Are you WDWG?

In the 1980s, my friend Laura moved to San Francisco and landed a job at Kelly Services (aka Kelly Girl), the iconic temp staffing agency. She applied to be a temp but ended up hired as an in-house typing instructor (despite forfeiting her own typing test twice due to panic attacks—but that’s another story).

“When people applied for work,” Laura told me, “the interviewer would mark their files with special codes if they presented well. If they wore appropriate, stylish clothes and had their hair (and makeup for women) done well, they were WDWG. Well Dressed, Well Groomed.

“If they also had model good looks,” she continued, “they were FOA.”

“FOA?”

“Front Office Appearance.”

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All applicants needed clerical and other skills to make the cut. But being WDWG was a plus, while only those with FOA got placed as receptionists, who represent the face of a company. The two codes, jotted by hand on impressive applicants’ files, were eventually purged, due to concern that they might be interpreted as race-based. (In San Francisco, race was not a factor but the company was based in the Midwest.)

Laura’s story amused me to no end. WDWG. FOA. I’d never heard of such abbreviations!

Of course, such standards still apply, even to yoga. To grace the cover of Yoga Journal, for example, one must be FOA. One might or might not be YJ-approved WDWG in real life. (I mean, who would wear a white unitard?) But, whatever a cover model’s personal style, she ends up fresh-scrubbed and smiling, in yummy pastels or brights.

I have a few ideas to shake things up:

  • Photograph cover models wearing their own clothes. Or let them pose in their own studios or hometowns. Or vary the composition or color palette. I know this is not Interview magazine, but the covers all look the same: a rainbow-sherbet yoga dreamland.
  • Feature more men on the cover. Generally, men have more leeway in the FOA requirement. Maybe the scarcity of male yoga practitioners makes any advanced yogi a star, regardless of startling physiognomy or non-jock body type. In any case, while there are numerous male yogis photographed inside the magazine, there are no male covers. From a marketing perspective, wouldn’t it appeal to the predominantly female subscriber pool to see cover guys?
  • Include a wider age range, especially seniors. It’s appealing to see any attractive yoga practitioner. But when I see a senior yogi, there’s an added “wow” element of surprise and inspiration.

I might be exaggerating in my mockery of Yoga Journal‘s aesthetic style. I actually feel rather cheery when I see the magazine’s colorful covers. There is something comforting about consistency. Still, Yoga Journal has the clout and leeway to push the envelope in its design. If yoga is about “playing the edge*,” why not create edgier covers?

*Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness, Erich Schiffman

Photo:Ugly Betty characters: Amanda Tanen (Becki Newton), Marc St James (Michael Urie), and Betty Suarez (America Ferrera). Guess who’s the receptionist with FOA?

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One thought on “Are you WDWG?

  1. another great post! and I agree with you about the “seniors”! two of my blog’s yoga rants are about “is yoga a white thang?” (“The Color of Yoga”) and yoga advertising being more representative. That’s why I love the YJ ads for Kripalu: black, brown, and yellow people, old bodies and round bodies.

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