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Revamped 'Maxim' Hotlist Focuses on Women's Accomplishments, Not Just Their Attractiveness

Taylor Swift made her first appearance on the cover of a men's magazine for the rebranded issue.
Taylor Swift is #1 on the rebranded "Maxim" Hot List. Photo: Maxim

Taylor Swift is #1 on the rebranded "Maxim" Hot List. Photo: Maxim

As if the debut of her super-hyped "Bad Blood" video on Sunday night wasn't enough of a Taylor Swift barrage for you, here's more confirmation that the singer is riding high right now. Swift has been named #1 on Maxim's Hot List, the newly appointed editor-in-chief Kate Lanphear's upgraded version of the men's magazine's legendary list of attractive women. 

"I think it’s a great testament to the rebrand that we can attract people of Taylor's caliber," says Lanphear, who came to Maxim from T magazine in September and debuted her sophisticated vision for the brand in the March issue. "Taylor was chosen based on her accomplishments and I was determined to have someone whose talent really transcended their beauty."

Indeed, accomplishments and upcoming projects in the entertainment industry were the driving criteria for the women on this year's list, which includes Dakota Johnson, Joan Smalls, Emilia Clarke and Lupita Nyong’o. An unexpected inclusion is Italian actress Monica Bellucci, marking the first time a 50-year-old has been included. But Lanphear is particularly proud that Swift agreed to be featured on the cover because she's never marketed herself in a purely sexual way, and thus might not have agreed to pose for Maxim before Lanphear took over.

"I think so many people here rebrand, rebrand, rebrand and we’ve been working really hard to get the magazine in front of people in the industry because there is such a big change from cover to cover," says Lanphear. "It's a huge success — in my mind, one of our biggest successes — that someone like Taylor is comfortable in that space." The Maxim June/July 2015 issue marks Swift's first appearance on the cover of a men's magazine. This month, she is also on the cover of Elle.               

Inside the "Maxim" June/July issue. Photo: Maxim

Inside the "Maxim" June/July issue. Photo: Maxim

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Another major mark that the magazine has changed? Lanphear got celebrated writer Roxane Gay to pen an essay about beauty to open the list. Gay — who is known for her book of essays "Bad Feminist" and her commentary for Salon — does not gloss over the superficial nature of a list of hot women. "There is a beauty standard, no doubt," she writes. "But we can and should widen that standard."

None of the women on the Hot List, including Swift, were photographed specifically for this issue. "Traditionally what we do is handpick the images and circle back," explains Lanphear. With Swift and her team's approval, Maxim picked up images from a cover she did for artsy British magazine Wonderland. Shot by photographer Thomas Whiteside for the November/December 2014 issue, Swift was styled with wet hair, dewy skin and bold brows. 

The entire issue isn't pickup photography, however, or devoted to attractive women. It features lists of the hottest bars, clubs and summer movie reboots all fitting under the "hot" the theme, including a feature on hot sauce. There are also two fashion editorials starring couples. One features actors Ed Skrein and Tatjana Pajković of the new "Transporter" film alongside men's accessories from brands like Coach and Mr. Porter. The other editorial stars artist Tali Lennox and boyfriend Ian Jones, the result of a collaborative effort with Lennox, an artist. 

"We are having great success attracting collaborative talent," says Lanphear, adding that an online poll of Maxim readers showed a 70 percent approval rating of the redesign. Advertisers are supportive so far, too: The March 2015 issue featured 30 more ad pages than the March 2014 issue, according to Capital New York.

"Now we have celebrity talent and models coming to us," says Lanphear. "It feels like we’ve gone from zero to sixty. Sometimes you forget it's only been three issues. It's just about continuing to build momentum."

 Maxim's June/July 2015 issue will start hitting newsstands on Wednesday.