Saturday, September 5, 2009

Book Review: Mama Mia - A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines and Motherhood

I couldn't wait to get my nifty hands on this book. I've looked up to Mia Freedman since I was a teen. I was one of those geeks who'd study the master heads of Dolly, Girlfriend, Cosmopolitan - heck whatever magazine I could lay my hands, and memorise the names of the journalists, advertisers, marketers and corporate people working on the magazines.

Freedman's definitely set the bar really high for those who aspire to be journalists, or work in any sector of the media industry - editor of Cosmopolitan at the age of 24, editor-in-chief for Cosmopolitan, Cleo and Dolly at age 32 and now? An autobiography at the ripe old age of 37. Yep, Freedman's always does things a decade earlier than the rest of us.

The book details Freedman's magazine career, her mistakes, disappointments and most of all, she writes about her late-term miscarriage in 1999. It also follows the Nine debacle, where she was a creative services director for about five minutes in 2006.

But what struck me most, was her insecurities - two quotes in the book which pinpoint Freedman to the core:

"For more than fifteen years, my identity had been inextricably linked to what I did. I had a title. A business card. And, for the past ten years, an assistant. Staff. A nice office. A car spot. An infrastructure that supplied me with magazines and newspapers. Couriers. IT support. A helpdesk. I had someone buy my lunch, open my mail, screen my calls, RSVP to all my invitations and make me tea, although I usually did this myself. I'm very particular about my tea." pg. 339.

"I found myself dropped from invitation lists overnight...As pertulant as it sounds, however, even though I went to virtually nothing I was invited to unless I absolutely had to, I still liked being invited". pg. 340.

There, I realised how much Freedman's career shaped her identity. How much she was willing to peddle the Cosmopolitan brand, even though her beliefs didn't coincide with the magazine. She could have continued editing Cosmopolitan - talking about oral sex, partying and 24 ways in picking up a guy for so long. The lesson here is, be true to yourself.

As I was reading through the book, I'd also noticed Freedman had taken excerpts from editor's letters back in Cosmopolitan in 2003, such as the time she wore the fashion director's dress and the time she re-discovered her love for baking after watching Nigella Lawson. Yes, I'm very nit-picky, but I'll let this one side because after all, it was Freedman's words in the first place.

Overall, it is a great book to read. It definitely shows Mia Freedman's personality, hard-working, focused, anxious, self-doubt...oh bugger it, it shows her flaws in detail as well. You definitely see how she's matured from a 19 year old work experience student at Cleo, to a person who's running an awesome blog and having many media students aspiring to be writers look up to her.

Happy reading!


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