Kim Kardashian, Magazines, & a Trendy Practice that Bugs Me

One perk of having a blog is that you have a place to blow off steam sometimes. Remember when I got robbed and the thieves found their bliss at Target, who tried to pin the bill on me? I always say RAW is my front porch. Where we can just hang out. Or tell it like it is.

Women Magazine interview

Kelly at Independence HallA writer sent me an email back in February, pitching an interview for a magazine I’d never heard of. She said the article would be published in the spring issue of Women magazine in print and online. We set up the interview.

Of course, I requested a few copies of the magazine, one for my records, one for my mom, and a couple to share and she gladly agreed. Over the next few months, I wondered why I never heard back about the interview. Often, editors send a proof to be sure that quotes are accurate. They never requested a photo either. And as spring ended, I wondered whether the article was ever published.

When the writer contacted me in May to do a second interview, she mentioned that the two stories would appear in the summer and fall issues. Then, in June as I left for San Francisco to speak at a conference, I got an email with a PDF of the article. Reading over the content, I saw Mia had contacted Eric Matteson of Mayo Clinic for a couple of quotes which nicely substantiated points in the interview. Good work. But the images looked out of place.

I forwarded the article to a mutual colleague who called the choice of images “inappropriate.” I thought about it for about a minute. What’s wrong with a picture of an RA patient? Why did they ruin a well-written article with pictures of these models on a bike? It would be a rare person with RA who could ride a bike or have those beautiful hands.

Busy, the last thing on my mind were magazine models & Kim Kardashian

Women Mag cover RAThe article was far from my mind as I was busy preparing to travel and speak about what patients need and how industries should work together with them. Have I ever mentioned that it’s HARD to travel with RA? Or manage around crowds?

Someone told me he’d seen an actual print copy of the magazine before meeting me in San Fran, and wondered at how I looked so different from my picture in the magazine. So… the print copies exist. And I still don’t have one. Wonder why. I joked that no, I hadn’t changed my hair color – they obviously used a model for the magazine.

My curiosity aroused, I sent another email inquiring about obtaining copies of the magazine as originally anticipated. Finally, I received this terse reply from an editor, “I will put a copy in the mail today.” “A,” as in ONE. Are they that valuable?

My single much-requested copy of the magazine finally arrived. A bit dismayed at this point, I didn’t even open the envelope for a few days. Cleaning my desk, I pulled it out of the envelope and saw RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS was an all caps cover story and flipped inside to see which biologic ad they sold next to my story. This and this alone is the purpose of an RA feature in a magazine. To sell the adjacent ad.

It turned out to be a Vectra DA ad, which surprised me because the RA article itself contained a sidebar story about the Vectra test. This is a classic play for fashion magazines, pretending a story just happens to appear right next to an ad for the same entity. While my hair was under the dryer today, my stylist put OK! magazine in my lap – I’d never seen one before. On the cover: Kim Kardashian. Next page: a liquor ad with Kim. Then a story about Kim. Then, Kim and her sisters in a Sears ad for a Kardashian clothing line. The lines are blurred between what is a “story” and what is an ad.

In Kim Kardashian’s case, she probably benefits from all of the above.

However, RA patients are different from Kim: The writer of the RA article was paid. The editor who refused to let my mom have a copy of the article got paid. The art and graphics departments were paid. The sales rep who sold the Vectra DA ad was paid. The printer and publisher of the magazine were paid. The models on the bike were paid. And the photographer was paid. I doubt they paid Matteson who’s on salary at Mayo with media comments being a frequent part of his job. Yet, patients (me in this case) can’t even get them to cough up more than one copy of the article which wouldn’t exist without my interview.

This is the way it’s done in fashion or healthcare. And it’s lawful to do it this way. But it’s also fine for patients to sit on the front porch and talk about why they don’t like it.

My beef is this: It’s offensive how little patients are respected. This is another example of patients being treated as commodities. What if the magazine treated patients the same way they treat everyone else?

PDF of the Women magazine article with the models on bicycle

PDF of the December WebMD article using pictures of a patient

Edit 8/11/12: Late yesterday, I had a very productive conversation with a managing editor at Women magazine. She also sent me an email apologizing for the oversights addressed in this post. I was very encouraged by her commitment to improving the way RA is portrayed in media. Please consider contacting this magazine and encouraging them in taking this stand. Also, above, in my post, I call the article “well-written” and I stand by that. There were very few inaccuracies and they were likely caused by the author’s reliance on other sources which were themselves faulty. In spite of that, the content of the article is an improvement over what is usually reported about RA. I am encouraged that we have made and are making a difference.

Recommended reading

Kelly Young

Kelly Young is an advocate providing ways for patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. Through her writing, speaking, and use of social media, she is building a more accurate awareness of Rheumatoid disease aka Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creating ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and bringing recognition and visibility to the Rheumatoid patient journey. In 2009, Kelly created Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, a comprehensive website about RA of about 950 pages and writes periodically for other newsletters and websites. Kelly served on the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Advisory Board. There are over 42,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook Fan page. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is the mother of five, a home-schooler, Bible teacher, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She has lived over nine years with unrelenting Rheumatoid disease. See also http://www.rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

27 thoughts on “Kim Kardashian, Magazines, & a Trendy Practice that Bugs Me

  • August 9, 2012 at 2:51 am
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    Nice one Kelly. I have always felt very strong about this subject. Years ago I was a writer for a national newsletter geared for the parents of kids with JRA. I was shocked to see my first issue with a stock photo on the cover. That was the last time that happened.
    Then there was the time when I was in a glossy pretty magazine here in Tucson, in my jean shorts standing next to my Triumph. Talking something about the importance of self-esteem and body image or some such thing. I guess they did not much care for my years on Cyclosporine, they Photoshopped the hair off my legs.
    That model has got nothing on you, in fact I know a guy with a bike and I see a parity in the future. We’ll show them.

    Reply
    • August 9, 2012 at 11:03 am
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      Hi Kevin,
      I wrote this about 2 wks ago & had some more pressing things to publish and work on in between so it waited, which happens a lot. But I also hesitated to post this – thinking that someone might say I should just not complain because at least our story was covered at all or I got the interview so we should just be satisfied with whatever we get. Someone still might say that, but they would be wrong.
      Of course, a leader such as yourself would know otherwise and I’m so grateful you took time to read and comment.
      Indeed we will show them. Real patients in our publications – show the seriousness and the variety in the disease as well as the brave good people affected by it.

      Reply
  • August 9, 2012 at 5:44 am
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    wow…you were robbed again 🙁
    it’s so important that we realize how the whole game works. I’m so tired of how this horrible disease is represented; it just makes dealing with it that much harder. thank you so much for your perspective and for fighting for us. I think it’s so brave of you to speak out. your nic should be R.A.HERO xo

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    • August 9, 2012 at 11:07 am
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      and thank you Jen. We will realize how the games work and how to get our message across. There has been this strong effort to mis-portray this disease, as almost all patients tell us they encounter. We will beat them at whatever game since we are telling the truth.

      Reply
  • August 9, 2012 at 7:57 am
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    That is just so wrong on so many levels, and even immoral. Grrrr…….!!

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  • August 9, 2012 at 7:59 am
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    Oh dear, on reviewing my comment – surely I must add the word ‘allegedly’ or just remove my comment please …. don’t want to get anyone into trouble for expressing an opinion!!! x

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    • August 9, 2012 at 8:25 am
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      much stronger opinions than than your gentle comment are expressed every day. I don’t think anyone will get in trouble for expressing our opinion that we disagree with what was done.
      If you want to give them the benefit of the doubt that they do not know they did wrong, I’m with you – they may not realize how wrong & offensive it is – or maybe like Kevin said, they do and they just want to make sure it’s as “pretty” as they want it to be.
      I went thru a similar struggle recently when Johnson & Johnson spent a whole day here at my house. The producer kept wanting me to do things I dont/cant do and arent typical & dont belong in a video. We had had a long talk about it previously and she just did not understand why it was inappropriate. I think she was just doing her job the way she was taught to do it.

      Reply
  • August 9, 2012 at 8:09 am
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    The article itself and you’re quotes are excellent, Kelly. Those pictures though… immediately pissed me off. “Look a pretty girl on a bike, RA can’t be THAT bad, she looks good…” I’ve never looked that good a day in my life since getting RAD. lol.

    Reply
  • August 9, 2012 at 8:28 am
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    Actually I think the article is pretty well written, but unfortunately schizophrenic. The author had to both describe what RA is and sell the product on the adjacent page.

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    • August 9, 2012 at 11:14 am
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      yes, I agree. She got a ton of good input from me and seems to have understood a good portion of it. There are a couple of errors in her content that I could have caught if she’d asked me to proof it. And the ending is like you said unfortunate – There ARE ways to end on a positive & there ARE things to give us hope, but glossing over it is not the answer, making it seem pretty or easy as the photos reinforce.

      Reply
  • August 9, 2012 at 8:50 am
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    Kelly, I’ve been following you for almost a year after reading about you in a magazine at my rhem. Office. Thank you so much for your hard work and your important job! I just read about Vectra DA for the first time. I’m wanting to ask my rhem. About getting it ASAP as I’m going thru a really bad time. Just started Orencia but I don’t think it’s working. Should I wait for my next dr. Visit? What if it shows “normal”? I know these are generalized questions and I’ve never written on a site like this so I may sound rediculous. Thanks, Shirley

    Reply
    • August 9, 2012 at 11:20 am
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      Hi Shirley,
      thanks for your kind words! You should search Vectra on this site in the search box at teh top right of the page. There are a couple articles that will help you understand its role and then read the comments pages on those posts too. There is no test that is foolproof to measure RA. Vectra is a new tool and a better tool than some of the other blood tests drs rely on. But no blood test – at this point in time – can tell you whether the med is working. Only in combination with your own experience can your dr measure your response. Orencia as a biologic can take a couple of months to work. The newest guidelines say that you should try it for at least 3 montsh before changing therapies, unless you have other reasons such as side effects of course. Good luck. 🙂

      Reply
  • August 9, 2012 at 9:14 am
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    Goodness, that’s so unbelievable….I hate how magazines always photo shop people all the time to look “perfect” when they are not. But then to want to actually replace a real RA patient with a “perfect” model is so ridiculous. What is wrong with showing a REAL person with REAL RA??? I don’t understand that. As a reader I would much rather see a real RA patient in a article about RA. I’ve learned so fast since my DX in the spring just how much this disease is downplayed. I’ve also learned how very difficult it is to find the right treatment. I’m so thankful to you Kelly for all your hard work to help us patients with RA. Bless you!!

    Reply
  • August 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm
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    I’m so sorry that they corrupted the article by using a photo shopped picture. I only wish that my hands looked that good!! As a matter of fact they were a dead give away to a friend of my daughter that I have RA. She recognized the same look from her family’s hands.

    As far as paying celebrities for promoting items I can’t believe that we (the public) fall for it.

    Kelly, keep up the good work and don’ get discouraged. Your articles always make me feel better.

    Reply
  • August 9, 2012 at 5:18 pm
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    Kelly with exception of the stock photos I thought the article was great – amazingly on point and so unlike those Woman’s Day type articles. The stock photo thing is just lazy journalism. It’s not the reporter’s fault, those decisions are always made at the editor or lay-out editor’s desk. It’s idiotic, I agree. But I was honestly surprised to read an article by someone who actually seems to “get it.” so kudos to the writer and to you for helping her understand. And regarding the bicycle – forget it! My ankles looong ago became too stiff for pushing off and balancing!l But hey, I have an adult-sized tricycle! It’s a great day when I feel like riding. Take care and thanks for all you do.
    Yours, Beth

    Reply
    • August 9, 2012 at 5:50 pm
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      Totally agree about the journalist. I don’t blame her, but editors. Which in the end was the problem at Woman’s Day as well. they have an agenda. And we need to show them that it won’t sell. And hi Beth. Good to see you.

      Reply
  • August 9, 2012 at 5:38 pm
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    1. I guess this establishes that this is just a People-style eyeball-seeking magazine, not an information magazine.

    2. How weird: with my best googling, I can’t find a trace of a website for this magazine! But I found it eventually: http://awomanshealth.com/insights-into-rheumatoid-arthritis/

    3. In case anyone wants to “out” them on Twitter, the mag’s ID is @AWomansHealth 🙂

    4. Interesting that they don’t allow comments on the article, on the site, eh?

    5. IMPORTANTLY: all publicity is worth bragging about, at one level or another. These guys ain’t health writers, they’re eyeball whores; that’s disappointing but it’s not a shock. (Glad to see you already have it on your media page!)

    6. For just that reason, it’s no surprise that they only interviewed you, and did NOT steer their readers to your valuable site.

    7. You rock, seriously; you tell it like it is, you pull no punches, you are a model for “LOOK, you guys, THIS IS NOT WHAT WE NEED. HERE’S WHAT WE NEED.” That is the empowered, engaged citizen patient. Keep it up.

    Reply
    • August 9, 2012 at 5:53 pm
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      Dave, you’re an invaluable mentor to me and to our movement. Y’all take note when Dave creates a list. I’m a list girl. 😉

      And yes, I finally got my press pages up and I’m determined to keep them up to date!!

      Reply
  • August 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm
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    Hi Kelly,
    I was diagnosed with RA on Jan. 13, 2012 and put on methotrexate, however now my rheumy doc prescribed Enbrel and guess what, the insurance turned me down. I have Medicare and a supplemental policy. What do I do now???
    My rheumy says I have severe RA with erosians and also have 2 prosthetic knees. Help !!!
    Bonnie Larice

    Reply
    • August 10, 2012 at 7:51 am
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      Insurance companies and their policies about which drugs we are allowed to take are something that drives me nuts!! Insurance comapanies are all about making money and yet they are the ones who ultimately get to dictate what we take for RAD not our doctors and that’s just wrong.
      Now, I’m in Canada so I’m not sure if it’s different in the States but I know insurance here wanted me to try all of the cheap drugs and “fail” them before I could move on to biologics. My Doctor knew how the system worked so she prescribed me methotrexate and planquinal first. I had to wait 6 month before I could try Arava just to make sure they didn’t work. Then I had to wait another 6 months to be sure Arava doesn’t work. Luckily, I’m allergic to sulfa so I can’t take Sulfasalazine otherwise I’d of spent another 6 months trying that. The insurance companies want all of this documented, and they want to see that you gave each of these drugs a chance to really “work” before they’ll clear you for the more expensive drugs. Basically, while doctors have caught on that RAD requires aggressive treatment from day 1, the insurance companies won’t change their policies to reflect this because there are cheaper drugs RAD drugs out there you “could” be taking instead. This is my #1 pet peeve about RAD. We have a serious illness and insurance companies should not be able to overrule a doctor’s decision on what we need for treatment.
      It’s a long, stupid, unfair process but if you can document the “failure” of a few of the cheaper RAD drugs you should be apply to reapply for Enbrel and get approved. I sincerely hope everything works out for you!

      Reply
  • August 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm
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    What a shame about your meds. My insurance company would not approve methotrexate so I paid for it myself for the few weeks I was on it. Nor will the insurance company pay for the wonderful Flector patches to relieve the pain in my left knee that is spent because of three falls, RA and a rough round of Hyalgan injections. Enough of that. What has happened though is my rheumy finally put me in for a program plan for CIMZIA and I got approved and surprisingly my insurance approved due to the help from the intermediate pharmacy negotiating on my behalf – all without calls from me crying and begging the insurance company to help me out.

    Thanks so much Kelly for standing up on our behalf. While still walking through the steps of living with this retched disease I am learning that part of my battle is for RESPECT of my condition and not just hearing “quit your moaning, I travel as much as you, we are all just getting older….quit being such a problem patient for your doctor or it will serve you right if she fires you” This coming from a “friend” of 10 years that I have had to walk away from recently because I am in the fight of my life!

    Reply
  • August 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm
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    I have followed your blog for a while Kelly and really appreciate all that you have done for the RA community! I have not read this article yet (but I did find a place to get a free subscription http://www.cancercarestore.com/women-magazine-special-renewal-offer/ and look forward to reading this article!).

    Just wanted to say thanks for your dedication to making all of our lives better living with this terrible diseaase!

    Reply
  • September 28, 2012 at 4:51 am
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    Hi i find your site a god send. I have been diagnosed for two years and already on alot of drugs. I have been on for six weeks but had to have a cortisone injection in my right hand to day because my fingers have been closed over for two weeks. Guess what I am right handed but managing just- my hair looks a tad crazy lady.
    The doctor told me that I should be able to join the gym with the right medication. My 14 year old daughter was with me on this day and afterwards was giving me a hard time for not having any energy.I walk alot and have a had a bakers cyst in my knee which slowed me down to the pace of a ninty year old. Had it drained and cortisone and it was better in a few days.
    I live a day at a time and try not to over commit myself.I have 3 children and work as a teachers aide in a prep class.I have a son with mild autism and I am trying to study. A day at a time

    Reply
    • September 28, 2012 at 9:39 am
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      Hi Lee. I hope your hand feels better soon. One day at a time is a help with RA – a necessity. We sure are forced to learn it if we didn’t know it before. 🙂 I’ve had some one-handed hair days too. That’s a good way to put it.

      Reply
  • September 28, 2012 at 4:56 am
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    I am going to read your story in full but your right the model in the photo does not depict an RA patient.She is a picture of health and glamerous plus.

    Reply
  • September 29, 2014 at 10:16 pm
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    Totally agree w/you about that problem & strangely I’ve been interviewed by them for a story, too. The “pretty people” thing is a universal problem: all mags, all the time.
    Sadly, this is even true in publications targeting pain/neurology! I won’t name 2 I subscribe to that constantly disappoint me, but those are their main subjects, respectively. Not only are ALL the pics of models (except when it’s a specific interview piece on a person, not a subject), their covers strive to select the “pretty and constantly pampered people” with illnesses… What I mean by that is, celebs. Where are the REAL people with pain? Can’t *we* be cover-worthy too? I’d love it if my ugly RSD legs made a cover–LOVE IT–as much as I now regret saying that ;)!
    I say we beat them at their own game Kelly! If there’s a market for it like we both believe there is, people like plain ol’ you and me could create a REAL magazine about pain, warts and all. Heck, we could call it “REAL Pain!” My journalism/MBA degrees would be in hog heaven, to be sure. However, as someone else commented, maybe it’s about selling the magazines? Even on tv, their budgets for health pieces and “do-gooder” stories is incredibly low these days. It’s all flash, very lil substance. I hope it’s not what the public demands, but then again… they seem to be fine with airbrushing. *sigh*
    No matter what the world “out there” is doing, I’d seriously run a REAL magazine if the public welcomed it!
    Ps. Like your tagline at the top of the page. I’m a “sh*t stirrer” too, lol. It’s a moniker I was slapped with once. Even if I’m not looking for it, trouble ALWAYS finds me. (Admittedly sometimes I am looking for it in a way–by opening my big mouth on unpopular subjects like appropriately treating pain with whatever ppl need, etc.)
    Yet, I’ve had many more ‘non-stirring events,’ I believe. Case in point: I was robbed yrs ago, too. It was back in those days when I actually had some $! My identity was stolen, I suspect off my Home Depot credit app. I’d filled it out just to save a lousy 10% off double-pane windows they were installing at my home. A few weeks later, all hell broke loose. Boy, did it cost me!! The culprits ended up with a pricey big screen TV from Sears and $5k in Target gift cards. Target was the bane of my existence for over 18mos afterward. They ruined my credit & all, transferred me all over their company to deal with it: credit dept, fraud division, some special investigator and countless other helpful, helpful people. Grr! Each got a copy of the police report I filed, but they were RE-LENT-LESS! It finally ended when I threatened to sue their butts off AND also take my case to the people. I said I’d protest outside Targets around the country, for the rest of my life if I had to. So yeah, they left a sour taste in my mouth. I avoid Targets now ;).

    Reply

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