Since Cosmopolitan for Latinas’ Michelle Herrera Mulligan first began her job in January, heels are practically an every day staple for the newly crowned editor in chief.
I telephone her Brooklyn home just as she’s heading out to the office and ask if she’s already taller than she normally is. “Of course,” she says in her trademark soft, raspy voice.
Herrera Mulligan has leopard heels, turquoise ones, ones pushing the four-inch barrier. “I’m not going to lie, it feels like torture sometimes. But heels bring me to another level. You feel like you’re in your A game. You take yourself more seriously as part of an executive team, with a team to manage, and they make you stand tall.” She pauses. “There is a purpose for them.”
That podiatry pain and purposeful attitude will also help her get through today of all days. The day Cosmo is announcing to the media that the Dominican-American actress Zoe Saldana will grace the cover of their debut issue; the day her team should have completed the final touches on the website; and for the lack of days left until the magazine hits the newsstands on May 1st.
The magazine chose Saldana for the inaugural issue for several reasons. “We went with Saldana because, other than being stunningly beautiful and fashionable, she’s a mysterious figure, and not many know she’s Latina,” Herrera Mulligan said, adding that she was also taken by Saldana’s personal story of being born in Queens, NY, then raised in the Dominican Republic. She embodies many qualities of a U.S. Latina with a Latin American sensibility, she said.
According to Herrera Mulligan the first issue will be written in a “strong intimate girlfriend tone” and will include what Latinas who read the regular Cosmo always wanted: Skin care and beauty articles that speak to the needs of their skin tones, hair types and body issues. She’s proud of the section called “CurveTacular,” offering tips on what jeans work best for Latina bodies, and of in-depth culture articles with headlines that read “Is Your Family Holding You Back?” which takes on the intensity of Latino family bonds that, all too often, don’t include enough boundaries.
It’s been a long, caffeinated, marathon reformulating Cosmos’ bold and sexy voice for Latinas these last few months. Understandably, it’s left this editor feeling far from sexy and depleted at times. But there were days when things were looking sunny for the magazine’s future, and if she happened to be wearing a pair of sky-high heels and a little more kohl-black mascara and red lipstick than usual that day, that Herrera Mulligan admits to stopping in front of the bathroom mirror to smile and think to herself: “This is what my mother always wanted for me.”
APPLE FROM THE TREE IN THE BIG APPLE
Even when her daughter called to warn her not to get her hopes up too high about landing the Cosmo for Latinas job, Alicia Granados says she always knew her daughter would get it. “I’m so proud of her,” says Granados from her Chicago home.
Herrera Mulligan describes her mother as a strong woman who knew how to hustle and support three kids without formal schooling or mentorship. Raised in Carpentersville, IL, Herrera Mulligan often found herself feeling awkward as one of the few Mexicans in a very white school system.
“My mom would tell me to be proud, ‘you come from two cultures, not just one.” She has always been an inspiration,” says Herrera Mulligan, who calls New York home. “She raised me in the Cosmo spirit, and I mean that sincerely. From an early age she always fostered a fierce independence in me. She taught me the value of taking care of oneself, to never rely on a man, and to never show anyone your weakness, in the same way some girls may have learned to make a masa from their moms.”
Evidently, Herrera Mulligan’s brazen personality traits didn’t fall too far from the tree. It seems as much as her daughter’s rebelliousness in high school may have driven Granados crazy at times, she also appreciated the fact that her combat boot-wearing, smart-talking daughter had cojones like her. One day Granados bought her daughter a t-shirt that read: I SUFFER FROM PMS (Putting up with Men’s S**t). Herrera Mulligan wore it proudly to school the next day and when the principal asked her if her mother knew she was wearing that shirt, she proudly told him who had given it to her. The principal wanted her to wear the t-shirt inside out for the rest of the day and Granados went to the school to defend her daughter and her first amendment rights. The verdict? She was to put on a jacket if a teacher found it offensive. And less than half did.
LATINA VOICES WITH AN EDGE
Herrera Mulligan’s talent for pushing the envelope on provocative and Latino-interest content will undoubtedly bolster Cosmopolitan for Latinas’ success. One of the first important editing and writing jobs she landed was at Latina magazine back in ’97. Soon after, she jumped to Time, where she worked on a special international edition dedicated to Mexico, and where she whet her appetite on Latin American politics and sociology. In later years, her editing and research skills got her through the doors of fashion bibles like In Style, Glamour and Elle, and where she learned the magazine world’s modus operandi.
While Herrera Mulligan became all too familiar with the mainstream woman’s personal views about dating, sex, family, and career, she grew hungry to read more Latina voices, and ones with an irreverent attitude. In 2004, she and her co-editor Robyn Moreno published Border-line Personalities: Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass and Cultural Shifting (HarperCollins), a collection of first person stories by prominent Latina writers. In 2007, she edited and contributed to Juicy Mangos, the first literary collection of Latina erotica in English that Oscar Hijuelos called “not only a tantalizing read, but a deeply rewarding one as well.”
If this is indicative of what’s to come at Cosmopolitan for Latinas, then I need more ice for my Mojito please, my eye-glasses are already steaming up.