“I have literally 25 years of anecdotes,” says Joanna Coles.
The chief content officer at Hearst Magazines has served as the editor-in-chief of both Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan magazines. Now, as an executive producer for TV series “The Bold Type,” which follows a team of magazine editors, she’s drawing on those anecdotes for creative inspiration.
On an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Coles told Business Insider US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell about which specific scenes are based in reality.
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“There’s a wonderful episode where Jane is one of the young ambitious writers and she gets sued, and when a lawyer opens her notebook it’s got wine stains all over it. That very story happened to a friend of mine who was sued and, when the lawyer went to look at her notes, it was full of doodles and coffee stains. Actually we changed it to wine stains, but that was very much based on a real story.”
Coles went on:
“In the second episode, someone gets one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Yoni stones stuck in an unfortunate place, and that was also based on someone in the office. … It was based on someone who got a sponge stuck and couldn’t get it out, and she was trying a sponge for a story and came in mortified the next morning and various people disappeared into a bathroom stall to help her and, well, it emerges as an anecdote in the show.”
Angela Ledgerwood, the former Cosmopolitan staffer who inspired the Yoni scene, wrote an article for New York Magazine’s The Cut and shared how it felt to see her mishap played out on television:
“I know that writers steal snippets from everywhere — what they hear in the street, from the people they love and live with, it’s all up for grabs — but seeing my story on The Bold Type still stung. The incident had been such a turning point for me, and I wanted to be the one to explore and explain it. I’m happy with Jane having her version of it, too, but only as long as there is still room for my mine — for the not-so-glossy, messy, sad, hysterical, and fretful version I experienced.”
(Ledgerwood also says she loved Coles and was “desperate to impress” her when she worked at Cosmopolitan.)
“I loved the three girls in ‘The Bold Type’ who are sort of starting out together and there’s envy between them because one gets promoted at a different time to the other, which is exactly what happens in real life,” said Coles. “And as a friend, if your best friend gets promoted, you have to deal with that, and it’s hard and it’s scary and you and your friend have to come to a new negotiation of that friendship, and those are the relationships you see play out in the show. But what I was trying to do was bring the really strong women I have met in the workplace to life.”
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