Remember “Beauty of the Week,” Jet magazine’s famous page 43, which featured Black women college students, actors nurses, and everyday girls in swimsuits?
Now, anyone can be a beauty of the week or even grace the cover as the iconic publication re-sets digitally, where readers and fans can go to myjetstory.com and upload their photos and create a personalized Jet cover.
“Everybody has a Jet story,” Daylon Goff, the president of Jet, said during a 30-minute interview on the National Newspaper Publishers Association daily show, “Let It Be Known.”
“I’m always rocking Jet merchandise, and when someone finds out what I do for a living, they immediately give me their Jet story. Unprompted.”
For Goff, that’s all the fuel he needed to help in what he calls the re-set of Jet. “It’s super exciting for me to be able to take this on,” Goff insisted.
“When you hear ‘Beauty of the Week,’ you don’t have to even say Jet beauty of the week. It’s synonymous. I get those conversations from both men and women at least three times a week.”
Founded in 1951 by John H. Johnson, Jet proved a mainstay in primarily Black households across America.
Like Ebony, founded six years earlier, Jet chronicled Black life in America and provided a lens into the African American community that mainstream media either ignored or misrepresented.
Goff recalled the disturbing but necessary images Jet published in 1955 of Emmett Till’s body after he was lynched and tortured. “We had to be bold because you have that full ownership and understanding of the significance of that story,” Goff related.
“Jet was to the Emmett Till story what Twitter, Instagram and Facebook Live was to George Floyd. It started a movement. It wasn’t like little Black boys and men weren’t getting killed in Mississippi in 1955, but when you saw it on those pages, you felt you had to do something.
“The same way when you saw on social media George Floyd’s murder, you had to do something about it because it wasn’t as if before that moment, Black men weren’t getting killed by the police.”
While Jet told real stories about real people, most readers began with page 43. With the re-set, Goff said one shouldn’t expect an immediate return of the Beauty of the Week. “It was relatable and owned by our community,” Goff explained. “The Beauty of the Week was a college student at Fayetteville, a nurse, secretary or actress. Relatable people that we all thought were attainable. But how can we be relevant to our audience in a world that’s different and the way we consume information and get information?”
For instance, Goff wondered what would happen if Rihanna were chosen as the first beauty. “Then Lizzo fans could say, what about her? And if we choose Lizzo, RuPaul could say, what about me?” Goff stated. “People would have every right to say that Jet is saying ‘I’m not beautiful.’” Indeed, Jet was social media before Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Going viral in pre-social media days meant being on the cover of Jet. Goff, whose background is brand marketing, understands that the Jet re-set is a challenging assignment. But he’s thrilled to take it on.
“I call this being re-fueled by Jet. We can be relevant to our audience in a world that’s different, and the way we consume information and get information is different,” he stated. “I also have to be relevant to an audience in a way that Ebony isn’t cannibalized. And we can do that.
“If we compare Ebony and Jet to iconic television characters, Ebony is Claire Huxtable, and Jet is Martin (Lawrence). They both speak to the Black experience but in a different way.”
The key, Goff said, is figuring out how to keep Jet around for the next 70 or so years. Basketball legend Charles Barkley still refers to Jet as the Black ‘bible,” Goff said, but the challenge is to ensure that a younger generation connects with the publication. “Talking to 20- and 25-year-olds, I’m sometimes surprised that they are familiar with Jet,” Goff said.
“People never threw away Jet. They put them in boxes, and I’m sure there’s a ton in someone’s attic. You just had to hold on to them. There’s a spark from the younger generation; for me, it’s about igniting that spark.
“The great part about the next generation is that they also grew up with this computer in their pocket and can find and search for knowledge. So, we need to ensure that our iconic brands remain for years.”