Interview: Ophira Edut

One half of the AstroTwins dishes on what’s in store for Bennifer and how we, too, can conquer the mad, mad media world.



Behind the Scenes With…
Ophira Edut
by kelly lee

The Vitals

Occupation: Teen People astrologer, co-author of AstroStyle: Star-studded Advice for Love, Life and Looking Good, and C.O.O., Mediarology

Birthdate/Sign: December 2, 1972/Sagittarius

Born:
Detroit, Michigan

Current Digs:
Manhattan

The 411:
Identical twins and Sagittarians Tali and Ophira Edut are masters of the media universe. Besides starting their own magazine, HUES, while still at The University of Michigan, the Detroit-born duo has gone on to being the astrologers for Teen People magazine, owners of their own media/web consulting company, Mediarology, touring lecturers on body image, and editors and authors of their new book, AstroStyle: Star-studded Advice for Love, Life and Looking Good. Deep breath. And they’re just 30 years young. Instead of hating them with a burning jealousy, we decided to interview one half of the power pair instead. To find out how to start your own media empire, why Ben should keep his scruffy edge, and why Manhattan kicks Brooklyn’s ass, read below.

School Me

What was your major in college?

Both Tali and I went to art school. She did photo, I did computer graphics.

You guys started a magazine, HUES, while you were still in college. How did that happen?

Well it wasn’t huge when it started. It was a class project for a Women’s Studies class. It was called an “action project,” where you did something that affected women’s lives, like volunteering at a shelter or that kind of thing. Tali, that previous summer, had won Sassy magazine’s Reader Produced Issue so she was the art director for an issue of Sassy. So we got a taste of publishing. I visited her in New York and we were like, ‘Let’s do our own magazine, but make it multicultural too and push it even a little bit further than Sassy is able to go.’ So we did this little mini black-and-white thing and asked our friends at the dorm to write and got grants here and there from different student organizations…$500, $1000, whatever. We got really fired up about it and what we were gonna do. That whole Sag zealot thing — we get an idea in our heads and we don’t stop.

Actually it was us and our best friend at the time, who was an Aries. It is the best combo! I don’t think any other signs understand our signs like we do — Sags and Aries. So we raised enough money to print a thousand copies and scattered them all over campus. People started being like, ‘Wow, I saw your magazine and it’s great. I wanna write and I have a story or a poem, yadda da…when’s the next issue?’ So we were like, ‘Oh, I guess we should print another issue.’ We did an issue per semester after that, and each time we just got more and more ambitious. We made it full-sized, we made it color. When I finished college we decided to make it national. So I went to the NYU Summer Publishing Institute for three weeks and got a scholarship for their magazine program and just soaked it all up. We got a bank loan. We must’ve been smoking crack, but we did.

And that they gave a loan to you, being so young, is rare.

I know. I know.

Did you go in with a whole business plan?

Yeah, I wrote a business plan. I really just wanted it so bad that they could see it. I was just like tell me what I need to know. I’ll learn it all. I was just soaking up the info at lightning speed.

Did you go after advertising and all that on your own?

Yeah we did. When I was at NYU, they had an advertising person come in and talk to us. Since I was the scholarship kid, my job was to clean up the room after everybody left, all the presenters. So he had brought a Rolling Stone media kit and all these other media kits so I was like I’ll be taking these with me. So I kinda copied their format a little bit and adapted it and figured it out from there. As well as a book I found, too, that was really good.

So then a bigger publisher picked you guys up?

Yeah. There was a publisher in Duluth, Minnesota called New Moon Publishing and they published a girls magazine that had pretty similar values to ours. And I knew them as just colleagues in the industry. So I called them up for advice and said we were thinking about selling the magazine because we just couldn’t really afford to keep producing it. Do you have any advice? And they were like we might be interested…

At that point we just kinda pursued only that. That might not have been the wisest decision but we were like they have the same values as us, and they get it. They’re not gonna try to change us into something, they’re not gonna put cigarettes and alcohol ads and all these counter-intuitive things.

So is that when you moved to Minnesota?

Yeah, we made the sale October 1997 and I moved there May 1998. We kind of finished stuff off in Michigan and I moved there for five months and then I left. [You can read about her experience as a “babe in goyland” on her site The Jewess is Loose!]

And after Minnessota, you made the move to the Big Apple?

Yeah. I got a job as an associate editor at Ms. magazine. I worked for them for nine months and then I got recruited by an Internet company for double the salary so I had to do that job. It was to start a multicultural women’s platform. Which never came to be because the whole Internet economy tanked. But it was a fun experience while it lasted.

I felt like my life was surreal when I got a $3 million budget approved. But then I felt like it was even more surreal when the next day I found out another site in the network had gotten a $10 million budget approved and I suddenly felt jealous. It’s like what’s going on here.

It was such a ridiculous time. I miss it so much!

I know, it was all parties and all that. Another launch party or like a carpet cleaner, you know, woohoo!

But back to the present.

Yeah back to our growing economy…

It seems like you guys have never struggled with the whole, “What am I going to do with my life?” question. Is that pretty much true?

Yeah well, we definitely struggle with, ‘How can we make money?’ but believe it or not, even though I have my hand in a million different pots, I have that irrational fear of, ‘How long will this last?’

It’s the classic celebrity syndrome where you wonder if it’s all going to be taken away at some time.

Exactly. It’s like everybody in the world already has a website, you don’t need my web design services, so what will I fall back on. I’m an over-preparer in a lot of ways.

Losing My Religion:

I assume, from your site the Jewess is Loose, you were both raised in a religious environment?

Not that religious. I mean my mother is now in school becoming a rabbi, but it really wasn’t very strict. I did go to a Hasidic kindergarten but then I went to public school after that. So we didn’t keep kosher or anything like that. But we did all the holidays and the Friday night Shabbat dinner thing. Hebrew was spoken in the house but it wasn’t spoken to me, but my parents spoke it to each other all the time. So I was definitely raised like, yeah I’m Jewish. I’m half Israeli.

Were you born in Israel?

No, I was made in Israel but born in Detroit.

So with a somewhat religious upbringing, did you ever catch any flack from your parents when you went into astrology (it being the “devilment” and all according to some religions)?

No actually, because I made money off of it. You know my dad is like the bootstrapping immigrant. So short of selling crack or whatever, as long as I’m making money off of something, he doesn’t care what it is. And my mom has a mystical side to her. She knows a lot about the Kabala and things like that, so they’re actually kind of interested by the whole thing. They both encouraged us to be creative.


Did they have creative backgrounds?

My mom is very creative. She was a teacher. She likes to write. She does musical stuff. She’s a Leo, so they encourage creativity in their kids. And my Dad’s a landscaper, so his creativity comes from making people’s yards look really good, so artistic in a technical kind of way. They had no problem with me going to art school or anything like that.


Was it more if you could make a living from it or sort of do whatever you wanna do?

My sister and I have been starting businesses literally since we were 8 years old. We had a calligraphy business. We had a paper route. We were always making money. When we were in high school, we used to draw on jeans and write these whole stories out, and sell them to the stores in Royal Oak, like Cinderella’s Attic (I got my prom dress there, it’s an awesome store), so they were buying jeans from us for like $60. So basically my parents knew that Tali and I would always be hustling and making money in some way or another.

In a New York Minute

Was the move to NY a big adjustment?

I’d been coming to New York after Tali’s internship at Sassy. We came out at Christmas breaks, and for the summer. We both interned at Sassy the summer of ’92 so I had been coming here so long that by the time that I’d finally moved here it was like, ‘God what took me so long!’ It was an adjustment though. No matter what, when you really do move here, it really does take about eight months to get used to the pace. It’s on its own time zone and has its own rules and energies.

Did you live in Manhattan?

No, Brooklyn. So I’d say I delayed my full adjustment for quite a bit longer.

Do you live in Manhattan now?

Yeah.

Which do you prefer?

I love Manhattan. I know it’s a little artsier to love Brooklyn but f*ck that, I love the city! There’s something to be said for convenience. I don’t have the time to deal with the trains and all that. I’m an impatient fire sign.

Book It


You two were just on TRL. How was that experience and how did it come about?

It was so fun! A friend of mine is working as one of the show’s writers and she wanted to do more stuff that was not necessarily music-related and that kind of thing. And she thought of us.


Do you follow your own astrological advice?

I do actually. I look where the planets are everyday. Particularly the moon.

Isn’t it hard not to write a great horoscope for yourself every time?

I look where the planets are and it’s more of an interpretation. I’m anal about it. It’s like Jupiter is in my tenth house of career now. And the tenth house rules this range of things…Jupiter can be luck, it can also be foolish risks, so I try to look at the whole spectrum of things that could happen. From good to bad and the interpretation for each sign and get it that way. So it’s not necessarily that I’m positive of what’s going to happen but I just know sort of what vibes are available and what things I might tap into. So I try to think about those things. Sometimes things will just pop up though. Like Jupiter went into my ninth house of publishing last September and I got a book deal a few days later. And now it’s in my tenth house of public image and I was on MTV, and my career has never been better. Knock on wood.

Did you guys do a book tour for AstroStyle?

No, Simon and Schuster said that they don’t really always set up tours and that kind of thing. But I’ m looking at more kind of nontraditional things to do. I’d like to go to some high schools. We’re looking into setting up some ‘meet the author’ type things. We’re going to be doing a holiday shopping event at Henri Bendel. So we’ll have a little table… The Henri Bendel event is on December 17. We might also do one on December 10.

In your book, you say that you (Sagittarians) are the gamblers of the zodiac. That seems to have totally worked for you guys.

Yeah, we like to take risks.

Have there been any times where the gambles have not gone in your favor?

Oh I’m sure, but for the most part…I read some survey done about people who were older and they regretted the things that they hadn’t done, but they didn’t regret the things they had done or anything they did do.

What inspired you to write AstroStyle?

We’ve been giving people advice for so long, and we just wanted to put it all in one place — let’s just get it all down. We were doing the Teen People column, so it was just a natural thing to do.

How did the Teen People job come along?

Someone I had worked with at another magazine job knew I used to give astrology advice, and she was then working at Teen People and just remembered that I gave advice and that I was a writer, too. She knew I had my little astrology website at ophira.com. She knew about all that and called me up and so we went in and met with the editor. We named the signs of every celebrity on all the covers and past covers they had up on the walls. She was like, ‘Okay, I guess you guys know the markets.’


Don’t Be Hatin’

A study was published about a month ago, which supposedly once and for all disproved astrology. Does that bother you?

No, because I don’t really have any actual proof, I just know that I’ve been able to guess people’s signs and I’ve looked back at my life and other people’s lives and at traumatic times and transitional times and I’ve looked at what the planets were doing and it was totally in line with what was happening in their lives. So I don’t really care why it works, it might be a mystery that’s not solved for a long time. So to try to take a completely scientific approach to something that’s somewhat mystical doesn’t necessarily work. I expect scientists to not be into astrology, that’s their job. Fine, good. They probably also thought the world was flat at one point, too. Or they had many of their own things they thought were true that have been disproved.

Because We’re Nosy

Do you and Tali live together?

We don’t. I live with my boyfriend [of 1.5 years]. He’s an Aries, born on April 3, a creative person in banker’s clothing. He works at Citibank as a financial planner. And Tali and I live 10 blocks apart.



Fave places to travel to?

Love traveling to Israel. As a Sag we love to travel all over the place. I love anywhere warm and tropical so I always go to the islands and the Caribbean. Anywhere there is great. I really like California…the west coast. I like Seattle.



Have you considered moving out there?

Yeah, before I moved to New York I was thinking about moving to San Francisco but then I got the Ms. Job.



Do you and Tali have similar taste in guys and has that ever lead to some unfriendly competition?

No, not really. Tali kinda likes the high school football team type or band guy…like super jock or the artsy guys. I also go for the nice guy who’s a little bit sporty, a little bit geeky [shouts, “Sorry babe” to her boyfriend and laughs]… Let’s just say I like smart guys.

Stylin’ and Profilin’

Describe your personal style.

Funky, pop culture-y, sporty casual with a little bit of a trendy edge.

Do you get to work from home?

Yeah we both work from home so we can pretty much wear what we want.

Yay, pajamas all day!

Yeah I’m often like,”Tell me again why I should take a shower before 5pm?” But sometimes image is everything…

So how did you guys come up with which styles go with the different signs for your book AstroStyle?

We’ve just been observing people for so long and just noticed certain trends that really correspond with each sign. We really did noticed there were certain archetypes of each sign and the styles they gravitated to.


Do you and Tali have similar styles?

Yeah we do. In our book we say that Sporty Spice is a Sagittarius, and I think we both have that for sure.

Do you borrow each other’s clothes?

Oh yeah. It’s nice. Sometimes I accidentally buy stuff that looks good on her and she’ll do the same. We’re so used to looking at each other that we sometimes forget it’s not a mirror.

Playing Favorites

Favorite shops in Motown?

Incognito in Royal Oak
Cinderella’s Attic
House of Chants in Ferndale
Target
Meijer [like a 24/7 Wal-Mart] — I like the 24/7 action…

Favorite shops in NY?

Henri Bendel
Believe It on 6th and Broome
Air Market — a Japanese store
M to M — Morning to Midnight — an Asian convenience store with groceries and kitschy notebooks and pencils and badly translated stories printed on tiny pencils
Ricky’s — a costume glitter crazy fun place, a little chain

The thing for me, I always end up doing my best shopping in Michigan, because here a lot of the clothes are cut for the trashy club ho look or the SoHo supermodel so they’re either like shiny polyester crap or they’re too small. So I end up finding my best stuff outside of NYC funny enough.


You’re big into the Web, with your own website design and consulting business and plenty of sites of your own. Other than your own sites, what are some of your favorite online destinations?

Imdb.com — love to look up stars’ signs
Astrologyzone.com — great monthly horoscopes by Susan Miller
Tamponcase.com — for design
Bust.com

It’s All About the Bennifers

Okay, the question everyone’s dying to know: What’s in Bennifer’s future? Are these two cosmically compatible or doomed?

They’re not doomed, but they’re both Leos, which mean they need a lot of drama. Last August til this August Leos were all in the spotlight so they were like the “It” sign. But in June of 2003 a trend started where troubles and privacy became an issue for Leos. It’s a time for them to become more self-reflective and a time for them to step out of the spotlight. Mercury was retrograde and there was a real bad angle between a few planets the weekend of the wedding they had planned. It was like, ‘What were they thinking?! Did they not talk to an astrologer? Should I have offered my help?’ So I think they could last, but the thing with Leos is as long as they’re making each other look good or feel like they’re the #1 person in the world, then they’ll stay together.

Leos have a huge appetite for praise and validation, but they also like giving, too. They like to express generosity in magnanimous gestures. They like grand gestures, to pamper and be pampered. As long as they keep feeding each other’s egos and making the other feel like they’re #1, it could work.

Is Ben living up to his AstroStyle potential? He started off as a laid-back scruffy kind of Boston guy, then J.Lo magically transformed him into a faux-tanned, gelled-hair slickster. Now he’s back to the scruffy look, putrid goatee and all. As an AstroStylist, what advice would you give Ben? And should J.Lo stop trying to change him?

Leos can definitely dress up and go all out, but he should do it in a way that stays true to himself. So less of the product and fake tan, but still keep cleaning up. Being a Leo, he should keep that scruffy lion’s edge.

Let’s Get Back to Me


I run a site that is a decent 75% dedicated to fashion. And you’re an expert in styling by the stars. As an Aries, what should I wear and why?

Mix basics with trendy pieces. And mix an expensive item with less expensive pieces. Aries are ruled by the head so the face and hair are important. Sarah Jessica Parker’s a famous Aries and she always does a great job of wearing basics with really trendy accessories. Expensive Manolo Blahniks with cheaper pieces… And she always looks great.

And Lastly


You guys have done what many have tried to do before, and what many will try to do and fail – you’ve conquered the media world. You’ve worked at magazines, started your own magazine, authored your own books, built your own little multimedia empire. You’re like Oprah squared. To that end, can I have a job? Just kidding. But seriously, for all of our readers out there struggling, if you could tell them one thing that you think would be most helpful in life, what would that be?

Don’t be afraid to mess up and make mistakes. And when you do, don’t quit. Don’t listen to people who say you can’t do something, because people will tell you that you can’t. Learn how to say and spin things in your favor and just keep going!


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