Last week, deep in the industrial, 99-cent-store-riddled wastelands of Bushwick, Brooklyn, the ladies of Missbehave were finishing up the magazine’s fifth issue. “[W]e’re closing so it’s squalor-town, but have at it,” warned editor in chief Mary H.K. Choi, 27, in an e-mail to The Observer.
The quarterly magazine for the American-Appareled party-girl set shares its offices with the urban subculture guide for skaters and street kids, Mass Appeal magazine (which finances the unabashedly girly book on a skeletal budget). But it’s obvious which side of the room belongs to Ms. Choi and her partner, founding editor Samantha Moeller. Ms. Choi’s desk is mangled with piles of illustrated comics and Germaine Greer’s book The Whole Woman. Ms. Moeller’s desk is sprinkled with Hello Kitty products and wallpapered in old school bad-girl movie posters and cut-outs from gossip magazines. There’s a bubblegum pink cruiser bike in the hallway by the giant fish tank.
“If anyone reads Missbehave they’re thinking, these girls look like they’re having so much fun,” Ms. Choi said over brunch near her home in Carroll Gardens. “Everyone thinks that we’re so, like … running around town with $40,000 in credit debt, taking the morning-after pill like every day.”
It was just shy of two years ago, in the fall of 2005, when Ms. Choi, Ms. Moeller, 30 (who is the wife of Mass Appeal’s publisher, Adrian Moeller), and a few close friends—photo editor Brooke Nipar and creative director Sally Thurer—decided that they needed a colloquial-voiced downtown fashion magazine that was distinctly anti-Cosmopolitan and pro-pro-girl. As Ms. Choi wrote in her editor’s letter in the first issue, published last August: “For seriously, when the four of us worked on this issue it was like that moment in The Craft where the witches got together for the first time and the Wiccan synergy goes bananas. Except none of us are Fairuza Balk since we’re all totally hot and have great teeth.”
Four issues later, Missbehave is sponsoring late-night parties at Brooklyn hot spot Studio B and will soon be on sale at Urban Outfitters and Hot Topic. The magazine just celebrated its one-year anniversary with BBQ and old school hip-hop jams from DJ Elle on The Delancey’s posh rooftop. The team is considering expanding into their own brand, with a scent, jewelry design and maybe even a clothing line on the horizon.
Missbehave’s pages drip with a polychromic kaleidoscope of fantastical style spreads and front-of-the-book stories about vibrators and DILF (Dad I’d Like to Fuck) hunting. Reading it is like surreptitiously savoring a jawbreaker and discovering wild new flavors you never thought you’d enjoy. Their cover girls are bad-girl songstresses like Lily Allen and model-cum-actresses like Mena Suvari. “She gives fuck-me eyes like no other,” Ms. Choi said.
In each issue, New York party promoters Oxy Cottontail, who organizes for the downtown “hopster” set, and Justine D., the DJ from rock ’n’ roll party institution Motherfucker, write their “Wanna Battle?” column offering contrasting advice on everything from boys to starting a business. Kelis, the female rapper whose 2003 single “Milkshake” brought all the boys to the yard, rants about topics ranging from feminism to name-calling.
“We get that we’re slutty a lot, and that’s so sexist derision,” Ms. Choi hissed. “And it’s so android-y to call us sluts.… The insults that actually hurt are the ones that say we’re anti-female.”
“We’re cool dorks,” Ms. Choi insisted. “We’re nerdly as hell. We all love fashion, like obsessed, all of us and always have been. It’s weird, it’s like, we’re unlikely popular people, you know?”
Hmm … Sounds kind of like another pro-girl mag, one that recently folded. Indeed, the Missbehave girls just might be likably popular enough to catch some Jane castaways.
No doubt that would suit the long-locked Ms. Choi. “We’re having a riot, you should come.”