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Tavi Gevinson just finished a plate of spaghetti with her parents at home in the leafy Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Ill., on Monday night when the 14-year-old blogger got on the phone to talk about the Web site and magazine she’s launching with Jane Pratt.
Gevinson said the project started when she got an e-mail from the former Sassy and Jane editor in chief after she posted photographs from Sassy on her blog, Style Rookie, 11 months ago.
“I had been talking about this magazine that I wanted to start, and she told me that she was starting this Web site and that the magazine could be kind of a branch under the JanePratt.com umbrella for teenaged people — girls,” Gevinson said. “It was kind of perfect.”
And, like that, the young fan became a business partner.
“It’s obviously such an honor to work with her,” said Gevinson of Pratt. “When we actually sit down and discuss the projects and everything, it doesn’t feel like she’s talking down to me or like I should be so honored to be working with her, even though I am. The moment we sit down and start sharing ideas, it becomes a partnership.”
An intriguing one. Gevinson is young enough to be Pratt’s daughter, yet she’s an Internet star feted by the likes of Anna Wintour and designers worldwide who has received more than 50,000 unique visitors on her blog in a single month. Pratt has launched and lost two magazines and two TV shows, and has kept a relatively low profile since she left Jane in 2005 while hosting a Sirius radio show on Friday nights and raising her young daughter. So the question is: who needs whom?
The answer should become clear soon enough. In the next two months, she will launch JanePratt.com, a Web site aimed at the gulf between the Cosmopolitans and Jezebels of the world. Then, in the summer, she will team up with Gevinson to introduce a magazine and a Web site for teenaged girls.
“The publishing world has been a little empty without Jane the last few years,” said Marisa Meltzer, who co-authored “How Sassy Changed My Life” in 2007 with Kara Jesella. “People are constantly asking me what she’s doing and I’ve never known. But that seems to be her pattern.”
“Part of me just wants Jane magazine back, and Sassy too,” said Mary H.K. Choi, the founding editor of Missbehave magazine, a latter-day Sassy, and a senior editor at MTV Style. “And I just can’t imagine that this would be the exact same beast I guess. How could it be?”
In the tradition of Jane and Sassy, JanePratt.com will be built around voice-y, original writing. A mock tag line for the site has been pinned up in the offices of JanePratt.com on 28th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan — “Slutty, Selfish, Self-Absorbed,” a swipe at Cosmopolitan’s “fun, fearless female” ethos. From the start, the site will be organized into different verticals, such as health, fitness, beauty, fashion, DIY and entertainment, according to one source who discussed plans for the site with Pratt.
Pratt will also be resurrecting a few elements from her now-defunct magazines, including her Ask Jane column; It Happened to Me, a confessional reader write-in column, and other light-hearted features that incorporate photography like Makeunder and Dopey Model Poses, written by Andrea Linett, the creative director of eBay fashion who was a receptionist at Sassy when it launched. Pratt has also, according to tradition, hired a columnist to write from a guy’s point of view.
The usually out-there and verbose Pratt declined to comment about her plans through her publicist, but earlier this year she explained her interest in working online in a statement for the Web site of Say Media, the company bankrolling her launch. “Everything I’ve done in my career has been about gathering strong voices and making them more mass,” she wrote. “This is the perfect fit. It feels like the technology has finally caught up with what I always wanted to do.” Say Media formed at the end of 2010 in the merger of a blog-hosting network and an Internet advertising company that pioneered new ways to siphon money off of the Internet through YouTube overlays and ad valuations based on engagement, not just views or impressions.
Pratt has brought on two staffers: senior editor Emily McCombs from Asylum and Lemondrop, and beauty editor Cat Marnell, a former Lucky staffer and contributor to Self magazine. Amy Kellner, who Pratt hired from Vice magazine as her executive editor, abandoned the launch earlier this winter when a photo editor position became available at Hugo Lindgren’s New York Times Magazine. Freelance writers, out-of-office editors and interns will also contribute to the site.
As Pratt has grown up, so has her audience, according to Jauretsi Saizarbitoria, a close friend of Pratt’s who worked with her as an entertainment editor at Jane magazine and has talked with her about plans for JanePratt.com. “She’s kind of going for the girl that is fortysomething and doesn’t feel fortysomething, which is a lot of women in New York. I know I can attest to that,” said Saizarbitoria. “The person is not accepting the fact that they’re turning into an old person.”
And Pratt still has a strong fan base in the women who gravitated towards Sassy and Jane.