TV & Movies

Meet the Sassy Babes Behind Reductress

After starting the satirical women’s site whose wicked headlines are the highlight of our Twitter feeds, Reductress founders Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo are set to launch a satirical podcast later this month. Sign us up!


The Reductress’ Sarah Pappalardo (left) and Beth Newell (Photography: Peter McNerney)

First things first: FLARE is a lady mag, and we love lots of other lady mags and lady-centric sites. But occasionally, even we can admit that all those Khaleeshi-style gym hair “hacks” and sex positions that could stump a porn star are a little… extra. Enter the Reductress. With headlines like “Expensive Makeup Brushes That Do Like, One Thing” and “Creative Ways to Use Chalkboard Paint on his Balls,” the site bills itself as the first and only satirical women’s magazine—and provides much needed wake-up-girl-this-shit-is-crazy perspective.

Founded by two professional funny women, Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo, both 30, the Reductress—a combination of “reductive” and “seductress”—was founded in 2013 and quickly become the funniest account in our Twitter feed. On March 16, Newell and Pappalardo will launch a podcast called “Mouth Time” which we are very excited about. Until then, we talked to these sassy babes about women’s media culture and what it takes to survive online beyond the viral moment.

Was there something specific—a cultural moment or article—that made you want to start Reductress?

BN: No. It was more the result of discussion and collaboration we were having with women in our comedy community—we both do standup and improv. We were just seeing the same themes pop up among women again and again and we noticed that there wasn’t really an outlet for that.

SP: I think that at the time, and even still today, there didn’t feel like there were enough spaces where women could pitch things and have the room say, ‘Oh yeah, I understand that reference that’s specific to something only women experience.’ And then creating a space for that was really important.

Were you big consumers of women’s media before you started the site? 

BN: I would say that I consume more women’s media now than I did before but I would never have called myself a big women’s magazine reader or anything like that.

SP: I was about the same.

How do you see the genre of women’s media, overall?

BN: We went into this with the idea that a lot of women’s media was feeling very dated and very much like it was written for our mom’s generation. And that sort of stuff is still out there now. I feel like it’s expanded, or maybe I’ve just become more aware of it…but there’s a lot more feminist publications out there and smaller publications that I feel cater to what women are actually interested in.

Did you take inspiration from another other satirical publications or websites?

BN: I had the privilege of interning at The Onion a while back when I was younger, so I really learned a lot from their process and their commitment to quality in tone.

SP: There aren’t that many other great examples of satire outside The Onion, at least on the Internet. They are still doing great work and we hope to be as good in quality.

What’s your editorial process?

BN: We have the writers pitch us the headlines and then we will go through them together and see which ones we want [to pursue as stories]. Sometimes we’ll tweak the headline a little bit just to find one that we really love.

What are the criteria for a good story?

BN: We do have a few overarching philosophies on what works. We look for things that are making fun of women’s media, or the tone of women’s media more so than making fun of women themselves.

Every women’s magazine or blog has these touchstones—love and sex, work, health, etc—what are the most fun for you to satirize?

SP: I personally enjoy just working with current events.

BN: There are a few different areas. I think we’ve really enjoyed doing some more feminist-type articles and intersectional-type feminist articles but we also love to do stuff that just sort of shows that women can appreciate humour as well as men.

What’s an intersectional feminist story?

BN: We had one recently that was like, ‘Fun Prizes to Give Him After He Guesses Your Ethnicity Right.’

You identify as feminists, which is always weirdly divisive among women. Do you ever find opposition to that from readers?

BN: It’s something we’re aware of. I think because we portray feminist issues on the site our readers tend to be well read in those areas and we have to cater to their sensitivities, which is not a bad thing.

What’s the sensitivity?

BN: It’s sort of along the same lines of what I was saying before about what we strive for on the site, which is making sure we’re punching up and not punching down. Making fun of some of the systems at play and not making fun of the women who are part of them.

SP: It’s also good to note that we are feminists but Reductress as a magazine isn’t necessarily feminist because it is satirizing very anti-feminist ideas. Worth noting.

Where do you get the photos that accompany the stories, which are often part of the punch line?

BN: Once a quarter we do take a bunch of photos in and around our office, and of course, there are a couple of stock photos as well. But it’s kind of a fun part of our time. It’s hitting all of these similar tropes with different faces, like ‘person freaking out at a phone’ or ‘person freaking out at their boyfriend’; stuff like that.

Some pictures recur with different stories. Is that something you do as an inside joke?

BN: Some of the people we’ve been able to photograph just have really great expressions and end up being really versatile for different articles.

You started in 2013. What have you learned about running a successful satirical website in that time? Any advice for future women’s media satirists who want to make their mark?

SP: Like anything, it’s just about doing it every day. There are a lot of things that can differentiate you from other brands but the one thing is just being consistent. If you believe that what you’re doing is unique and important then you should do it everyday. And yeah, I think the first thing is really asking yourself, Do I have something to say that someone else isn’t saying right now and is there a way to do that? Figure out that thing and do it.

What do you consider to be the lifespan of the site?

SP: I think that every little win along the way gets us excited to keep doing more work. We have a podcast launching on March 16 and we’re super-excited about that. Each new project that comes along keeps things fun in the office and keeps us doing our thing!

What’s the podcast going to be?

SP: Imagine a women’s magazine doing a podcast and all that would come with it. That’s what the podcast is. It’s called “Mouth Time” and it’s where two of our editors gush about the latest hot goss going on in the world and in women’s media and it is completely satirical. It’s going to be awesome.

Do you have any big aspirations for Reductress in terms of its cultural impact and the perception of women’s media? The Daily Show, for example, really changed the way we receive news. Do you think along those lines at all?

BN: I don’t think we’re hoping to single-handedly revolutionize anything but I do think we’re part of a large generation of women sort of questioning the rules they’ve been handing.

SP: Samantha Bee’s show, for example [Full Frontal With Samantha Bee], some people are saying, “Is this the new Daily Show of our generation?” I think it’s great that people like Sam Bee and other women are really making a mark on media today. I just hope we can be part of it.

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