“Why not?” says Jane Raphaely, gesturing emphatically as she speaks during a Think!fest session. “That’s what drove me, those two words.” Raphaely, the doyenne of South African women’s magazines, is certainly driven. Her new autobiography, Jane Raphaely Unedited, details her journey to success, which she expanded on during her Think!Fest appearance.
In an industry that produces magazines covered with bold headlines that encourage the reader to “Have better sex tonight!” or “Work this season’s trends”, it is easy to dismiss female magazines as shallow and mindless. There is nothing superficial about Raphaely, or the empire she has created through Associated Magazines together with her “ever growing family that we produced on the side”.
From Raphaely’s beginnings as the editor of Fairlady, she has proved herself as more than just an expert in the latest fashion or recipe ideas. “Would this be close to a woman’s heart and would she do something about it if she could?” is the question she asked while working on the magazine.
Fairlady was, according to Raphaely, “intelligent without being boring”. It did more than just touch on controversial subjects. It brought to light issues ranging from equal pay for men and women to the Domestic Workers Union, a topic that she says brought in death threats.
Never afraid to speak her mind, Raphaely stood her ground when it came to publishing. “I had no money but I had the freedom to follow my instincts,” she says. “It gave me the chance to be political without going into politics”.
“If I had the time, I’d write a piece to prove that dictators don’t make a difference but philosophers and authors and thinkers do,” she says. Raphaely is particularly concerned with education in South Africa. She is currently in the process of working on a website that converts printed books to an online format, but offers each book in a serial format as opposed to one chunk of text, which she believes would lose the interest of an online reader.
Her optimism is endless. “As long as there are books for people to read and they read them, we’ll be all right,” she says.
Listen to her presentation here: Jane Raphaely