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5 Things Helen Gurley Brown Taught Us

Helen Gurley Brown, long-time Cosmopolitan editor and leader of the charge in the sexual revolution, died Monday at 90.

Helen Gurley Brown

Helen Gurley Brown, Editor of Cosmopolitan from 1965 – 1997

I modeled for Cosmopolitan a few times before HGB handed the reins to Bonnie Fuller in 1997. In true Cosmo style, generally I was scantily clad, and once I was poised on top of a bare-chested male model. The critics of HGB’s “Sex and the Single Girl” philosophy (have it, enjoy it, use it to get whatever you want) would frown upon those sex-kitten tear sheets. But, as I said, I was on top of the male model, not under him, and I’m sure my rate was higher too. I bet HGB loved that women rule in the modeling world.

Cosmo Tells All

Posing for Cosmo in 1995

Though I can’t say I subscribe to her shameless vixen tactics, there’s no question Helen Gurley Brown changed more than magazine covers. “Sex and the City,” juicy topics on Girls’ Nights Out, models who strut the Victoria’s Secret runway in their skivvies and become household names—the legendary editor and author paved the way.

Some Things Helen Gurley Brown Taught Us, Beyond the Bedroom:

1. Hard knocks needn’t knock you down. A girl from Arkansas whose dad died in an elevator accident when she was 10 and whose sister contracted polio, acne-prone Helen graduated valedictorian of her high school class, couldn’t afford to finish college, and worked her way up the career ladder from secretarial jobs to ad copywriter to top of a Hearst masthead.

2. Be open to professional insight from your significant other. David Brown, Helen’s husband, encouraged her to write her groundbreaking first book and suggested the title, “Sex and the Single Girl.” He also wrote all the blurbs for Cosmo‘s covers.

3. Be honest. From broadcasting to prudish America in the early 60s that single women have sex and enjoy it, to openly admitting the many colleagues (and bosses) she slept with, HGB was always refreshingly frank. She also never hid behind her face lifts; she championed them, as well as her nose job, silicone injections—and anything that makes a woman feel good about herself (or just makes her feel good, period).

(See which supermodels admit they’ve had work done.)

4. Use your brain, not just your body. HGB said, “Beauty can’t amuse you, but brain work—reading, writing, thinking—can.”

5. “Never fail to know that if you are doing all of the talking, you are boring somebody.” —HGB

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