This Women’s Mag Is Like a Gen Z ‘Cosmo’ for the Far Right

Lifestyle

Last fall, 21-year-old Harrie Baxter, a content creator and a then-university student in New Zealand, stumbled across Evie Magazine, a publication that markets itself as an “unbiased source of truth for women.” At first glance, Evie seemed to Baxter like a fairly typical Gen Z-targeted women’s website — Met Gala fashion slideshows, a definitive ranking of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour costumes, stories lauding the power of probiotics. It immediately took her back to being 13 or 14 and reading about “lip gloss, celebrity couples, things teenage girls love,” she tells Rolling Stone.

Yet it didn’t take long for Baxter to find other content she found more concerning. As she clicked back through the archive, she found stories promoting, among other things, skepticism about masks (“Is Wearing Masks Making Us Meaner?”) and the Covid-19 vaccine, such as a story suggesting that putting your vaccination status in your dating-app bio is akin to “emotional manipulation.” It was also not hard to find stories that were anti-choice, including one claiming that some women on Reddit have a “vile fetish” for late-term abortion, and a piece suggesting that Gen Z women self-identifying as LGBTQ is tantamount to “hating men.” 

Baxter was shocked. There was nothing about the website, at first glance, that would have triggered red flags for her. “They’re not really trying to hide their perspective, but at the same time they’re spreading their message in a semi-deceptive way,” she says. 

Since it was launched in 2019 by husband-and-wife team, model/influencer Brittany Martinez and Gabriel Hugoboom, Evie has baffled many like Baxter who have come across the site while searching for, say, fitness tips, or the perfect sundresses for spring. (The brand has also launched an annual print edition, available on the website.) With a soft pastel-hued layout and breezy, girl-next-door tone, Evie’s right-wing slant is apparent only if you know where to look.

Compared to behemoths like Bustle and Cosmo, Evie’s readership is relatively small. In an email to Rolling Stone, Martinez says that Evie reaches more than 10 million people across all social media channels, with unique page views in the millions per month. This pales in comparison to Cosmopolitan’s 54 million PVs in April 2023, according to Similar Web data. 

Yet with links to prominent right-wing influencers and think tanks, Evie has the potential to gain significant ground in the culture wars, positioning itself as a girlboss-ified Breitbart of sorts. Exclusive interviews with influencers like Abbie Herbert and Christy Carlson Romano have appeared in the print magazine; the cover of that issue features a wide-eyed, dew-skinned model in a flower crown who would not look out of place in an Instagram ad for Free People. 

In a message to Rolling Stone, Martinez did not frame Evie as a more aesthetic version of a right-wing publication, but as a much-needed corrective to the damage done by traditional women’s media.  “I’m sure it’s incredibly mysterious that millions of women are reading a publication that acknowledges biology, celebrates femininity, and provides advice that actually leads to statistically happy lives (unlike progressive women’s media that have made a generation of women more depressed, unhealthy, and romantically unfulfilled than any other in modern history),” she wrote.

Among the fairly straightforward trend pieces on Evie’s website (“25 Coastal Cowgirl Items We’re Shopping RN”) and listicles (“11 New Feminine Fragrances to Try for Spring”), there are headlines straight from the conservative culture wars’ playbook, like “Why I Won’t Put My Pronouns In My Bio (Or Anything Else)”; with the anti-choice agenda (“Are Abortion Exceptions Ethically Consistent?”); and fatphobia (“Did ‘Body Positivity’ Influencer Tess Holiday Scam Her Way to Popularity?”) thrown in for good measure.

Evie has also published outright conspiracy theories, including stories about how the government lied about Covid-19 to continue lockdowns, or about how Democrats stole the 2020 election. Both of these stories were quietly deleted, then republished after Rolling Stone asked Martinez about them, with the latter story re-worked to include the word “opinion” in the headline. Martinez denied removing the stories for editorial reasons, stating that the editorial team “temporarily unpublished several hundred articles from 2019-2021 due to technical changes with our site, CMS, and photo requirements.”

In its own marketing materials, however, Evie frames itself as an unbiased corrective of sorts for mainstream’s women publications. “In many ways, Evie is a departure from the legacy media culture that encourages women to engage in destructive behavior. Rather, we strive to highlight proven paths to longevity and joy,” Martinez wrote in an email to Rolling Stone. “We often take a unique perspective that is essentially lost in women’s media today. We help women embrace and celebrate their femininity, instead of seeing it as a weakness.”

Evie Magazine initially launched in 2019, with Hugoboom and Martinez filing a trademark application for the publication the year before. Martinez’s father, Ronald, an entrepreneur based in Texas, is listed as an executive in company filings, and spoke in a 2021 interview about helping Martinez develop a business plan for the company. A former model, Martinez became a fairly prominent content creator over the past few years, racking up more than 330,000 followers on TikTok under her married name Brittany Hugoboom. After marrying her husband Gabriel, a former aspiring actor and musician, she began frequently posting photos of their cozy domestic life together and jaunts to far-flung beachfront locales. 

In a 2019 op-ed for the magazine Quillette, Martinez stated that her desire to launch Evie stemmed from her frustration with contemporary women’s magazines, saying the mission was to “empower, educate and entertain young women with content that celebrates femininity, encourages virtue, and offers a more honest perspective than they get elsewhere. She’s Classier than Cosmo, Sexier than Refinery29, and Smarter than Bustle.” 

According to a writer who asked to remain anonymous, who met with the Hugobooms to discuss potentially contributing to Evie prior to its launch, the magazine did not start out explicitly partisan. “They were coming from a right-wing perspective but they weren’t old-school right-wing,” says the writer, who did not cover politics for the website. “They weren’t diehard Trumpy. They were just trying to find the truth and shed light on different aspects of the media and politics.” She was drawn into the playful, girly aesthetics of the website, calling it “super cute and pink — like a Cosmo, but leaning a little bit more towards the political realm.” 

Indeed, though early pieces included an interview with Fox News’ Trish Regan, and a piece decrying moving in with your partner before marriage, the coverage tended to skew more self-improvement and wellness-oriented. One woman who took a gig writing for the website, and asked to remain anonymous due to concerns about being blacklisted, says that when she initially applied for a job at Evie after seeing a listing on Facebook, she found it more “sophisticated” than the average women’s website, and thought it “covered topics that really mattered to intellectual women rather than trivial topics, such as makeup tips, celebrity couples’ matching outfits, etc.”

Over time, however, she started noticing the website adopting a more rightward slant, particularly during the pandemic; one piece about QAnon, for instance, features the URL “let’s talk about QAnon were they actually right.” The writer who spoke to Rolling Stone recalled expressing her discomfort when being asked to write about child sex abuse, only to be told to continue writing about the subject anyway. In another instance, the writer says, she was assigned a story during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, which was edited into a perspective that she thought was inherently racist. She says she was instructed to remove her own opinion to make the story more “positive.” These two stories have since been removed from the website, though the writer does not know why.

“I honestly did not know how conservative Evie was when I got hired. It seemed like they became more conservative as time went on,” she says. Although the writer was later asked to contribute more to Evie, she declined. “I didn’t enjoy writing the types of articles they wanted published,” she says, adding that she felt pressured to conform to the publication’s “agenda.” “If I were to continue writing for Evie, I would have felt like a fraud, because I didn’t believe in what I was writing. It is so important to be true to yourself in this world and I want to set a good example for my children.”

Martinez and Hugoboom attracted a fair amount of press attention for the launch of their female wellness app, 28, which encourages people to adopt natural family planning methods (a popular cause on the right) and purports to offer personalized fitness and nutrition recommendations based on where a user is in their cycle. 

That was how Harrie Baxter, the content creator in New Zealand, came across Evie in the first place — she had been scrolling through her TikTok For You page when she came across 28. “It was giving very earth goddess, natural energy,” she says. Baxter decided to do a vlog series on TikTok about 28, when one of their followers told them to look up who was behind the app. She immediately deleted 28 out of concerns for her data becoming publicly available post Roe v. Wade being overturned: “They can have their opinions, which is cool, but I don’t want people like that having access to my personal information,” Baxter says. “It’s giving Handmaid’s Tale.” (Martinez has denied monetizing user data.)

When 28 launched in August 2022, many outlets made note of the founders’ connection to Evie. Few, however, noted that Evie has published a few posts promoting 28 without containing explicit language disclosing its founders’ affiliation with the app. The website has also published many stories that are broadly skeptical of birth control, including “The Birth Control Pill Could Increase Your Risk for Breast Cancer,” “These Viral Before-And-Afters Show The Drastic Physical Changes Caused By Birth Control,” and “13 Reasons Why You Should Quit Hormonal Birth Control,” without disclosing the relationship between Evie Magazine and 28, which emphasizes natural family planning over hormonal birth control in its marketing materials. 

When asked whether Evie’s birth control coverage poses a conflict of interest, Martinez did not reply, saying only, “28 empowers women to become experts of their own bodies and gives them the tools to improve their health by naturally balancing their hormones.” 

28 has $3.2 million in backing from lead investor Peter Thiel, the right-wing billionaire who served on Trump’s transition committee and who bankrolled the lawsuit against the media outlet Gawker as retaliation for its reporting on his personal life. Though Martinez confirmed Thiel has a stake in 28, writing that he is “on the cutting edge of new technologies that solve difficult problems,” she denied that Thiel had any involvement with or any investment in Evie Magazine. In a 2022 story about 28 published on Evie’s website, however, the app is referred to as “28 by Evie,” while 28’s profile on the website Crunchbase refers to it by the same name. 

Evie Magazine has other ties to the right-wing establishment in the form of its previous contributors, including conservative digital media platform Prager U senior director of outreach Sabrina Kosmas (an interview with Evie managing editor, Erica Jiminez, appeared on a PragerU livestream in 2021) and conservative influencer Abby Shapiro, the sister of Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro, who previously blogged for the website under her married name, Abby Roth. According to staff profiles on LinkedIn, Evie also has recruited a number of contributors from Hillsdale College, a private Christian college in Michigan with strong ties to the Trump administration, though none of the contributing writers from Hillsdale responded to Rolling Stone’s requests for comment. 

EvieMagazine.com

Recently, like much of the right wing in general, Evie has become particularly focused on transgender issues, with a Media Matters study showing that anti-LGBTQ content on the website increased by 333 percent over the past year. The site routinely posts inflammatory, misleading headlines about transgender issues, including one report claiming that North Carolina hospitals are transitioning patients as young as two years old (despite no evidence indicating that any hospitals are actually doing so); a post about transgender activists self-identifying as having a different “age identity” than their biological age, a story that appears to be based on one Twitter user’s thread with 92 likes; and a story about media outlets updating their posts to reflect the transgender identity of the Nashville shooter with the headline “Media Outlets And Activists Desperately Try To Make Nashville School Shooter Seem Like The Victim Because She Was ‘Misgendered.’” Martinez did not respond to specific questions about this content or whether the publication had a specific stance on transgender rights.

Some of Evie’s contributors who spoke to Rolling Stone say they were specifically drawn to the fact that, unlike mainstream women’s websites, Evie features what they perceive as a wider range of political views. “I remember liking that the platform made space for the voices of conservative(-leaning) women,” says Mane Kara-Yakoubian, a freelancer who wrote for Evie in 2021. “Scrolling through the site I’d come across a range of headlines. Though they wouldn’t all speak to me, I appreciated that they were there. It offered female perspectives that are less common in popular media.”

Others, however, profess to being horrified by what they view as Evie’s right-wing turn, saying they had absolutely no idea that their health or beauty or skincare stories would be published alongside pieces about, say, the dangers of women having multiple sex partners. Nunzia Stark, a freelancer who wrote a story for Evie in 2021 about seasonal affective disorder, says she did not consider Evie anything other than an unbiased women’s magazine when she started contributing. She says a friend of hers pointed out that one of the stories on the website had an anti-vax slant. “I was surprised,” she says. “They are there to help people. I wish they felt differently about some very important issues.” 

Trending

Evie’s audience is still relatively small — Similar Web data indicates that Evie amassed about 1.5 million views in April 2023. But the framing of Evie as a counter to progressive women’s media appears to be working to recruit new readers, to some degree. According to SocialBlade data, Evie’s Instagram following has steadily increased over the past year, nearly doubling from about 34,000 in May 2022 to more than 66,000 in May 2023. And although its metrics pale in comparison to websites like Bustle or Cosmo — or, for that matter, Breitbart or the Daily Wire — data from SEMRush shows organic search traffic increased more than fivefold between May 2022 and May 2023, from 40,535 users to 226,002 users. Much of Evie’s traffic from Google is coming from people searching for topics such as “sundress” or “Lizzie McGuire,” suggesting that many of Evie’s visitors have no idea of its underpinning ideological stance. 

This is concerning to some former readers and contributors, such as the freelancer who stopped writing for Evie because she said she felt pressured to conform to the website’s political views. “To me, Evie isn’t what it initially set out to be,” the freelancer says. “Now, Evie seems to want to push their agendas on women.”

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