Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Richard Meets… Merryn Johns

Merryn Johns is the Editor in Chief of one of the oldest lesbian magazines still operating (founded in 1990) in the world. She has written for other LGBTQ+ publications such as Diva and Edge Media, as well as for Slate, the New Zealand HeraldVanity FairThe Daily Telegraph (Australia)The Herald SunNewNowNext,  The West AustralianGeelong AdvertiserWoolgoolga AdvertiserLOTL Magazine, to name a few!

I had the immense pleasure of welcoming Merryn onto the Queer Forty Podcast last week, and it was a joy to chat to someone I respect so much. Here’s short flavor of our discussion.

Richard Jones: Welcome onto the show Merryn, its lovely to have you.

Merryn Johns: I guess I am over 40 huh?!

RJ: Well I heard that you were just a smidge over 40… perhaps a couple of months, which is good enough to be on the show! Now, what a great resume you have! The one that leapt out at me is Vanity Fair, I love it and it’s the one print magazine that I still buy. It’s great to see that you are not only a leader in the LGBTQ world of journalism, but seen across a broad spectrum of other publications too.

MJ: I guess my beginnings were really quite interesting in the sense that I started with gay men! I didn’t start in lesbian publishing and it was a very lovely Editor in Chief, Paul Hayes, down in Australia who gave me my first break in serious gay male glossy lifestyle journalism magazines. He’s still a brilliant wordsmith and strings a sentence together like no one else. He really taught me a lot, so I owe it to gay men for my journalism career. Once I became politicized, I moved into lesbian journalism, as that’s where I “live” of course… That’s my life experience. I also moved again into mainstream mass tabloid and investigative journalism for the LGBTQ community.

Merryn Johns by Jasmine Hirst

RJ: I love that you have a lot of strings to your bow. I think a journalist today has to step into all kinds of types of journalism, and I love to see what you are doing. What drew you to journalism in the first place?

MJ: Accidentally to be quite honest. I had planned to be a Liberal Arts Professor, living very safely in an ivory tower and helping lots and lots of gorgeous students with their work and not ever getting my hands dirty in life! I got a literature degree, a masters, my PHD, a Diploma in playwriting, and became a theatre arts professor. So I have this 120,000 word dissertation, that 4 people had read!  Then a few things happened.  One was the internet, which was around the time of the turn of the Millennium, and I also had a friend who asked me to review a ballet followed by KD Lang, and he said “you are interested in that stuff, you’re really artsy, would you mind going and reviewing some things for us?” So I did, and it was fun! I would crank out a 500 word piece and it hit the streets the next day and  250,000 people were now reading my reviews.

I quickly fell out of love with the idea of the ivory tower and the cloister and I thought if I become an “ink rat” I can travel the world, I can see theatre, and I can live at a more expedited pace because that was what was happening to the world… I could tell this was the way it was going.  That’s how I fell into it and I started living at a much faster rate. So rather than writing a thesis that was an intense exploration of one idea, I really turned it on its head and wrote hundreds and hundreds of pieces about very broad ideas, so it became the inverse of what I had been doing.

RJ: Tell me a little of the journey that brought you to New York

MJ: Australia had more LGBTQ magazines per capita than anywhere else in the world. So my work led me to Lesbians On The Loose (LOTL) where I became the Editor in Chief. Later, the publishing company then acquired Curve magazine. I had been to the USA and visited New York on a research trip in 1998 and it was the classic cliché, I came up from the Subway, it was the blue hour on the Upper West Side, and I just fell in love with the city and it felt home. Even though I love Australia and love the people and the culture, I always felt I was slightly out of step, but then in New York everything was suddenly right, at my pace, and the right size… something that was finally big enough for me! I felt I was with my people and that’s where I want to be.

RJ: Where are you most at home in NYC?

MJ: I’m most at home in the East and West Villages as many of my creative friends and muses are there. But I enjoy any place in the city where there is art, music, and good food & wine. 

RJ: And where are you most at home when you are travelling?

MJ: I’m very at home in Europe and I particularly enjoy Spain and Sweden. For quick trips I tend to go to Mexico several times a year, and I can’t wait to go to the Pacific and Caribbean coasts again and sink my toes in the sand!

Argentina Salinas Grandes

Find Merryn at Curve Magazine (www.curvemag.com) and socially on Instagram @merryn_johns & Twitter @merryn1  

Listen to the FULL Queer Forty Podcast interview with Merryn Johns below to find out how her love for journalism came into being, why she lives in New York (and hasn’t left!) and how she finds hope in these tough political times.  You can also listen to the Queer Forty Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and don’t forget to subscribe!

Some of the questions and answers have been edited from the Podcast, and some questions are unique to this written interview.

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Richard Jones

Richard is the co-founder of Queer Forty. As a 40-something gay man, he is passionate about creating good, informative and entertaining content for the over 40 LGBTQ Community.

Richard Jones has 136 posts and counting. See all posts by Richard Jones

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