Aileen Gallagher, an associate professor of magazine journalism at Syracuse University, agrees that Bust is respected.
“I interviewed Samantha Bee in 2003 for them. I was 25. It was my first national clip, and it meant I was legit,” said Ms. Gallagher, who was paid $150. Today, she still writes the occasional unpaid book review for Bust simply because she wants to. “I became a feminist from reading Bust,” she said. “They take chances on writers and publish a lot of women of color. Writing reviews for nothing is how I support them,” she explained. “It’s not a financially sound business model, but it is socially responsible.”
Many celebrities still seem game to be on Bust’s cover, too. Bjork, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Solange Knowles, Amy Sedaris and Cher, among many other big names, have made appearances. The comedian Jenny Slate recently hosted Bust’s 25th anniversary party, with performances by Phoebe Robinson of 2 Dope Queens, the singer-songwriter Erykah Badu and the actress Amber Tamblyn.
But the stars don’t pay the bills, so Bust has been diversifying. Three times a year, for example, it puts on the Bust Craftacular, a large indie craft fair whose vendors are mostly women, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Yet even that’s not easy.
“There’s more and more competition within the craft fair space, and we really count on these to generate income. Without them we wouldn’t be able to do this magazine,” Ms. Henzel said. “Then other people started doing them too, so we had to get creative in addition, like offering classes at the event.”
Ah, the paradox of being rebellious in a capitalistic world.
“Bust was one of the original resistance magazines,” Mr. Husni said. “They never let an ad influence their decision, they remained in touch with their audience, and they provided an antidote for women before it was the norm,” he said. “They have a lot of financial trouble, but they were on a mission. When you’re on a mission, you’re not going to let anyone stop you. Their subscribers feel the magazine is like a membership card to a community. That keeps the magazine going.”