All Former Teens Will Want To Read This Magazine

April 3, 2024

 A new mag made by Canadians who used to be teens has piqued our interest, even before the first issue’s dropped. HotTeen Magazine is a satirical teen magazine made by Canadian adults who used to be teens during the height of the millennium—it’s like J-14, CosmoGirl, Tiger Beat and Teen Vogue had a baby and then that baby dedicated their entire life to making people laugh! We chatted with founder Racquel Belmonte to learn more. —Noa Nichol

Photo by Andrew Freedom

Can you tell us the story behind the creation of HotTeen? What inspired you and your team to embark on this hilarious venture?

I’ve been toying with HotTeen Magazine in my head for a few years now. I was obsessed with teen magazines as a kid and I wish I could tell you that obsession subsided in my 30s, but here we are! J-14, Cosmo Girl, Teen Vogue, YM and every aspect of 2000s media had me in a chokehold, but I never fully realized or embraced it until revisiting it as an adult (thanks a lot, TikTok). My fascination turned into a reflection of my own Y2K teen experience, and thus HotTeen Magazine was conceived. I pitched the idea to some like-minded comedian pals, and their enthusiasm assured me that this was a necessary publication to celebrate our teen-selves the best way we know how: by making jokes.

How did your experiences as Canadian adults who grew up during the millennium influence the concept and content of HotTeen?

I think, generally, the 2000s brought about super unattainable beauty standards for teens everywhere, and there was an ongoing mission to fit that mould rather than to embrace who we already were (hence the name of the magazine). Everything felt so intense; we consumed so many interesting trends, trinkets and toys that shaped our entire beings. Dorinha Jeans, super-thin eyebrows, velour Juicy tracksuits, the Conair Twist … we’re inspired by all of it!

What elements from iconic teen magazines of the past, like J-14, CosmoGirl, Tiger Beat, and Teen Vogue, did you draw inspiration from, and how did you put your own satirical twist on them?

I wanted the pure chaos of J-14 (all of it, that mag was a mess and I loved it), with the journalistic integrity of TeenVogue and the cheekiness of CosmoGirl. In keeping with the bright and busy design scheme, I also wanted to convey the vibe of a day-dreaming teen in class so I doodled on every single page to add to the parody of it all. 

What can readers expect from HotTeen that they won’t find in traditional teen magazines?

HotTeen Magazine obnoxiously takes itself so seriously, so expect through lines, callbacks and hidden jokes throughout every issue. There’s a section that celebrates “bad teens” called Damsels in Detention with references to the smoke pit, finding the best older brother to boot for you and sneaking audio erotica into class. Our horoscopes are written by an unhinged old witch character who does not understand the concept of a teen magazine, there’s an entire interactive page dedicated to practice kissing and there’s even some light SWEARING …

Satire is at the core of HotTeen’s identity. How do you approach satire in a way that is entertaining yet still relevant and relatable to your audience?

My favourite thing about satire is that it can make uncomfortable topics approachable and hilarious, and our writers do a great job of that in every section of the mag. We all come from such different backgrounds and upbringings, yet we have this shared nightmare experience of being vulnerable, impressionable and extremely hormonal during a time when being hot, skinny and rich was EVERYTHING and capitalism was dominating our every move to achieve the perfection presented to us in media. This is still relevant today even though it’s presented to us differently, so I think exploring these themes will translate to everyone. 

Can you share any memorable satirical pieces or features from HotTeen that had your team in stitches during the creation process?

I still LOL every time I read “I Was Kicked Out of Class for Wearing Spaghetti Straps and Now I Can’t Read” by Devon Henderson. I’m laughing to myself thinking about it now. 

You mentioned that the funniest people are involved in HotTeen. What kind of comedic backgrounds or talents do your team members bring to the table, and how does that contribute to the magazine’s overall vibe?

Everyone is a staple in their respective city’s comedy scene, whether that be in improv, sketch or standup comedy. We have performers, instructors, coaches and alumni of Blind Tiger Comedy in Vancouver and BadDog Theatre in Toronto, Second City Toronto Main Stage talent, working actors on television and radio, marketing wizards, tech geniuses, graphic designers and power-house magazine writers. Stacey McLachlan, who is the EIC of Vancouver Magazine, has been my guide throughout this entire process, and we are so lucky to have her as a consultant to create an actual magazine.

What’s it like working with such a dynamic and humorous team? Any memorable moments or inside jokes you can share?

I’m very lucky to have a team of talented peers who feel so strongly about this project. A consistently funny thing to me in our formal meetings is when we have to very seriously say sentences like, “So, I moved ‘4 Tweed Outfits To Wear to Your Little Cousins First Holy Communion’ to the ‘Tricks to Hide your John Cena Arms’ page after ‘5 Scents to Conceal Your Sneaky Lunchtime Cigarillo’and also can you send me a picture of yourself wearing a wig to I can make a fake ad for a teen pyramid scheme? Also is the guy from Art Attack hot???”

The big launch of HotTeen is highly anticipated! What can readers expect from the inaugural issue, and how do you plan to make a splash in the teen magazine market? When can we get our hands on a copy (or is it a digital pub only)?

Expect to feel your teen self being hugged tightly while laughing as you remember what once was and how it’s influenced today. My hope is that the teen magazine market will recognize us as a satirical magazine celebrating them rather than dunking on them, because we really do hold teen magazines dear to our hearts. If all goes according to plan, we will be launching the print version of our magazine mid-April, and a digital pub will follow shortly after. We are doing everything independently so it’s taking a little more time to make everything perfect, but I promise that the end result is going to be amazing. You can keep track of our release date on our instagram account @hotteenmagazine.

Are there any sneak peeks or teasers you can give us about what’s in store for readers in the first issue?

Besides what I’ve already mentioned, there will be a Prom Special and an exciting feature spread with Vancouver’s own star rapper, Lil Clitty (played by Ese Atawo).

How do you plan to engage with your audience and foster a sense of community among HotTeen readers?

The goal is to make our Patreon and social media channels a place where we continue the HotTeen world building. For example, you can expect to see polls about faux gossip involving made-up people, deranged would-you-rathers, fabricated student council president elections and so much more that we can eventually turn into print content. We also will be launching a monthly newsletter to keep the hype electric, thanks to our marketing queen, Denea Campbell.

Are there any plans for interactive features, reader submissions, or social media engagement that will allow readers to participate in the HotTeen experience?

Yes see above, but also the goal is to eventually have reader submissions, especially for the “Embarrassing Stories” section and fan mail … I loved teen magazine fan mail that was just terrible drawings of celebrities. I sent in so many but was sadly never featured.

Looking ahead, what are your hopes and aspirations for HotTeen magazine? Any exciting plans or developments on the horizon that you can tease for us?

The hope is to be considered a basin of hope for current teens and a cathartic look back for former teens. Being a teen is hard, and I hope this magazine provides some laughter and lightness. My ultimate dream is that HotTeen Magazine becomes a successful, sustainable and lucrative publication that we can continue to make and expand on until the end of time. I want to build a HotTeen Universe (like Marvel, but way better) that exists across multimedia platforms. For example, my best friend and assistant-editor-in-chief Carla Mah and I are currently working on HotTeen Radio, which is going to be ridiculousso stay tuned!

How do you envision HotTeen evolving and growing in the ever-changing landscape of teen culture and media?

I envision us eventually venturing into TikTok and Instagram reels, or whatever other new platform may arise that will allow for us to grow in the direction we want. 

A couple personal questions: what was your fave teen magazine to read back in the day (I was thinking about this the other day; mine was YM and, in particular, the Say Anything column!)

CosmoGirl was my all-time favorite because it was Cosmopolitan’s less risqué little sister that my mom would actually get it for me. Little did she know it was my gateway to a secret collection of Cosmopolitans that lived under my bed.

Do you look back on your teen years with nostalgia/longing? What do you think we had back then, that teens these days are definitely missing out on (I say it’s *69; the mystery! The suspense! My dad getting angry about the charges!)?

I think it took some time but I look back at them with a healthy nostalgia where I can appreciate the experience and know how it served me today. Oh man, I LOVED *69 … I also loved memorizing people’s phone numbers, I used to be SO good at it. I could not for the life of me tell you what my husband’s phone number is by heart, but you bet your ass I can tell you my high school crush’s house number! Speaking of which, I also loved being a part of a generation that collectively decided that frosted tips were so sexy (to me that’s where hair peaked). Also butterfly clip crowns.


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