Instagram Soundcloud Spotify

Amanda Lauren, XO Jane And What’s Happened to Jane Pratt?

Written by:

Sometimes I don’t want to write about certain things.

Then why bother, you ask?

Well, sometimes you need to write about something because you give voice to the voiceless, or you need to sort things out.

Case in point: My incredible disappointment with Jane Pratt.

Jane Pratt used to be so cool–the It girl. She was the Editor-In-Chief of Sassy, the teen girl magazine that told girls it’s okay to have sex, it’s okay to be a book nerd, and it’s okay to not be head over heels in love with New Kids on the Block. In a Valentine’s Day photo shoot, they used a Walt Whitman quote and lyrics from Lou Reed’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” Sassy had playful and fun column titles: Zits and Stuff. Listen Up. Read This. Working Our Nerves. Stuff You Wrote. There was the It Happened to Me section where girls could write about something that happened to them and, in fact, a lot had: they’d tried to kill themselves, they were bullied, they’d had an abortion. Elsewhere, staff writer Christina Kelly had two pages where she let loose on everything celebrity-related and Jane herself would write letters to the readers, never talking down to us. She was the big sister we all wanted, the one that would talk to us about everything: sex, drugs, pimples, why you should be socially conscious in the world, what books to read, and what music to listen to.

And she always signed her name with an oversized J.

Once a year Jane would turn the reins over to the Sassy readers, offering them the chance to put out an issue on their own. The first girl who was up to the challenge was Summer Lopez. Months later, she complained about Jane to Knight Ridder, saying Jane made up quotes by Summer in the magazine, that the Sassy writers weren’t great mentors to the guest writers/editors, and that Summer’s clothes were dismissed as “so California.” Jane responded that it was a crazy period and said “…they did not come in and replace us, which is what they may have expected us to do.”

When Sassy was at its peak, Jane was everywhere. She was on the talk show circuit discussing teen girls (in fact she had her own talk show for a while, The Jane Pratt Show), she was in R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People” video, there was a Sassy perfume, and a sketch on SNL (“How sassy are you? Sassy!”).

The world was Jane’s, and we were along with the ride.


Then one day, a new issue came of Sassy, but it was different. A new girl was editing the magazine. All the staff writers were gone. No Jane. No Christina. What the hell was going on? It was like replacing Darrin on Bewitched, but the new editor didn’t have the charm of Dick Sargent. It turned out that the magazine was sold to another publication,who fired everyone and wanted Sassy to be more like the other magazines on the market.

It failed.

Big time.

And Sassy folded in 1996.

Jane rebounded with a new magazine called, what else? Jane. I tried reading it but something about it seemed false. It seemed too focused on movie stars and celebrity culture. Jane didn’t last long, and soon folded.

Then in 2011 came XO Jane, a new website for the grownup Sassy reader. There was even a carryover from Sassy: It Happened to Me. But this time the essays were darker, sadder. Several times I thought about sending something in. Truth is I’m too boring for XO Jane. Plus they only paid fifty dollars an essay. Since the site was owned by TimeLife, I figured they could cough up more dough than fifty dollars.

Last week, XO Jane published a piece by Amanda Lauren titled “My Former Friend’s Death Was A Blessing” an essay that detailed the writer being “friends” with someone with a mental illness. Lauren had no empathy for her “friend.” She was cold, judgmental, and quite frankly, mean. After she revealed her “friend” died from hitting her head in the bathtub. She then wrote: “This girl had nothing to live for” and explained that her life was a “complete waste.”

While the piece received thousands of angry comments from readers, critics began to weigh in as well. Jezebel wrote that the essay, “…outlines a series of petty grievances with a woman who, the piece reveals, later committed suicide. It’s a strange and deeply insensitive piece; simultaneously judgmental, self-absorbed, and unreflective, particularly since the subject matter is a young woman who suffered from schizoaffective disorder.

Jezebel goes on to write that the essay, “…engages in the voyeurism and spectacle typical of a kind of first-person essay, without any of the obligatory reflection. The only lesson learned from this piece is that xoJane shouldn’t have published it.”

Jane Pratt sure knows that now.

In response she issued this statement: “I apologize for an article that was posted here yesterday, entitled “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing.” I deeply regret the hurt that this article has caused and understand that it has perpetuated stigma and diminished the lives of people with mental illness. I am committed to immediately reviewing our vetting process to ensure that this experience has a positive influence on the ways in which we at xoJane present all women going forward. I appreciate all of you who took the time to let us know how you felt about this issue.”

Even worse?

After the groundswell of objections to the essay, overnight Lauren’s name vanished from the byline and in its place came “Anonymous.”


Jane Pratt should know that the internet has a way of retaining things and that a quick fix like that is no fix at all.

And guess what? I’m angry. I’m angry at the writer, and I’m angry at Jane. I’m angry that she published on her site a badly written ice cold piece of prose . I’m angry that so many writers, including myself, don’t get the hits this essay did before it was taken down. I’m angry she didn’t think. I’m angry that she knew it would be triggering for many people, yet it was published anyway.

And I’m angry because Jane must’ve seen it before it was published.

And she must’ve known how ugly it was.

For someone who didn’t want to write about Jane Pratt, I’ve written a lot about Jane Pratt.

I’m sad because the fact is, I don’t want to ever be published now in XO Jane.

And that’s okay.

But what really saddens me is that I used to look up to this totally cool girl who edited this wonderful magazine which told teen girls to go out there and not be afraid, be confident in yourself.

And I don’t look up to Jane Pratt anymore.