Boxers or Briefs, President Obama?

Obama in Celebrity Magazines
Photograph by Michael Dunn

By Abigail Lyon

Step aside, Britney Spears, and make yourself comfortable somewhere off the cover of celebrity magazines. A new cover man has arrived in Tinseltown: Barack Obama.

Ever since Obama blossomed as a candidate, and of course all the more so with his election as 44th president, his “coolness” and that of his family have been fawned over and displayed on many magazines, from the serious newsmagazines to those that focus on celebrities.

Us Weekly, People and other magazines have attracted readers with headlines asking what dog the first family should choose or by likening Michelle Obama’s fashion-forward sense to Jackie O’s.

Hailed as the “most handsome president” by the online celebrity site Wonkette, Obama does not seem thrilled by all the teenybopper questions that celebrity journalists hurl at him, like whether he prefers boxers
or briefs. Obama told Us Weekly that he doesn’t answer those kinds of questions but whatever he wears, he says: “I look good in them.”

“The enthusiasm of the moment,” says Victor Navasky, a magazine expert and professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, of why Obama is the leading cover man. “First of all he’s the president. Second of all he’s the first African-American president.” Navasky also credits Obama’s charisma and says he’s interesting to look at. And the bottom line: Obama must be selling magazines — or they wouldn’t put him on the cover.

These magazines reach out to a largely untapped political demographic: women and young adults looking
for celebrity gossip.

Of course, Obama has also been on the covers of The Economist and Time, which featured him 14 times in 2008.

One advertisement for John McCain, his Republican opponent, said: “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world. But is he ready to lead?”

Well, yes, the American people decided. And it seems clear that people simply can’t get enough of him.

“He is cool — that’s the thing,” says Heather Woodworth, 23, a college student. “I mean what other President
has had the paparazzi stalking them on the beach to snap a picture of them?”

Maybe this election has set the tone for all to follow, and celebrity magazines will become the way some people receive their information on politics.