Summer Bellessa didn't intend for ELIZA magazine to be anything big. Just a side project.
You know, similar to scrapbooking, she joked during a recent interview.
But when your "hobby" gets featured on "Good Morning America," Fox News and in Newsweek, things change.
And for Bellessa, it changed in a big way.
Her magazine, which is based in Los Angeles, suddenly hit the national stage. People were jumping to subscribe to the magazine, which showcases stylish yet modest fashions and also "uplifting" entertainment and lifestyle articles.
For Bellessa, the growth of ELIZA is a clear indication there is a market for modesty. Women want to know about top fashions and trends but without having to wade through articles and images they may view as inappropriate, she said.
Her print-run is 10,000, and her magazine can be found in stores across the nation, including Barnes & Noble bookstores in Utah.
"We have found there is a group of women whose voices aren't heard," said Bellessa, who serves as editor-in-chief of ELIZA. "They still want to buy fashion magazines … but they don't cover their view."
You can sense Bellessa's passion as she talks about her magazine. During a recent interview at Bambara restaurant in Salt Lake City, she talked about how articles are selected and trends presented in the magazine.
It's a careful balance to determine how people will perceive things and the message that will be sent by words and images. In the most recent issues of ELIZA, Bellessa said she and her colleagues were careful to call it their "marriage" issue instead of a "wedding" or "bridal" issue.
They wanted to promote their belief that getting married is about more than the wedding and a fancy dress. Sometimes the words "marriage" or even "wife" have bad connotations, said Bellessa.
"We wanted to make sure we could show how fun marriage really is and that it's worth it, working hard to build that relationship," she said.
But the magazine is by no means "prudish." Bellessa, who is in her late 20s, is a former runway model and is still represented by Ford Models. You can sense she knows fashion by the way she dresses and the clothing featured in her magazine, which is published quarterly.
There are beautiful images that showcase trends such as layering, or wearing lace and other vintage-inspired themes. Also, articles and images show different ways to apply makeup, or highlight different styles of wedding dresses for sale.
"We attract really creative people whose work is right up there with Vogue and Glamour and it's so much fun to be able to do that," said Bellessa about the talent that helps produce her magazine.
Laura Field, marketing director for Layers Clothing, which is based in Draper, said her company "loves" ELIZA magazine because of its positive spin on fashion. Layers was started in 2005 by Michelle Boley and three friends and is now represented in nearly all 50 states, the Philippines and Canada.
Field believes ELIZA magazine is a great outlet for "amazing" fashion and really demonstrates how people can mix-and-match high-end pieces with affordable, trendy clothing. Layers advertises in the magazine and is featured on the back cover of its most recent magazine.
"Summer, ELIZA's editor-in-chief, has tapped into a world of fashion that is so needed during these times of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll," Field said.
Jennifer Jensen Young, the owner and creator of Draper-based Vintage Hem, also advertises in ELIZA. For her, the magazine showcases true feminine beauty without too much emphasis on skin.
Young sells slips women can use to lengthen skirts or add a touch of style to their outfits. She said she loves vintage styles that are romantic and feminine.
"I have three little girls and I love the idea they can pick up a glamorous magazine and look at it," said Young, who has more than doubled the size and revenue of her company in two years. "The women in ELIZA are revered for style and beauty, but they are in modest clothing."
For Bellessa, that is the goal: to showcase styles, trends and people that are beautiful yet substantial. Some of the women featured on ELIZA's cover include Brooke White, who appeared on American Idol last season, and Nicole Lapin, who is a young anchorwoman on CNN.com Live.
"We don't want to put people out there who are glitz without any substance," Bellessa said. "We want to make sure they're really someone who should be looked up to."
For more information about ELIZA magazine, log on to: www.elizamagazine.com
About Summer Bellessa:
Summer Bellessa was born in Chicago and now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Kerry. She began modeling about age 4 and started a full-time modeling career around age 16.
Bellessa has done runway modeling, appeared in catalogs, magazines and also commercials, including some in Japan. She was married six years ago in the Los Angeles Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
While she still models, her main focus is working on ELIZA magazine. Her goals are to continue growing the magazine, but she won't go into detail about upcoming plans.
One of Bellessa's fashion inspirations is Audrey Hepburn. ELIZA magazine is named after Eliza Doolittle, the character Hepburn played in a film version of "My Fair Lady."
Said Bellessa: "I think it doesn't matter where you come from. If you cultivate yourself and have knowledge and take care of yourself, anyone can look like a princess."
E-mail: [email protected]