I’ll be attending the University of Chicago this fall, with a major in economics and probably a double minor in sociology and gender studies.

What's been the biggest surprise so far?

Seventeen seems to have this perception that teenage girls are a monolithic group of people, with identical interests and behaviors. In the magazine, there is a lot of talk about, “being yourself,” but all of the advice seems directed toward a sort of idealized version of the perfect teen. This seems bizarre to me.Like any other group of people, teenage girls are very diverse.

You admitted you're probably a bit too self aware to reap the benefits of doing this; would you say that makes you atypical for readers of these types of magazines?

I have yet to meet anyone my age that reads these magazines with the intention of applying the advice to their own life. I’m sure there are some girls who do, but a lot of us don’t. I guess I’d answer this question by saying it’d be difficult to define a typical reader because teen girls are such a varied group.

Do you generally buy these mags? Why or why not?

Photo from Seventeen
When I was younger I did, but I don’t anymore. Its not that I have anything against these sorts of guilty-pleasure publications, its just that they fall so far down on my list of things to read compared to everything else I have access to now.

What do you wish they'd change - at least for the girls coming up behind you!?

I’d like to see Seventeen continue to provide fashion and beauty advice, but also include information about other aspects of culture, such as movies, books, current events, and the arts. Seventeen is marketed as a lifestyle magazine, but the lifestyle they appear to be selling is one that mostly includes clothes and makeup. By offering young girls this limited set of interests, I think that we are setting the bar very low for who we believe they are. Let’s give girls a little more credit, and something a little better to strive for.

Besides Seventeen's June/July issue and the website, what are you reading right now?

I just finished Jessica Valenti’s book The Purity Myth. I’m stuck in the middle of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I’m spending more time writing than reading these days, though.

What's your number one go-to magazine/website?

I read on a daily basis. I’m a huge fan of Wired magazine, and the New York Times Sunday magazine as well.

You can keep following Jamie's experiment over at The Seventeen Magazine Project.

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