Sassy magazine is the badass older sister to today’s honest, insightful publications aimed at teens and young adults. Running from 1988 to 1996, Sassy spoke on topics like virginity to alcoholism to body image. Other publications deemed these subjects too mature and taboo for teens. Sassy served as the feminist counterpart to superficial teen mags that preferred to focus on cuticle maintenance and the right man to marry. However, This was not without controversy and backlash, leading to its untimely demise in 1996.
Crowned the Liz Phair of magazine publishing, Editor Jane Pratt started the magazine at just 24-years-old with a band of young women writers. Controversy and pissing off the establishment was present at the conception of this now cult class mag.
I feel like if you’re going to say Sassy is overly provocative, you’re saying that teenagers are overly provocative . . . Because I think Sassy is a real honest reflection of what teenagers today are like.Jane Pratt in The Morning Call
Sassy’s cultural impact may be hard to understand in the context of our current culture, which not only values but demands vulnerability and honesty. It should be no surprise that like all good things in the 90s, the magazine faced a conservative Christian-led boycott. This resulted in loss of not only major advertisers but also its original publisher in 1988.
The New York Times reported the following:
The religious group Moral Majority, through its newspaper, Liberty Report, organized a letter-writing campaign to several of Sassy’s major advertisers. Since the campaign began in July, the Noxell Corporation and the Maybelline Company have dropped out of Sassy.“The Media Business: Advertising; Resignation And Boycott At Sassy”, New York Times
Pratt would later report that the late, great Kevyn Aucoin even went to bat for the magazine, telling Maybelline that he wouldn’t work with the brand until they reinstate their advertising with Sassy. Consequently, Maybelline revised its decision on pulling the ads.
The long, complicated, and controversial history of Sassy cannot be covered in one blog post. There’s also a lot to relay so we hope to return to telling this tale in future posts.
My Sassy magazine obsession
Sassy was known and loved for the asides and personal thoughts the writers interjected and wove into their stories, so I’ll take a moment to share why I’m obsessed with the magazine.
I’ve considered that, perhaps, I’ve become a bit obsessed with Sassy. Ever the magazine addict, seeing scans online wasn’t enough. I wanted to know what it was like to actually read the magazine.
So, I set out to hunt down issues of Sassy. Tons of bids on eBay and messages on Depop later, procured 7 issues from 1990 to 1996.
At the time of writing, I’ve read about half of one issue as I’m trying to take it slow. With seven issues in hand, and I am a bit sad that once I’m done reading them, there probably won’t be more issues for awhile. Because RIP my budget.
Unboxing & reacting to Sassy for the first time (Video)
Before I started reading my first issue, I sat down to film opening up my two packages.
Purchasing copies of Sassy online can get expensive, with most copies going for anywhere between $12-$80 depending on the cover and rarity. Fear not! Sassy continues to live online and in books for those wanting to read (or read about) the mag again or for the first time.
- Sassy Grrl on Pinterest has spent years creating boards for every single issue of Sassy, including scans and images referencing what was in each issue. There’s also boards for Dirt, the Sassy spinoff mag for boys, as well as Dolly, Sassy’s Australian inspiration.
- SassyScans on tumblr features scans from Sassy as well as cultural references made to the mag.
- How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time, a critical love letter filled with Sassy history.
- 100 Books for People who Loved (and Miss) Sassy Magazine, a comprehensive list of Sassy-esque books put together by Book Riot.
- The Avocado did a great post where they read through the December ’88 issue.
- Barnard College has a collection of every Sassy ever printed. Rumor has it, if you ask them nicely, they’ll research articles for you.