by YingYing Shang

We’ve always known the advice given by teen magazines was iffy, but what would happen if two real girls tried to live by it? This past April, Alice Wilder and I decided to find out.

We took on the challenge of following all the advice given in the top two teen magazines, Teen Vogue and Seventeen, and every week, we would compare our experiences. What does Teen Vogue do well? What does Seventeen do better? What happens when girls actually listen to what both magazines tell them?

Our first week was beauty. I started out with some tamer ponytails, but eventually escalated to Teen Vogue’s French braid pouf, which had been advertised as “the coolest braids ever!” but turned out to be embarrassing to walk around in. Alice tried out Seventeen’s Super Slick Hair, and we finished off our week with my serious critique of the beauty section.

Our second week was health and fitness. Because Seventeen offers a plethora of health and fitness advice, Alice took one for the team this week. She had to eat incredibly meager lunches, follow strict workout regimens, and blog about her real experiences with Seventeen’s control over her body. (Later, Alice would create her own modified Seventeen workout plan.) And I occasionally worried about getting fat. Overall, we made it out alive!

Our third week was fashion! I kicked it off by wearing a ridiculous denim skirt as a dress, prompting odd stares from the people in the supermarket. Teen Vogue had displayed this as part of the “California Skater/Surfer look” spread. Later, Alice wore overalls with glitter and wedges and posed with oranges as well. (Aww, sisterhood!) And overall, we shook our heads at not only the ridiculous fashion, but also the lack of diversity in body types. Here, for instance, is a picture of me photoshopped onto a tall blonde model.)

And our final week was life. Although we had incorporated boy challenges and life advice from the two magazines to spice up our weeks throughout the month (ex. my attempt to Bump and Flatter), we really took it upon ourselves to critique the life advice the last week of April. Because Teen Vogue’s April issue was featured as “The Prom Issue,” I talked to some real live girls about prom and discovered that the advice given by Teen Vogue was not all that off base! Meanwhile, Alice didn’t have such luck texting a boy using Seventeen’s tips. Later that week, I took on Teen Vogue’s feature on abstinence during prom , taking a more nuanced perspective on sex, sexuality, and rape culture (in other words, Teen Vogue is tackling a great issue, but it could do a bit more explanation about consent) and Alice talked about how Seventeen is heteronormative.

It was a crazy month, to say the least. I went to prom and found it not at all like it’s portrayed in Teen Vogue. Alice and I both decided on colleges. But while we were doing all of this, we were also living and analyzing the advice given in teen magazines and how this advice could influence girls. (It was crazy stressful, so we had de-stressing dance parties to Taylor Swift.) And while we found that both offer some valid advice (such as Teen Vogue’s tip to not worry so much about getting a prom date), they also offer contradictory, destructive images that undermine for instance, Seventeen’s supposed emphasis on “Body Peace”. And during this month, Alice and I revealed the April issue of Teen Vogue and Seventeen’s real impact on girls.

Weekly Highlights:

Week One: Beauty

YY’s “Amazing Braids”
Alice’s Super Slick Hair
YY’s Serious Critique

Week Two: Health and Fitness Week Three: Fashion

Alice’s Meager Lunches
Alice’s Serious Critique
YY Getting Fat?
Alice’s Modified Workout Plan

Week Three: Fashion

YY Wearing Skirt as Dress to Supermarket
Alice Wearing Overalls
YY As Tall Blonde Model

Week Four: Life

YY Tries to Do the “Bump and Flatter”
YY Talks to Real Girls About Prom
Alice Texting a Boy
YY’s Serious Critique on Abstinence Article
Alice’s Serious Critique on Heteronormative Life Section
Alice Confused by Supposed “Body Peace”