How important can role models be? Incredibly important. How do I know this? Because I credit my life in journalism, and the launch of my very own magazine, to the influence of an important TV role model of mine: Clarissa Darling. Yes that Clarissa Darling. Clarissa Darling of the headbands, and the endless rotation of hats. Clarissa Darling of suburban Ohio and early ’90s television fame. Clarissa Darling of Clarissa Explains It All. So where exactly is the crossover between Clarissa Darling and my career in journalism? Oh, the overlap runs deep.
If you take yourself back to 1994, and the December finale of Clarissa Explains It All, you’ll recall that Clarissa becomes the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper, the Thomas Tupper Times. If you go deeper into the Clarissa fandom and unearth the failed spinoff Clarissa Now, you’ll know that journalism was not just a passing whim for Clarissa. In Clarissa Now, Clarissa leaves home, starts college in New York, grows out her bangs, and lands an internship at the fictional paper the New York Star Chronicle. Hey, if journalism was good enough for Clarissa, it was good enough for me.
Now, 20 years later, I work in magazines. I won’t say that Clarissa is the only reason I work in magazines, but I will say that watching Clarissa take those first tentative steps toward a career in journalism opened that path up to me as an option too. Why’d I choose Clarissa as my journalism role model? Of course there’s the fact that I loved the show and the character, but there’s also the reality that women (even today) only make up 36% of the average newsroom. Somehow seeing an idol like Clarissa make those writing moves, made me feel like I could too.
That 36% troubles me though, and it’s with that in mind (and Clarissa in mind) that I’ve started my own magazine, the Mary Review. It’s a general interest magazine written exclusively by women. My hope is that it will represent all the dynamic sides of womanhood, and be filled with engaging narratives, deep reporting, and great writing.
Even as I get this magazine off the ground I still think of Clarissa as a role model. She was cool. She was smart. She was stylish and funny. But she was also real and approachable and curious and relatable. I’d like to think that if she were a real person — by my calculations she’d be 38 — that she would turn to the Mary Review for her news and daily reads. That she would bookmark a favorite article, or find a long-read to dig into at bedtime. And I hope she’d be doing it all wearing a signature headband, or at least a fabulous hat.
The Mary Review is currently raising money on Kickstarter. Please check out our campaign.