PJ up close and personal with glossy

THE Gaelic glitterati’s favourite glossy has never been short of a reason to party but it has new excuse for champagne and air kisses today.

Social & Personal, the must-have monthly mag for the must-be-seens, has been taken over by Irish Examiner fashion writer and showbusiness correspondent PJ Gibbons.

PJ has bought the title from long-time publisher and lady about town, Nell Stewart Liberty.

Future editions will be brought out by his own newly formed company, 21st Century Media Ltd.

The move by the 32-year-old journalist makes him one of the country’s youngest publisher-editors and he’s determined to inject youthful elixir into the long-running celebrity bible. But the old favourites aren’t going to disappear and anyone who relies on S&P’s pages to keep them in touch with who’s who among the rich, famous and fabulously good-looking will continue to have their curiosity sated by the ever popular deluge of social pictures from balls, banquets, launches, luncheons, fetes and functions.

“There will be a few changes but it will be a gradual makeover rather than an overnight transformation. There’ll be more international celebrity exclusives and a general broadening of the magazine’s reach,” said PJ.

“So many Irish people are working, living or entertaining abroad and there’s a lot of interest in what they’re up to. Within the country too, we’ll be getting out a bit more and showing that we’re not just interested in the D4 clique.

“We’ll continue to be strong on fashion but I think we’ll be taking a serious look at the sexy legs and bums competitions. I made the top 10 sexiest men list once which I think makes a bit of a nonsense of these kind of contests.”

Publishing may be a new venture for PJ but the Louisburgh, Co Mayo native hasn’t shied away from fresh challenges in his varied career to date.

His first foray into the media business was as a freelance reporter for the Irish Press, followed by stints on Sunday newspapers and a two-year stay in Los Angeles, where he was the only Irish reporter to gain a coveted seat in the press bench during the OJ Simpson trial.

He has also worked as a reporter on South East Radio and was deputy news editor and evening drive time show presenter on Mid-West Radio. In 1997 he wrote a book chronicling the “Secret Lotto Lives” of Ireland’s first millionaire jackpot winners.

Since joining the Irish Examiner five years ago, he has kept up an impressive juggling act, penning celebrity interviews, a weekly diary, fashion reviews and showbiz news, all the time proving that night owls know how to set an alarm clock by making it to the TV3 studios on time to be showbiz contributor on Ireland AM.

In December last year he crowded his own social calendar even more by taking on the job of diary editor with Social & Personal and was quick to stage a coup by getting controversial Miss World Rosanna Davison’s first Irish interview.

Rosanna has pencilled in another heart-to-heart before she heads to China to hand over her tiara and PJ is also promising to unleash a number of new celebrity columnists.

He isn’t fazed by the task of taking over the nation’s social lives. “The Irish have an insatiable need to be noticed. We only pretend to be shy and repressed.”

His first issue at the helm comes in the first week in September but already he’s prioritising items on the agenda. In other words, the relaunch party is in October.

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