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 beenin my job is the whole notion of sexiness. We write frequentlyabout being sexy and feeling sexy and justplain reveling in your own sexiness. We also always aim to makethe magazine sexy visually. When I review photography with theart department, we frequently make comments like "That's reallysexy" or "That's not sexy enough" or "This picture's sexier thanthe 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 couldthink was that she was totally sexy and enchanting. Frank Sinatrahad certainly thought so. Farrow didn't have any of the classicattributes of sexiness. So what made her so compelling? I thinkshe was sexy because she believed she was.
What I've really come to see in my job is that sexiness is firstand 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 alwayshad a come-hither expression on her face, as if she were lookingat a guy and was about to utter something like "Get over here soI can tear your pants off with my teeth." But today I feel when weget 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 justhow much confidence is related to sex appeal. Though we shootmostly actresses for our covers, occasionally we use models, andwe generally go with someone who isn't what you'd call asupermodel yet. That's because we love to feature girls whoaren't totally familiar to the reader, girls who come across asyoung and fresh and ready to take on the world. The trouble iswhen you are shooting a model who is young and fresh, chancesare she hasn't done many covers yet, and she's likely to be prettynervous 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 theiranxiety, and that anxiety shows up on film. They look stiff andawkward, sometimes downright terrified. After I'd been at Cosmoa few months, I told my design director, Ann Kwong, that we hadto figure out a way to make the cover shoots with models workbetter.
So we came up with an interesting strategy. When we book a girlfor a cover try, we have the modeling agency explain to her thatsomeone rarely scores a cover the first time out and that the shootshould be thought of as mainly a warm-up exercise. That's sometimesenough to do the trick but not always. The film will come inand we might discover that the model has real potential but shewas too much of a nervous Nellie. So here's what we do next.We call the modeling agency and tell them we want to reshootthe girl. But we never say that we need to do it again becausethe model looked so wigged out that the photos could be used asposters for Scream 4. What we say is that we love the girl but wearen't wild about the clothes we chose for her on the first shoot.The girl arrives at the next shoot completely at ease. And whynot? She's under the impression that she looked totally sexy thefirst time -the only problem was the hideous red halter top orwhatever she was wearing. And that changes everything. Thistime the girl exudes confidence and sex appeal. And the picturesare generally fabulous.
This process always reinforces for me just how much of sexinessis mental. The model looks amazingly sexy in the secondbatch of photos in large part because she believes she is - nowthat we've booked her again.
There are two morals to this story. The first is that even if youaren't cover-model hot, you can exude sexiness simply by believingyou've got it.
Secondly, the best way to believe in your sexiness is to convinceyourself of it rather than wait around for someone else toconvince you. Too many women experience their hotness on kindof a rental basis-for instance when their husband or boyfriendpays them a compliment or guys turn their heads as they walk intoa bar or the Cosmo design director books them for a secondshoot. They don't own their hotness.
Remember Omarosa from The Apprentice? She was consideredthe evil one, of course, the conniving bitch, but I met herwhen I did a segment on the first Apprentice and I found her intriguing.After the show was over, I invited her to my house fordinner. One of the things that struck me about her was that shereally believed in her own sexiness. She wasn't waiting aroundfor someone to tell her. And because of this, she could light up aroom. My dog, a little Westie, leapt into her arms when she arrivedand 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 wasconcerned, she was on fire.
So own your hotness rather than rent it. Instead of waitingaround for anyone to anoint you, anoint yourself. I know that it'sfar easier said than done, but you can start by vowing to not bashany single part of your looks. If the words "I hate my . . ." take asingle step across your brain, just stop them. You also need toconsider what your best asset is and play it up to the max: if it'syour 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 everyday and when you're in any kind of situation that makes you feelself-conscious. One reader once told me that she mentally recitesthe line from Almost Famous: "I am a Golden Goddess." Andthen 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.