Excerpt: 'How to Set His Thighs on Fire'

Here's a fascinating behind-the-scenes story that sums up just how much confidence is related to sex appeal. Though we shoot mostly actresses for our covers, occasionally we use models, and we generally go with someone who isn't what you'd call a supermodel yet. That's because we love to feature girls who aren't totally familiar to the reader, girls who come across as young and fresh and ready to take on the world. The trouble is when you are shooting a model who is young and fresh, chances are she hasn't done many covers yet, and she's likely to be pretty nervous at the shoot. She feels the pressure to not only look great, but also be divinely sexy -- it's Cosmo, after all. With very few exceptions, the new models have a tough time beating down their anxiety, and that anxiety shows up on film. They look stiff and awkward, sometimes downright terrified. After I'd been at Cosmo a few months, I told my design director, Ann Kwong, that we had to figure out a way to make the cover shoots with models work better.

So we came up with an interesting strategy. When we book a girl for a cover try, we have the modeling agency explain to her that someone rarely scores a cover the first time out and that the shoot should be thought of as mainly a warm-up exercise. That's sometimes enough to do the trick but not always. The film will come in and we might discover that the model has real potential but she was too much of a nervous Nellie. So here's what we do next. We call the modeling agency and tell them we want to reshoot the girl. But we never say that we need to do it again because the model looked so wigged out that the photos could be used as posters for Scream 4. What we say is that we love the girl but we aren't wild about the clothes we chose for her on the first shoot. The girl arrives at the next shoot completely at ease. And why not? She's under the impression that she looked totally sexy the first time -the only problem was the hideous red halter top or whatever she was wearing. And that changes everything. This time the girl exudes confidence and sex appeal. And the pictures are generally fabulous.

This process always reinforces for me just how much of sexiness is mental. The model looks amazingly sexy in the second batch of photos in large part because she believes she is - now that we've booked her again.

There are two morals to this story. The first is that even if you aren't cover-model hot, you can exude sexiness simply by believing you've got it.

Secondly, the best way to believe in your sexiness is to convince yourself of it rather than wait around for someone else to convince you. Too many women experience their hotness on kind of a rental basis-for instance when their husband or boyfriend pays them a compliment or guys turn their heads as they walk into a bar or the Cosmo design director books them for a second shoot. They don't own their hotness.

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