SELF Magazine Editor Apologizes to Tutu-Wearing Cancer Survivor

The magazine used Monika Allen's photo of her running a marathon in a tutu for a blurb slamming the fitness fashion trend

By Monica Garske
|  Friday, Mar 28, 2014  |  Updated 3:08 PM PDT
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NBC 7's Candice Nguyen speaks with San Diego-based runner Monika Allen, whose photo was used by SELF magazine to make fun of the tutu trend in marathons. Though the magazine has apologized, Allen is still hurt by the incident.

NBC 7's Candice Nguyen speaks with San Diego-based runner Monika Allen, whose photo was used by SELF magazine to make fun of the tutu trend in marathons. Though the magazine has apologized, Allen is still hurt by the incident.

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The editor-in-chief of SELF magazine offered a personal apology Thursday to a San Diego-based cancer survivor mocked by the publication for wearing a tutu while running a marathon amid growing online backlash to its use of her photo.

Monika Allen, a runner and brain cancer survivor, told NBC 7 she was recently contacted by the magazine via email with a request to use a photo of her and friend Tara Baize wearing tutus while running the LA Marathon. She was told the photo would appear in an issue of the magazine.

But Allen says she didn't know her picture would be used to make fun of the tutu fashion trend in the running world. The photo was printed in SELF’s April issue, in a section of the magazine called “The BS Meter." 

“A racing tutu epidemic has struck NYC’S Central Park, and it’s all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster. Now, if you told us they made people run away from you faster, maybe we would believe it," the caption read.

Allen said she was “stunned and offended” by the caption – especially because of the circumstances surrounding that marathon and why she was wearing a tutu. Allen, who made the tutu herself through her company, Glam Runner, said the cute, colorful outfit gave her motivation to get to the finish line in the marathon, which she ran in the middle of chemotherapy.

SELF Editor-in-Chief Lucy Danziger took to her Twitter account to say sorry.

"@glamrunner apologies from me and @selfmagazine. We applaud you for supporting girls & wish Monika speedy recovery: http://t.co/2iq4SAzWA9," she tweeted.

In an email to NBC 7, Danziger apologized again, saying "in our attempt to be humorous, we were inadvertently insensitive."

"I have sincerely apologized both directly to Monika and her supporters online. At SELF we support women such as Monika; she is an inspiration and embodies the qualities we admire. We have donated to her charity and would like to cover her good work in a future issue," the statement reads. "We wish her all the best in her road to good health."

Allen said she had received a personal message from Danziger, but has not yet responded. As for Danziger’s Twitter apology, Allen said it doesn’t really address the core issue here, which is that she was misled into allowing the magazine to use her photo. She said she wouldn't have said yes to the request if she had known how it would have been represented. 

“She hasn’t addressed the fact that we were misled in the request for the photo to be used in a snarky post,” Allen, who said the magazine didn't ask for the story behind the tutus, told NBC 7.

She said it shouldn’t matter whether or not she’s a cancer survivor. What matters is that the magazine blurb was negative and hurtful, no matter who was on the other end.

Baize agrees and told NBC 7 she was also put off by the blurb in the magazine.

“[Monika] is really inspiring and just to turn something we did into something people would laugh at. It was hurtful. And Ii’m glad that people are really responding positively to us,” said Baize.

The money from sales of the tutus made by Allen's company, Glam Runner, is donated to Girls on the Run, a charity that sponsors exercise and confidence-building programs for young girls. Allen said she's raised about $5,600 for the nonprofit by making about 2,000 tutus over the past three years.

Allen's story garnered widespread attention after NBC 7 broke the story Wednesday, with many people slamming SELF on NBC 7’s Facebook page. Some commenters said they would be canceling their subscriptions to the magazine.

Others said they stood fully behind Allen.

On Thursday, Allen told NBC 7 she was feeling that support. She said Glam Runners had been flooded with orders for tutus over the past 24 hours. She and Baize make the tutus in their spare time, when they're not busy with their full-time jobs, so for now, they've taken down the order page to avoid not being able to fill the demand.

The Glam Runner Facebook page also jumped from about 1,000 likes before the story broke to more than 28,000 likes by Friday morning.

Despite multiple apologies from the magazine, including Danziger telling USA Today that she was "personally mortified" and regretted the error, thousands continued posting their thoughts on the SELF Facebook page Thursday.

 “Maybe you guys should think about what you want your magazine to represent: tearing down women, lack of research and false apologies? Because that’s what you represent," one person posted.

Another person posted this message to the magazine’s Facebook page: “So you email this woman and ask if you can use her picture. Of course it never occurs to her that you will use it in a humiliating way. Aren't you supposed to empower women? Isn't that part of your "message”? Very disappointing, Self.”

Allen said Glam Runner will continue making the frilly, fun skirts and donating to the Girls on the Run San Diego charity, regardless of what the magazine thinks about the style.

The running group has even organized a "joyful tutu" run for Saturday morning.

San Diego runners are encouraged to meet at the Torrey Pines State Beach at 8 a.m., and for those outside the area, organizers say wear your own tutu on your daily run and post pictures on social media with the hashtag #tutusrock. 

Those who wish to help Allen in her efforts can make donations to the charity by clicking here.
 

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