SELF Mag Mocks Tutu-Wearing Cancer Patient? 'It was a stupid mistake,' Apol

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A close up of the photo and SELF's mocking text. In the inset, see that Allen's running tag reads "Die Tumor Die."

After a massive online blowback, SELF magazine apologized for criticizing two L.A. Marathon runners who wore tutus during the race, San Diego newspaper UT San Diego reported.  But even worse, SELF apparently duped the runners by asking them if they could publish their photo without letting them know they planned to mock them.

One of the runners, Monika Allen, told iMediaEthics by e-mail that SELF e-mailed her company Glam Runner in February “asking for high res photos of runners in tutus for a ‘writeup on running tutus.'”

Allen said the inquriy “wasn’t specific and we didn’t ask what the context would be.”

“We assumed it would be positive. Had we known, we wouldn’t have sent the photos,” she told iMediaEthics, calling SELF’s treatment of her photo “an insult.”

Now, SELF has issued at least five apologies. Foundational to journalism ethics is disclosing to sources what your story is about in addition to disclosing the publication in which it will appear. SELF properly IDed itself but failed by not informing the sources that the photo they requested and planned to publish would subject them to public ridicule.

Allen said she accepts SELF’s apology.

“It took a while for the magazine to fully apologize, but so much good has come from this (donations to Girls on the Run) that the late apology is accepted and we’d like to just move forward,” she told iMediaEthics.

iMediaEthics wrote to SELF’s public relations director Lauren Theodore who pointed us to SELF”s March 28 statement by editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger for answers to our questions.

Our questions included:

  • How did SELF find the runners’ photo to begin with?
  • Did SELF editors notice that one of the runners was wearing a “Die Tumor Die” running badge?
  • Will SELF be publishing an apology in its next print issue?

We also asked SELF about the dubious claim in one of its numerous apologies that it was only mocking those who say wearing tutus can help you run faster — specifically, we asked who said that.  We find it hard to believe that anyone seriously believed a tutu had any impact on a runner’s speed and find it a lame excuse.


See the SELF page in question.


SELF publishes Q & A with one of the runners, now calls her ‘awesome’ instead of ‘lame’

Curiously, the statement on SELF’s website was not titled an apology, rather “My Conversation with the Awesome Monika Allen.” Whereas in the print issue, SELF called Allen “lame”; now, in the face of public criticism, she is suddenly “awesome.”

SELF‘s Danziger admitted “we messed up” and reported that the magazine is axing the page that included the criticism of Allen and tutus, the so-called “BS Meter” page. Danziger wrote, “The item should never have run, and we have since decided to discontinue the page. You will not see it after the May issue of SELF.”

After those brief comments, Danziger published a Q & A with Allen. The Q & A covered topics including Allen’s health, interest in running and business of making tutus.

Danziger did not say why SELF decided to publish the mean-spirited comments about Allen’s photo in the first place.

She also didn’t say why SELF didn’t disclose to Allen its intention in asking for her photo to begin with, not did she say who allegedly claimed tutus make you run faster.

Above is the cover of the SELF issue in question.


Allen had Criticized the Cover, said she didn’t know why SELF wanted her photo

The runners, Monika Allen and her friend Tara Baize, founded the company Glam Runner, which donates a portion of its sales of running tutus to charity.

Allen criticized the magazine’s use of the photo as “really offensive” and said that SELF wasn’t honest about why it wanted the pictures, in an interview with UT San Diego.

“I feel like we were misled in providing the picture,” she said. “Had I known how the picture was going to be used, I wouldn’t have wanted to send it.”

Allen further explained that she and her friend wore the tutus “because this was my first marathon running with brain cancer.”

Her company, Glam Runner, also published a statement on its Facebook page in response to the SELF issue.

“Excited to see our tutus in SELF Magazine … but shocked to see that running tutus are classified as lame. Especially considering the fact that this picture is from last year’s LA Marathon when Glam Runner founders Tara and Monika ran together as superheroes … because Monika was recently diagnosed with brain cancer and was running a marathon in the middle of a year of chemo.”

Glam Runner also stated on its website that it has received an “amazing positive response” from the San Diego NBC-affiliate’s coverage of the SELF issue and that it has received an influx of inquiries. “We are unable to accept any new orders at this time,” its website says.


In the same issue that SELF criticized the tutus, the magazine ran an ad about cancer research.

SELF starts apologizing

In response to the negative comments and news media coverage of the blunder that went viral, SELF has issued numerous apologies.

See some of the tweets under the hashtag #tutusrock

And more criticism of SELF under the hashtag #Self magazine fail.

In a statement to NBC San Diego, SELF said it apologized “for the association of her picture in any way other than to support her efforts to be healthy.”

That apology suggested maybe it’s not so lame to wear tutus.  “Of course if tutus make you run with a smile on your face or with a sense of purpose or community, then they are indeed worth wearing, for any race,” SELF stated.

In a statement to UT San Diego, SELF‘s editor-in-chief, Lucy Danziger, apologized for offending readers and argued SELF was just criticizing people who think tutus “make you run faster.”

That statement reads:

“A HUGE mea culpa from me personally and the editors at SELF. We NEVER meant to offend anyone. At SELF (co-founder of the Pink Ribbon over three decades ago) we support all variety of cancer fundraising and we root for women like Monika and cheer her getting back to health and strength through running and fitness. We were only reacting to a claim that tutus make you faster, and whether they do or not is beside the point if they make you happy and motivated. We applaud Glam Runner founder Monika–and are wishing you a speedy, full recovery to health. All our apologies on this end.”

Then, to USA Today, Danziger said she is “personally mortified” but, interestingly, she suggested she’s just embarrassed because Allen has cancer – not because of the original mocking item. She said:

“I had no idea that Monika had been through cancer. It was an error. It was a stupid mistake. We shouldn’t have run the item”

In an apology to the Glenn Beck-founded news site The Blaze, Danziger claimed SELF was just trying to be funny but that now it has given money to Allen’s charity. That statement reads:

“In our attempt to be humorous, we were inadvertently insensitive and we deeply apologize.”

“I have sincerely apologized both directly to Monika and her supporters online. At SELF we support women such as Monika; she is an inspiration and embodies the qualities we admire. We have donated to her charity and would like to cover her good work in a future issue. We wish her all the best in her road to good health.”

Allen confirmed that Danziger did apologize directly to her.

And on Facebook, SELF posted the following statement.



UPDATE: 3/30/2014 12:55 PM EST Added in Allen’s response.

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SELF Mag Mocks Tutu-Wearing Cancer Patient? ‘It was a stupid mistake,’ Apologizes 5 times

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