June 19, 2006 -- As the editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, Kate White has learned plenty of life's dirty little secrets.
In her new book, "How to Set His Thighs on Fire: 86 Red-Hot Lessons on Love, Life, Men, and (Especially) Sex," White offers quick training sessions on the topics women love to hear about, such as making yourself look sexy learning to accept that men don't like to talk and open up.
You can read an excerpt from the book below.
From "How to Set His Thighs on Fire: 86 Red-Hot Lessons on Love, Life, Men, and (Especially) Sex":
Own Your Hotness
One of the things I've thought a lot about since I've been in my job is the whole notion of sexiness. We write frequently about being sexy and feeling sexy and just plain reveling in your own sexiness. We also always aim to make the magazine sexy visually. When I review photography with the art department, we frequently make comments like "That's really sexy" or "That's not sexy enough" or "This picture's sexier than the other one -- let's go with that."
And, of course, our covers have to be the embodiment of sexiness. It's our signature, what's contributed to the iconic status of Cosmo covers for forty years. The bottom line: the more a cover radiates sex appeal, the better that issue sells.
I wish I could perfectly define what sexiness is, because then I'd be better able to hit the mark with covers each time -- and not have the occasional newsstand dud. But, unfortunately, it's not so easy. For starters, what's sexy to one person isn't necessarily sexy to the next. And though there are some attributes usually linked with female sexiness-like full lips, long lustrous hair, and a curvy body - you can certainly be hot without any of them. Recently we were working on a story about Hollywood marriages - about both the winners and the losers in that game (one common denominator of hose that work: the couples rarely spend more than two weeks apart). When we called in photos of some classic Hollywood couples, there was a shot among them of Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow on their wedding day. She'd recently chopped off all her blonde hair into a kind of Twiggy cut and she was slender and gamine-like, so strikingly different from the other women Sinatra had dated. And not at all the classic definition of sexiness. In fact, at the time of the marriage, Ava Gardner, his former girlfriend, had reportedly declared, "I always knew he'd end up in bed with a boy."
And yet when I looked at that shot of Mia Farrow, all I could think was that she was totally sexy and enchanting. Frank Sinatra had certainly thought so. Farrow didn't have any of the classic attributes of sexiness. So what made her so compelling? I think she was sexy because she believed she was.
What I've really come to see in my job is that sexiness is first and foremost an attitude. It's confidence, a belief in your own allure. I see it again and again with both models and actresses. During the seventies and eighties, the Cosmo cover girl always had a come-hither expression on her face, as if she were looking at a guy and was about to utter something like "Get over here so I can tear your pants off with my teeth." But today I feel when we get the right cover image, it's as if the girl -model or actress - has just walked through the door into a party, scanned the crowd, and is thinking, I so own this room.
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.
Remember Omarosa from The Apprentice? She was considered the evil one, of course, the conniving bitch, but I met her when I did a segment on the first Apprentice and I found her intriguing. After the show was over, I invited her to my house for dinner. One of the things that struck me about her was that she really believed in her own sexiness. She wasn't waiting around for someone to tell her. And because of this, she could light up a room. My dog, a little Westie, leapt into her arms when she arrived and then sat in her lap for the rest of the night. I have never, ever seen him act like that with anyone else. As far as he was concerned, she was on fire.
So own your hotness rather than rent it. Instead of waiting around for anyone to anoint you, anoint yourself. I know that it's far easier said than done, but you can start by vowing to not bash any single part of your looks. If the words "I hate my . . ." take a single step across your brain, just stop them. You also need to consider what your best asset is and play it up to the max: if it's your legs, wear short skirts and great shoes; if it's your long, lustrous hair, pay to have it blown out every week. And most important, decide on a moxie mantra you can say to yourself every day and when you're in any kind of situation that makes you feel self-conscious. One reader once told me that she mentally recites the line from Almost Famous: "I am a Golden Goddess." And then there's always "I so own this room."
Excerpted from HOW TO SET THINGS OF FIRE: 86 RED-HOT LESSONS ON LOVE, LIFE, MEN, AND (ESPECIALLY) SEX by Kate White. Copyright © 2006 by Kate White.