- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2000

Founding a new magazine is a risky venture. Out of hundreds of magazines born each year, only about half make it past 12 months.

Two years ago, Mavin, a glossy-covered, graphics-laden Seattle-based publication aimed at multi-ethnic Generation Xers, was one of the 1,065 new publications to debut in 1998, according to the Magazine Publishers of America. Its subscription base has risen 60 percent in the past six months to 2,600.

"We have many people that have been waiting for a magazine just like this," says publisher and editor in chief Matthew Kelley, 21.

According to the Census Bureau, whites will barely be a majority (52 percent) in this country by 2050. Mr. Kelley is aiming his publication with an eye toward this multiethnic future and toward mixed-race people who are not sure which category to pencil in on their 2000 census forms.

These are the folks who identified with Tiger Woods, who, during an appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," labeled himself as "Cablinasian" a mix of Caucasian, black, Indian and Asian.

Mavin, which means "one who understands" in Hebrew, is the creation of Mr. Kelley, son of a Korean mother and an Irish-American father.

"We want to make a magazine that everyone can identify with," he says. "People are beginning to recognize and accept how valuable our mixedness is to maintaining a culturally diverse and accepting society."

Mr. Kelley came up with the concept for the magazine years ago while growing up on Bainbridge Island, across Puget Sound from Seattle. "The area was predominantly white," he says. "In high school, people reacted to the way I looked and I knew I did not quite fit in."

When he enrolled at Wesleyan University in Connecticut two years ago, he noticed there were a number of racially mixed people on campus, including a group of about 30 students who met to discuss multiethnic issues.

Mr. Kelley posted his idea for a magazine for multiracial people on a Web site and received more than 100 responses in less than a week. He decided to broaden the audience from college students to the general public.

"People still deal with the same multiracial issues, whether they are 18 or 35," he says. "In this culture, it is easy to identify oneself as mainstream and not as a unique individual. Racially mixed people represent every community."

The magazine is funded through ad revenue and private donations, including $10,000 of Mr. Kelley's own money. Each issue costs about $25,000 to produce and distribute.

The staff is all volunteer. It started with three people Mr. Kelley, his sister and art director Joanna Lee Kelley, and managing editor Rise Nelson and has now grown to 30. Its young contributors range from fashion designers and digital artists to poets and essayists.

Mavin has received many grateful letters from readers who said they felt isolated. "Thank you so much for starting this magazine," says one. "For so long, I felt as if I didn't belong to any specific race or ethnicity. I am glad to see that there are others like me out there."

Mavin's message is striking a chord with people from the bi-racial community because it is allowing them to be identified as something other than black or white, Mr. Kelley says. It still amazes him when someone approaches him and starts speaking Spanish. "People are not sure what I am," he says. "They look at me and try to figure me out. Am I Asian, Mexican or other?"

Some celebrities Mavin has credited with helping to popularize mixed races are Mr. Woods, singer Mariah Carey, and baseball star Derek Jeter. Miss Carey's father is black and Venezuelan and her mother is Irish. Mr. Jeter's roots are a mix of black and Irish.

"Mariah is not only one of the best singers of our decade," the magazine quoted one music executive as saying, "but blacks and whites buy her music. Not to mention Hispanics and Asians."

Plus, companies such as Esprit, Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana feature biracial models. "Everybody's going for the multi-ethnic girl," wrote Chaim Magnum, owner of a Los Angeles modeling agency.

Census trends are toward a mixed-race future, according to a Census spokesman, who said that 10 years ago, 9.8 million people checked the "other" category on their 1990 census forms. This year, citizens will be able to check "all that apply" on the race section, which will provide 63 different racial combinations.

Currently a sophomore, Mr. Kelley is teaching a course at Wesleyan called "Racially Mixed in the United States," after students circulated a petition requesting a student-led class on the topic. Sixty-five persons showed up at a class that could only take 18.

Mavin's fourth and most recent edition, which came out March 17, is chock-full of ads from dot-com companies, fashion houses and art galleries. It features articles such as "Latinos in the U.S.A.," which questions the media's motives in depicting multiracial people; "Exotica Erotica," looking at the mixed-race woman; and "Exposure," showing how advertisers are cashing in on the mystique of the multiracial look.

"The feedback has been incredible," Mr. Kelley says. "We have an incredible amount of content just waiting to fill our pages."

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