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'We wouldn't dream of making you feel fat'

Continued from Front Page of where all the good pubs are - is a lot more exciting than Company girl and her strappy sandals and that Rachel-from-Friends fixation. ''I think so,'' says Lucy.

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''Just as the Loaded reader isn't attractive to women. Our dream guy isn't some sexist git who likes The Italian Job and wears Ben Sherman shirts.'' Lucy's career began at art school in Newcastle. Or rather, after she was kicked out of art school in Newcastle ''for drawing too many fat women''. She then embarked on a freelance writing career, penning gig reviews for Melody Maker and basically just ''trying to make a living'', while she channelled her energies into her first comic. Unskinny was a self-published riot of large lasses getting lairy in northern towns, and did a reasonable trade via friends and comic shops. No wonder. Who wouldn't pay £ 1.50 to read stories about George Clooney, in full ER regalia, popping up at the local chemists, or Ewan McGregor luring away moths with his ''film star glow''? ''They were fantasy comic strips about living in horrible bedsits and having chance meetings with celebs. Just stupid things, really. Ewan McGregor actually read the one about him and the reports were that he found it very funny. Bit strange, but funny.'' Eventually, Unskinny was picked up by a publisher, who collated the total of eight issues into a single volume. Among those who read it were the editors of the Independent on Sunday - who wheeled Sweet in for some cartooning and a column in which she ''got to whinge about women's magazines'' - and Dawn French. ''She gave my name to the BBC,'' says Lucy, ''which is how I got involved in writing the scripts for a BBC series due out next year, called Bosom Pals. It's based on the women in Beryl Cook paintings.'' But Lucy's heart still belonged to the magazine format and, 34 years after Cosmo said they'd never run another diet feature (but didn't mean it), Chica was born. A self-financed venture, it cost £ 500 to start up. ''I wanted it to look good and glossy. The days of hand photo-copying are over,'' says Lucy. For writers and proof-readers, not to mention willing models for the crucial photo-love stories, she recruited friends. ''The photo stories are really fun. You get your mates round, get a bit pissed and you're away.'' What appealed to Lucy about this particular teenage art-form is that it reflects real life. The protagonists look like the kind of girls and boys you bumped into in the dinner queue at school, ''and the action happens in manky places like phone-boxes and cafes''. The difference with Chica stories is that, where Jackie narratives concerned shy girls called Tracey being shoved at the disco by busty girls called Brenda, Chica girls have run-ins with the mafia, or get rescued by disheveled-looking doctors. Another plus for Jackie was, the second-rate fashion spreads and totally naff horoscopes aside, it actually dispensed good advice with regards to even the most tiny yet agonising teenage problems. Lucy says: ''I remember Morrissey saying he used to read the Jackie problem pages and I'm not surprised. They were very re-assuring. I'd have been terrified if I'd read More! - the teen mag with the infamous ''Position of the Fortnight'' - at that age I'd have been thinking: 'Oh God, is this the kind of thing you have to do?'.'' Grown-up mags are no better and Lucy is particularly aghast at the emphasis on money: ''They're all about acquisition. About what lipgloss Geri Halliwell buys, and what handbag Sarah Jessica Parker was seen with. I mean, who cares?'' Not that she's against a bit of honest shopping. Chica's opening pages are crammed with supreme ways of off-loading your wages. But instead of £ 24 eyebrow pencils, Chica points you towards Woolworths' Make-Up Madness kit, a steal at £ 7.99, and chocolate bars wrapped in screaming face wrappers, designed especially for PMS sufferers. As the editorial says: ''We wouldn't dream of making you feel fat, inadequate, or poor . . . put down that crappy copy of Cosmo and pick up a Chica. It'll make you glad to be a girl!'' And it will, you know.

Chica, issue two, is available from Borders, priced £ 1.50. You can also log on to www.bust.com and www.hissyfit.com

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