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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In the Spotlight: Zhara

This month, the makers of Tvoi Den tabloid and scoop-grabbing web site started a new glossy magazine called Zhara, or Heat. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the British magazine of the same name, known for its “Circle of Shame” features on celebrities who dare to have cellulite. But so far, the Russian stars aren’t revealing any.

The magazine has been advertised with huge billboards showing Russian pop star Filipp Kirkorov with his trademark black locks shaved off and the slogan: “Read, look, don’t get burnt.” The singer is acting as a “consultant” for the magazine and was its first issue’s cover star.

The publishers began the campaign by putting out a viral video that showed Kirkorov having his head shaved. It was picked up by the other tabloids, until they realized that they were giving their rival free advertising.

It’s not surprising that the magazine looks a bit similar — to put it mildly — to the British Heat magazine, since the publishers used the design of the British Sun for their tabloid Tvoi Den. They got away with it on a “sincerest form of flattery” basis. Here, the magazine has the same red masthead, the same “10 Questions We Ask Everyone” feature on the last page and the same layout of the music, book and film pages.

A few essential elements are missing, though. “Torso of the Week” is one of them. Tvoi Den is happy to have Page 3 girls, but it apparently thought that Russian women weren’t ready for ogling famous men in swimming trunks — although Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would seem to be an ideal candidate and was once picked as a centerfold by Tainy Zvyozd magazine with that topless fishing photograph.

And it also stops short of Heat magazine’s scorched-earth approach to paparazzi shots, where the magazine picks the worst photos and circles offending rolls of fat, sweat patches or bad fake tan in a feature called “Circle of Shame” or “Hoop of Horror.”

So far the magazine doesn’t have much bite and feels slightly middle-aged — it even has a cooking column. This week’s cover star is squeaky-clean pop star Valeriya, who reveals extracts from her diary showing that she studies English a lot and gets up at the same time every day. The quote of the week section is topped by Putin saying something of little interest about state funding of films. And there’s a huge, soppy feature on ice-skating celebrities having babies.

On the other hand, there’s even a surprisingly intellectual interview, with writer Dmitry Bykov talking to comedian Garik Martirosyan.

The most political feature — although it doesn’t fit well with the rest of the magazine’s content — is about a Hollywood film on Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, which will star Andy Garcia. Zhara responds with a satirical photo story using stills from the Godfather films and The Pink Panther with appropriately derogatory captions. It also takes the opportunity to reprint a photo of Saakashvili chewing his tie.

The only paparazzi feature shows it-girl Ksenia Sobchak celebrating her birthday with guests including Alfa Group president Mikhail Fridman. But there aren’t any Heat-style photos of her falling out of a night club afterward.

The magazine looks as if it is aimed at the young end of the massive-selling 7 Dnei magazine, with similarly cosy celebrity interviews and a convenient television guide. Ironically, this audience is unlikely to read an out-and-out tabloid like Tvoi Den but may pick Komsomolskaya Pravda with its handy dacha tips. And that’s probably why the magazine doesn’t really hang together so far.