This week’s podcast episode is a quite a ride

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My Everything is Fine partner Jenn and I worked at Lucky with Cat Marnell, who was both ridiculously talented and a ridiculous mess, struggling with a drug addiction that made those of us who cared about her very sad and extremely concerned. She wrote a fantastic, hilarious, and harrowing book about that time titled How to Murder Your Life that, among other things, perfectly captures both the hideous cycle of addiction and what it was like to work at Conde Nast in the aughts. Cat’s in good shape these days, I’m happy to report, and this conversation—in which we cover addiction and recovery, shame, lying, and so much more—is a really satisfying one. Listen in on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. And, guys! We have a Patreon now: subscribe now and you’ll be entitled to bonus episodes, free EIF merch, shopping news, and so very much more.

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51 Thoughts on This week’s podcast episode is a quite a ride
    Emily M.
    26 Mar 2021
    9:03am

    This podcast felt like “Inside Baseball” to me. So many things were not explained, like Cat’s exploitation at XOJane. That said, I wish her the best.

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    Katie
    26 Mar 2021
    9:14am

    I found it hard to think about much other than Cat Marnell’s incredible privilege while listening to this. I’ve spent so much time around people who had equally troubled family dynamics and destructive substance use disorders but didn’t have Marnell’s cushion of whiteness and wealth. You discuss how employers were willing to give her breaks because of her talent and charm, but some acknowledgment of the enormous structural advantages working in her favor could have made this a lot more compelling. This apparent lack of insight or acknowledgment also makes me question whether she has interesting things to say that aren’t capitalizing on being a charming and beautiful mess.

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    Lori
    23 Mar 2021
    6:22pm

    Really looking forward to listening to this! (As a product of a devastatingly dysfunctional WASP family, am fascinated by these kinds of tales — just read the excerpt of her book on Amazon, and it certainly looks to be a page-turner!)

    That said, upon first seeing the photo for this post, before diving in further, I instinctively reacted with a, “Hm, this woman looks a bit young to be a GOACA — does she have an excellent surgeon?And is that a wig??” — then read elsewhere that Cat is in fact under 40, so not properly a GOACA.

    All props to women in their late 30’s, but there are MANY cultural spaces available to and directed at women under 40, and so few for women 40 and up; I would heartily request that you guys keep your podcast a sacred ground for the 40+ crowd! (-:

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      Kim France
      23 Mar 2021
      6:27pm

      Lori, we made an exception for Cat, who is 38, because a lot of people had requested her, and we thought it could be an interesting interview because of our shared history. But I understand why that disappointed you. Not to worry—I don’t know that we’ll make that exception again.

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      Cò_mise
      23 Mar 2021
      10:17pm

      I dunno, Lori…I’m 43 now, but I’ve been reading this blog since long before I turned 40. There may very well be tons of cultural spaces available for 30-somethings but a lot of them are incredibly dull (to me at least) because they are focused on finding a life partner (yawn) and having children (double yawn). I can’t remember how I found this blog and I never asked myself why I was reading a blog meant for older women but I suspect it was because there wasn’t constant dull chatter about typical 30-something life milestones. I admired the independence and “no more fucks to give” of the older women here.

      I don’t see the harm in making an exception and having the occasional guest who is in her late 30’s.

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    Liz
    23 Mar 2021
    7:49pm

    I had never heard of Cat Marnell before but after I read the comments here I expected not to like her. Some of the things she said during the podcast were off putting, such as traveling through Europe for years, now living in TriBeCa, which is not the typical path for most recovering addicts. But I was touched by her genuine affection for people she used to work for, particularly Jean Godfrey-June and Christina. Also, when Kim and Jenn offered her an opportunity to blame others, such as whether Lucky enabled her or whether she was mistreated at XOJane, she declined and disclosed her own bad behavior of lying and manipulating people. Hopefully, she will stay on the recovery path and be okay.

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    Melissa
    24 Mar 2021
    3:01pm

    I read Jane and Lucky. I followed Cat’s story on XOJane. I thought this podcast was interesting. A little bittersweet but also sensitive and all three of you took some sense of ownership for what may have been handled differently. I downloaded How To Murder Your Life after listening to this. I’m happy she’s doing well now.

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    Elizabeth
    24 Mar 2021
    12:52pm

    I listen to podcasts to hear a good story, learn something, including how to be, and sometimes what to wear. This episode did none of those things and after listening to 20 minutes I felt sad for everyone involved, including myself for having listened. Addiction and abusive, exploitive work environments are not cool.

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    Deb kelt
    24 Mar 2021
    1:14pm

    Not a favorite episode, and bizarrely placed right after the weed episode? I’m not shaking a Nancy Reagan finger, just saying. This all seemed rushed and to be honest, it made me sad. She seemed nervous, the questions felt odd and sometimes poorly planned, and I had no idea what y’all were talking about with the insider magazine stuff.

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    cw
    23 Mar 2021
    11:44am

    This was a very different podcast from the usual EIF. It made me feel uncomfortable because I felt like I was eves dropping in on a conversation that was part reunion, part therapy session and part dinner conversation at a reunion/therapy session/dinner party that I hadn’t actually been invited to attend. I also felt very, very sorry for Cat Marnell who seems like a troubled, sad individual who is working hard to make her life better. I’m glad she’s living clean and getting exercise and taking care of herself and I hope she continues to do so and finds more ways to help herself and make amends.

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    Cò_mise
    23 Mar 2021
    2:39pm

    I haven’t listed to the podcast, and I hadn’t heard of Cat Marnell until she was mentioned in this blog post. I did then read an interview she did somewhere and I thought she seemed a bit annoying (she seems to be the type who uses the “shock factor” to get attention and fame, and I’ve never been a fan of that). That being said, I’m dismayed by all the women on here castigating her for “getting ahead” because of her looks. Why do we women have to be so fucking hard on each other? Even if Cat Marnell is talentless (never having read her work, I can’t determine that), then shouldn’t we celebrate the fact that she’s playing the patriarchal game and winning by using her looks? Hate the game, not the player, no?

    Also (and forgive me if this sounds arrogant), but I am an attractive women and I have lost count of the times insecure women have treated me like shit because they think I somehow have it “easier” than they do. Trust me, there is nothing “easy” about being bullied. Worse still, if you’re an attractive woman with crap self-esteem you’re a magnet for manipulative, abusive, and exploitative men.

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    Mimi A.
    23 Mar 2021
    2:30pm

    Parts of this discussion made a good companion piece to the movie Kim suggested, “My Year of Salenger.” When I worked for a variety of publications, and especially when I was on staff, I found it interesting how much women thought about and cared about liking their co-workers and being liked. I didn’t see that dynamic present in my ex-husband’s business, where friendships weren’t a concern and relationships were more purely transactional. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad that women often bond in professional situations, and operate on a more emotional level. (And maybe my ex was just an asshole.) Publicists! So many of the ones I dealt with had the personalities of sorority girls during rush week – charming beyond their years, seductive, warm, on the surface. When I was an editor I believed many publicists liked me and wanted to be friends. Maybe some of them were sincere, but I quickly woke up to the realization that it was their job to bewitch me into giving them free ink.

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    HickfromStyx
    23 Mar 2021
    12:58pm

    I’m not sure I understand the direction your podcast is taking. I listen for wisdom and renewal. I hope you will refocus.

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      Jenn Romolini
      23 Mar 2021
      1:43pm

      Hi there! We’re not so much taking a direction as trying different things— Cat is/was a frequently requested guest by listeners and we thought it might be compelling to talk to her about shame and addiction and the path to personal evolution. It’s my belief we glean wisdom from all different (often unlikely!) places. I hope we can provide something that speaks to you more next week 🙂

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        HickfromStyx
        23 Mar 2021
        2:54pm

        I got the impression that the path to personal evolution for this guest was foreign vacays (the “geographic cure”?), then landing in an NYC apartment paid for by…? I’m not sure what that says to the rest of us about personal evolution, other than money fixes all things. I have not read her tell-all book because I don’t care for the genre.

        I hope you will review the mission statement for your blog. Perhaps it is evolving. That’s fine.

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          Jenn Romolini
          23 Mar 2021
          3:50pm

          thanks so much for your thoughtful feedback!

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          MARGARET
          23 Mar 2021
          4:24pm

          The “geographic cure” is a term used in addiction recovery. It means moving somewhere new in lieu of actually dealing with your problems. In Cat’s case it seems to have actually worked, in part because it got her away from people she used to do drugs with. I think that’s all she was referring to.

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            Kim France
            23 Mar 2021
            6:29pm

            Yes it was.

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    SM
    23 Mar 2021
    4:45pm

    I thought the podcast was really interesting. I always loved the way Marnell disrupted the women’s-mag beauty culture, while worrying that she was being exploited, and I really admire her writing. I also thought she had an interesting take on her situation–she clearly has a different view of her life and her experiences than the typical addiction-recovery-success narrative, and I find that fascinating too because it complicates a story that we think we know and know the ending to. It’s another narrative she’s disrupting. I hope for the best for her, and I’m interested to see what she writes next.

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    Jessica
    23 Mar 2021
    5:32pm

    I’m a big fan of the podcast but this episode was disappointing because I felt like an eavesdropper on a conversation where I didn’t have the full story. I wished that more background was provided for the listener’s benefit – I kept feeling like I was missing a chapter of the story especially when you talked about exploitation by Jane. Anyway thanks being back!

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      melsybelsy
      23 Mar 2021
      6:39pm

      YES! I googled Cat Martell after the podcast listen – it also made me sad afterwards reflecting on this episode because I dreamed of working in magazines and fashion as a young one and Jane was kinda like my Hero. After this podcast and the Andre Leon Tally tell-all Book – I’m wondering where all the nice people in fashion/beauty/publishing are at? Can we hear from them?

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        Kim France
        24 Mar 2021
        1:00pm

        As a veteran of that world, I can safely say that there are some truly nice people, but a whole lot more awful ones.

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    MARGARET
    22 Mar 2021
    1:29pm

    Oh, bless this girl. I wish her the best. I heard a few things in this podcast that worried me (I have lots of experience) and I just want Cat to know, in case she reads this, that she is worth all the work.

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      Rae
      22 Mar 2021
      2:10pm

      Agreed Margaret. I found this an interesting but tough listen. Cat seems aware that she is still searching for solid ground– hope she finds it and some role models that are more supportive than the Cruella DeVilles of the world. (I think she was joking / not quite joking?)

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    Ramona quimby
    22 Mar 2021
    2:49pm

    Oh I am always rooting for talented Cat.

    I commend you for addressing whether you guys enabled her at Lucky and remember her druggie look being highlighted in the magazine.
    And then she was incredibly exploited at Xojane (the video of her snorting bath salts comes to mind).

    I’m glad she’s doing better and hope she was able to hear how loved and valued she was/is in spite of her addiction rather than because of it.

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    Liz
    22 Mar 2021
    3:15pm

    I’m excited to listen to this one, having read and enjoyed her book. I save your podcasts for cooking dinner and it’s always such a great end to my day. I especially loved the one from two weeks ago and have started listening to Rick Rubin’s great podcast because of it. Speaking of which, he interviewed the super entertaining music journalist Lisa Robinson and she’d make a great guest for ETIF.

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      Jax
      26 Mar 2021
      3:25pm

      I listen to some of Rick Rubin’s podcasts too, depending on the (usually) musician guest. I’ll have to check the Lisa Robinson episode out.

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    Samantha W Zutler
    22 Mar 2021
    6:35pm

    I’m psyched to listen to this latest episode! Also, i just signed up on your Patreon account and want to encourage others to join me! I check this blog every day and listen to every podcast episode. I am more than happy to help support those who entertain, challenge, and keep me sane! (I’m a helluva lot happier doing that than paying my Comcast bill every month…) Thanks for running this blog Kim! I love it. Sam

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    DM
    22 Mar 2021
    7:01pm

    I did not enjoy this podcast, sorry to say. My 38-year-old niece has totally fucked up her life (and her children’s lives) because she’s an addict who doesn’t think she has a problem. She’s destroyed her marriage, lost custody of her children, burned every family relationship, and can’t hold a job, yet she’s certain that her substance abuse is just an adventurous phase she’s going through. So, anything that glamorizes addiction (how nice that Cat Marnell can just pop over to Europe for a few years to chill out) rubs me the wrong way.

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    Mary
    22 Mar 2021
    10:56am

    Really appreciate the raw honesty you expressed here, Kim.

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    Mary
    22 Mar 2021
    10:40am

    I’ll definitely be looking at magazines differently but from now on! Interesting to hear about the back story.

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    kimbersam
    22 Mar 2021
    10:42am

    Looking forward to this podcast. As for the naysayers, addiction makes big ripples in the pond, and yes, others get hurt but often not as much as the addict is hurting themselves.

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      Mae
      22 Mar 2021
      12:14pm

      I respectfully disagree, kimbersam. The addicts I know well (family members) hurt everyone else while continually numbing themselves, the self-centered drama-seeking assholes that they are. That is all.

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        Cò_mise
        23 Mar 2021
        3:00pm

        Hello, Mae. I am actually training to be a substance abuse counselor, and I felt like I needed to address your comment. First of all, I am very sorry for the pain and havoc caused by your addicted family members. You sound really hurt. I know that your comment came from a place of pain, but I do feel that it doesn’t help anybody to see addicts exclusively as self-centred assholes. Can they be that? Oh, absolutely. But the clients I see are usually nearly all in pain and they truly *hate* themselves, and are filled with shame. I don’t mean to sound like I’m making excuses for them (you are very entitled to your anger and pain), but it’s so hard for people to want to change given the stigma around addiction.

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    liz
    22 Mar 2021
    9:38am

    I think about her a lot – ever since I first read about her in the NYT Magazine in 2012. She also worked for Jane Pratt’s now-defunct online magazine.

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      CPT
      22 Mar 2021
      10:35am

      Having written for XOJane and XOVain, I can attest that she affected the dynamic there for the worse, and really made it difficult to work for them.

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        Sharona
        24 Mar 2021
        11:20am

        How so (made it difficult)? Hope that that it’s OK that I’m asking–am curious and hope I’m not offending. (I considered querying xo and for me privacy outweighed the appeal of the audience. )

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    Sharona
    22 Mar 2021
    10:20am

    Gotta say I don’t get the Cat Marnell love. Read the book, remember the trainwreck New York magazine article, saw her stuff on XOJane. Still don’t see it. I can’t see how media would think she’s great if she weren’t gorgeous, if she didn’t have money in her family, if she showed up in her pics missing teeth, etc. It’s like she’s an aspirational addict.

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      Bobby
      22 Mar 2021
      2:36pm

      She’s always reminded me of Elizabeth Wurtzel. I find both of them to be … not gorgeous at all. That’s neither here nor there, just my opinion. I do fervently hope that her trajectory is far better than Wurtzel’s and she stays healthy.

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      CPT
      22 Mar 2021
      10:37am

      100% agree, and aspirational addict is a great phrase. She kept getting work because she’s pretty. The end.

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        Kim France
        22 Mar 2021
        11:29am

        I’m not saying that Cat’s looks didn’t have anything to do with her success, but as somebody who edited her text at Lucky, I can confidently report that she is also successful because she’s talented.

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          CPT
          23 Mar 2021
          10:07am

          Of course, but plenty of talented people are not given the opportunity to redeem themselves over and over and over again. That’s where the good looks and charm come in.

          She says in the podcast that she didn’t do her boss’ expense accounts for 8 months.

          I’m not saying I’m full of talent. But I do get paid to write, people hire to me to write based on things I’ve written previously, my writing is well-received, etc. I was written up and demoted at a major media company (not Conde, but I certainly recognize the personalities) for making a copyediting error – think forgetting to change the tense of a verb. I had a formal warning in my file, I almost had to go sit down with the company’s lawyer to discuss what a terrible employee I was.

          I don’t sense that ever happened here.

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            Kim France
            24 Mar 2021
            1:03pm

            We actually address this in the episode.

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              CPT
              26 Mar 2021
              5:04pm

              I listened. Cat laughs about how she should have been fired, and the expense report story is largely laughed off by her – oh I was such a mess, guess what I did? But I got to stay! How funny! You and Jenn question whether you should have been more hard and fast with her, but IMHO don’t really reach a conclusion.

              Look, I suspect I’m one of the commenters you were asking to approach the comment section with more love, and OK. I’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, and I agree that it’s a special corner of the internet. I apologize for spreading black clouds.

              But I’ve also worked adjacent to Cat (I was a freelancer, she was on staff, and she was not my direct editor; one of my editors reported to her and she reported to the other one), and I did not have nearly as pleasant an experience as you and Jenn did. And it’s hard to be loving about it, because it was incredibly frustrating and painful, and talking about it here is bringing up some old resentment and anger. I think she is someone who got a lot of passes, at the expense, often, of other employees. I know you talked a bit about that, too, but then it seemed to get whitewashed when one of the employees in question told Jenn to tell Cat hi, and Cat seemed to take that as that employee saying “water under the bridge.”

              I don’t feel that my pessimism about the episode was unwarranted after hearing it, and the whole thing left me feeling really unsettled. I guess, to me, it felt less like a “let’s talk about aging in a positive and healthy way” which is the backbone of this blog and the pod, and which I truly appreciate, and more like a high school reunion.

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            Liz
            24 Mar 2021
            4:06pm

            I think the number of comments on this post (and on any Cat Marnell story) say a lot more about why she kept getting work. People either love her or hate her, but the level of interest she generates surely drove up the readership of these publications. I can’t name most of the writers in women’s magazines, but I know the name Cat Marnell, and I do think her open messiness appeals to a lot of women her age who don’t relate to those perfectly disciplined wellness fanatics who seem like replicants of each other.

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    Kathy
    22 Mar 2021
    8:30am

    I found Cat’s book incredibly difficult to read at points but at the same time, could not put it down. I was wondering if/hoping she might join you on your pod cast- was not sure of the relationship that the two of you had from her book (she seemed in awe, slightly intimidated by you!) Looking forward to listening to this!

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    Kim France
    24 Mar 2021
    4:29pm

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the response here to Cat’s episode. Booking her was a risk, and a number of you responded negatively—which is fine and totally your prerogative. But can I just say something? I try super-hard to keep the tone upbeat here, every single day. So many of you have told me that this positive energy is what keeps you coming back to GOACA, and that it has provided a daily bright spot during this tough time. So I get bothered when I see comments that feel unnecessarily unkind, which a few did. I can take the criticism, I promise, but if you could just pause for a moment before posting something critical, and try to come a little bit more from love, I’d really appreciate it.

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      Katy
      25 Mar 2021
      8:34am

      I appreciate this reminder – and admire the tone you set with your blog and podcast. I have been chewing on the Cat Marnell episode all week with feelings ranging from a maternal desire to kick her ass from a judgy voice of experience to a craven need to read more details. I love all the behind-the-scenes-at-Conde-Nast stuff and hope your memoir is going out soon, Kim). I would love to listen to the podcast that hosts Cat Marnell when she is 50.

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    AnnieA
    24 Mar 2021
    5:13pm

    This was an absorbing and sometime difficult episode to listen to. I hope heading into the future Ms. Cat will be well, staying the course and finding good people to associate with during these especially difficult times.

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    Gemma
    29 Mar 2021
    9:28am

    I read through these comments and I realized that I listened to this podcast episode completely differently. I didn’t think of Cat as being the GOACA, but Kim and Jennifer. It was like a very frank discussion with a former employee who was talented but self destructive and impossible to manage. Many of us who manage have had to try to supervise someone like Cat or we’ve been someone like Cat. I really appreciated the conversation, candor, and warmth. It was an usual episode, but I found it so compelling.

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      Shannon
      29 Mar 2021
      3:44pm

      Exactly the same as prior response-I am 43 and have been reading this blog for WAY more than 3 years. This blog/the podcast provide a different perspective than most, and that was helpful in even turning 40.
      I agree with Gemma. I listened to the podcast and am surprised by these reactions. I thought it was interesting. It seems as if Cat is not out of the woods, but hopefully past the worst of it. That is certainly a different experience than most podcasts. I think I learned something from her pivot regardless of her privilege.

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About

Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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