Verse magazine looks to expand

Many GW students can now say they have been pictured in the same magazine as Jessica Simpson.

The student-run entertainment magazine, Verse, covers GW social life but puts famous faces on its cover.

Editor-in-Chief Addia Cooper-Henry started the “socialite” magazine last year to expose students to fashion, trends, music and nightlife. Since then, she and her staff have been developing the magazine, putting celebrity photographs on the cover and recruiting advertisers to fund production costs.

“I think the magazine is improving. The first issue is juvenile looking back,” Cooper-Henry said.

The magazine has published three times and featured Tyra Banks and Jessica Simpson on its last two covers. Cooper-Henry said she got the photograph of Banks from her brother-in-law, photographer Daniel Garriga, who appeared with Banks on the reality show “America’s Next Top Model.” The Simpson photograph came from Sony Music, where Cooper-Henry worked last year as a college marketing representative.

“I pretty much have access to photos of any of their artists,” she said. “Everyone who works at the magazine has their own kinds of connections.”

Student models are also featured throughout the magazine. Samantha Cutler, Verse’s make-up artist, brings make-up to photo shoots from her job at Mac Cosmetics.

Greg Godfrey, head of photography and advertising manager, deals with local merchants who allow Verse models to borrow clothes and accessories in exchange for exposure in the magazine.

The staff, which plans for the publication to become bi-monthly, recruits some models from thefacebook.com.

“Greg goes on and finds people that have a good look, and then he makes me call them. I make up stories; I don’t want to admit, ‘I got your number off facebook,'” Cooper-Henry said.

Godfrey said the magazine has done well with selling advertisements in order to offer the magazine for free. Verse originally sold for $3. The advertising revenue the magazine generates now nearly covers the $6,000 publishing cost for each issue. Local nightclubs, merchants and hair salons have purchased ads ranging from $175 for a quarter-page spread to $600 for a full page.

Verse also receives funding from the Student Association and the Residence Hall Association. RHA Treasurer Brandon Sherr said the group approached the RHA last October and received a co-sponsorship package of $1,500.

Sherr said the RHA sponsors about 15 campus organizations.

“We would like to work with Verse to see that what they do is a success.” Sherr said.

The magazine tends to target more expensive establishments for adverting, said Cooper-Henry, a New York City native. She added that many of the venues were apprehensive about advertising to college students at first.

“We tell advertisers that ‘Yeah, kids do have money to spend,'” she said.

Verse’s appeal to expensive trends, however, has garnered negative reactions from some students.

“It’s clearly important that they include prices for new hot couture in the market, but it’s mildly pretentious and slightly ridiculous that they would quote prices that are unrealistic for the average GW student,” said Alejandro Mongalo, an entertainment reporter for GW-TV. “Obviously some people come from big money – that’s fine – but to price a $1,300 Just Cavali jacket next to $60,000 Hummers is absurd. GQ and Vogue hardly do that carelessly, and they cater to the big leagues.”

One student issued a formal complaint about Verse to University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. The president forwarded the complaint to Cooper-Henry, which she described as a “hate letter.”

“I thought it was hilarious,” she said. “I published it in the next issue.”

Cooper-Henry said she often hears students complain that the magazine has a limited social appeal.

“It’s a medium for students to get out their opinions, but we still want to maintain the entertainment, high-end quality,” she said. “It’s not a newspaper.”

Cooper-Henry, Godfrey and Joel Rice, the publication’s director of business and creative affairs, produce the magazine out of their apartment. Four other students are currently active in staffing the magazine, and about 15 others contribute to each issue. The staff wants to expand, but it has been difficult to find students who are committed and experienced, Cooper-Henry said.

“This is not an internship opportunity,” she said. “We need people who already know how to do things.”

In addition to building their staff, Godfrey said he hopes the magazine’s distribution and recognition will grow.

“Two people in this whole Starbucks would know about this magazine – it’s insane. The thing I like most is walking into class and seeing someone with Verse. People automatically pick up The Hatchet; I want Verse to be that way,” he said.

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