Turning the Page: Maxim EIC Reinvents Its Hot 100 List

Feminism is the next big thing, even in the world of men's magazines. And while it might seem counter-intuitive, feminism and sexiness can go hand in hand.

When Kate Lanphear was announced last September as the new editor-in-chief of Maxim there was much speculation as to how a lad magazine and the former style director for T magazine would be able to pull off its reinvention as a men's lifestyle magazine. Her hiring was seen as somewhat peculiar for the men's magazine as she had no experience covering men. More notably there was concern as to whether or not Lanphear would keep that coveted Maxim "Hot 100 List".

Since 2000 onwards each year, Maxim magazine would choose its Hot 100, what it described as "the definitive list of the world's most beautiful women." The lad mag would handle out accolades based on looks alone featuring semi-naked women chosen by the magazine's readers. Things have changed at the men's mag this year. Under Lanphear's creative direction Maxim's traditional "Hot 100 List" has been rechristened "The Hot List" with more clothing; and in place of numbered entries, the honored women are grouped in sub-categories and an all-inclusive lifestyle list that includes summer films, travel destinations, restaurants and trendy beverages.

"I was really determined with the issue to try and redefine what hot means for the brand. For me, the barometer of hot isn't just beauty; it's relevance, Our audience likes to look at beautiful things and, among them, beautiful women, but they are interested in so much more than that." ...Lanphear told WWD. Feminism is the next big thing, even in the world of men's magazines and her sensibilities actually work well with a men's title and what's most interesting is the heralding of a new chapter for Maxim.

With an emphasis based on merit, accomplishments, and an improvised definition of what sexiness means topping this year's list is none other than Taylor Swift. Shot by photographer Thomas Whiteside, wearing dark eye makeup Swift smoulders in a black, netted top and rocks a damp, messy hair look. Taylor joins the likes of previous Hot 100 stars Candice Swanepoel (2014), Miley Cyrus (2013), Bar Refaeli (2012), Rosie Huntington Whiteley (2011), Katy Perry (2010), Eva Longoria (who topped the list in 2005 and 2006) and a plethora of other celebs for the top honor.

In her interview with the glossy the songstress talks about life on the road, feminism, and what it feels like to be named by Maxim the most talented woman alive. She told the magazine that it was an incredible compliment to be on the magazine's Top 100 list.

"This year has been my favorite year of my life so far. I got to make an album exactly the way I wanted to make it. I got to put it out exactly the way that I dreamed of putting it out. Every one of these kinds of whims and ideas came to fruition. The videos--I'm proud of those, I'm proud of the tour, I'm proud of the way this has all happened. In the midst of all that, this is really nice. It really feels like a wonderful celebration of my favorite year."

Swift addresses her feelings towards feminism and Misogyny saying she finds herself identifying more strongly with the movement as she gets older.

"Honestly, I didn't have an accurate definition of feminism when I was younger. I didn't quite see all the ways that feminism is vital to growing up in the world we live in. I think that when I used to say, "Oh, feminism's not really on my radar," it was because when I was just seen as a kid, I wasn't as threatening. I didn't see myself being held back until I was a woman. Or the double standards in headlines, the double standards in the way stories are told, the double standards in the way things are perceived. A man writing about his feelings from a vulnerable place is brave; a woman writing about her feelings from a vulnerable place is over-sharing or whining. Misogyny is ingrained in people from the time they are born. So to me, feminism is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it's just basically another word for equality."

....she adds.

For the Hot List, Swift was chosen by readers, however editor in chief Kate Lanphear said the pop star was also her number-one choice. "She was my dream cover, and she was chosen based on her accomplishments and upcoming projects. Taylor is hot in every sense of the word." she told WWD.

"Curating this year's Hot 100 turned into more than an exercise in ranking women by looks," she writes in her editor's letter the fourth since its redesign in February. And if you look at some of the previous covers, there's definitely a switch up in the way women are represented. Others who made the list include Emilia Clarke, Dakota Johnson, Lupita Nyong'o, Joan Smalls, and even 50-year-old Italian actress Monica Bellucci while on the male side, actor Miles Teller, film director Terrence Malick and comedian Pete Davidson.

Speaking with Racked earlier this year when asked how she deals with those who criticize the magazine's portrayal of women, Lanphear firmly responded that "Anything that's pushing the envelope is going to have critics. As a magazine, Maxim's never been afraid to have a perspective.It's about inspiring readers, but punctuating it with some fun."

"We're going to celebrate beautiful women: that's an essential part of the Maxim brand," she continued. "That said, I don't think nudity or semi-nudity should be equated with poor taste. There is certainly a wrong way to depict women and--as a woman and EIC--I'm aware there is a fine line."

And with just four issues Lanphear has managed to cultivate and broaden Maxim's coverage of style and culture. Her covers, mostly features a close crop of shots of faces of women such as model Lily Aldridge (April 2014 Issue) and Candice Swanepoel (March 2014 Issue) and not their body which is the most noticeable difference and part of Lanphear's new direction of tweaking Maxim's view of women. In addition she has added also an emphasis on the quality of its writing by including style coverage, arts and culture stories, features on rock bands and lifestyle.

"I think sexy is really hard to define. It's a bit tricky, it's unpredictable, it's challenging, and we want the magazine to reflect that," Lanphear said on CBS This Morning. "It's been 20 years since Maxim launched, and it was time for it to evolve and reflect the times we were living in." And while it might seem counter-intuitive, but feminism and sexiness can go hand in hand. As Lanphear calls it: Subtle is the new sexy. She notes that a lot has changed in the past two decades, and "celebrating sexiness is at the essence of the brand, we're not going to change that, but I think we can experiment with how we show sexiness." Sexiness isn't just about a woman's body. It's can also be about someone's laugh or the look in her eyes. "Our audience is driven, smart, confident, so they're attracted to women who are just as driven, smart, and confident."

Lanphear told WWD the redesign has resonated with readers. "Seventy percent of our current readers prefer the redesign," she said. And ads are up year over year, with 30 additional pages from brands such as Prada and Marc Jacobs. Newsstand sales reflect a different story with sales amounting to 75,000 in March and 63,000 in February. However, a decline is to be expected with a rebrand according to Lanphear, but at the same time subscriptions numbers are positive with the Web site traffic, gone up by 25 percent month over month since the rebrand. "I think it's definitely a new look, but I think our audience is ready for it, based on the experiences we've had so far," Lanphear said of Maxim's revamped hot list to Capital One. "Men's interests are so much wider" spanning bars, cars, TV, gear and every other category covered by this year's inventory" and we really wanted this issue and this list to reflect them."

The June / July issue hits newsstands on May 27. Lanphear is just getting started & while Maxim decidedly has found a more empowering way of celebrating women it certainly is a welcome change for all.