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Tali and Ophira Edut—better known as The Astrotwins—have been dishing up astrological advice since long before their current gig as astrologers for Teen People and AOL's Teen Channel. Identical twins and Sagittarians, the Detroit-born duo started their, er, meteoric rise when they created the multicultural women's magazine Hues while still undergraduates at the University of Michigan. Taking a women's-studies class project and turning it into a national magazine, the pair proved their editorial skills early on; they've since passed through roles at Sassy and Ms., and they edited the book Body Outlaws: Young Women Write About Body Image and Identity.
Their latest book, AstroStyle: Star-Studded Advice for Love, Life and Looking Good, has further branded them as the astrological go-to girls, landing them TV appearances everywhere from MTV's Total Request Live to the Fox News Channel. They've dished out personal readings to Jessica Simpson, Beyonce, Sting, and Paris Hilton (can you imagine what hers predicted?), among a host of other celebrities, and they've done it all before the age of 31. The self-branding pros have also formed their own consulting and design company, Mediarology, specializing in youth, multicultural, and women's media. The fast-track twins spoke to mediabistro.com from their home in Manhattan, finishing each other's sentences on branding, the teen market, and making the zodiac work for you.
Birthdate: December 2, 1972
First section of the Sunday Times? "The fun stuff. Sunday Styles, the magazine," says Ophira. "We’ve fought over a crossword or two in our day," adds Tali.
You both went to art school, so how did the interest in journalism come about?
Ophira: We were always into both writing and art. Publishing brings both design and writing together in a way that really appeals to us.
Tali: And it's supposedly one of the best careers for our sign, Sagittarius.
How did you get into astrology?
Ophira: About 10 years ago, a co-worker gave me some chart-making software, and we started doing all of our friends' charts. We began to notice trends and patterns, and we couldn't believe how accurate the readings were. It was straight-up addiction from there.
Tali: We would watch TV shows and have to find out every actor's sign. We literally know hundreds of celebrities' signs by heart now. It's a sickness.
How did the gig at Teen People come about? Was it something you'd ever considered before it was offered, or was it just something you did on the side for fun?
Ophira: An old coworker ended up as a Teen People editor, and she remembered my astrology obsession from our time working together at Ms. She told us Teen People was looking for new astrologers.
Tali: The editor-in-chief had about 20 framed Teen People covers in her office. At our interview, we named the sign of every celebrity on them. That pretty much convinced them that we could do the job.
You've really made your name in the teen market, but I've read pieces by you in the past that are much racier. Have you run into problems with trying to keep things tame enough for the audience that feeds you and fulfilling your desire to express your more "adult" side?
Tali: We don't censor ourselves when we write for older audiences.
Ophira: No problems keeping it tame for the teens. Astrology is just a different package for giving the same advice we might say in blunter terms to the grown folks.
With reading Musiq's birth chart on BET.com and reading the stars for celebs at the Billboard music awards, you two have become sort of the astrologers to the stars—pardon the pun. How do you like working with celebrities?
Tali: It's quite the dream, we must admit. We're pop-culture junkies, and it was a blast advising people like Beyonce, OutKast, and Jessica Simpson on what they should do in 2004.
Ophira: Being able to influence the influencers—love that! We also got to give political year-ahead predictions on Fox News this New Year's Eve. We speculated on the fates of Saddam and Dubya. We'll see if our predictions come true.
Yeah, you guys have very successfully branded yourselves as astrological experts. How much of this brand was your idea, versus what Teen People planned? And how important do you think branding has been to your success?
Ophira: Branding is essential. There are so many concepts in the market today, you’ve got to anchor yours to a big vision with lots of "tentacles" and manifestations. To make money off of an idea, you can't just have a vague concept; you have to imagine all the ways something can be turned into a tangible product or different form of media.
Tali: We've been able to begin branding ourselves as the Astrotwins, since the book is something we wrote on our own. Teen People has been very supportive of everything we do outside of the column.
How did the latest book idea emerge? And how do you go about figuring out who does what—writing, editing, et cetera?
Ophira: A friend—love those friends!—was working at a literary agency and suggested that we write a teen astrology book.
Tali: Fortunately, Ophi prefers writing about relationships, and I like to cover style and individual horoscopes. We divided up the book just like that.
So once you had the idea, how did you go about landing a book deal? What's the best advice you can give aspiring authors?
Ophira: The publishing industry is almost like the stock market—everyone's following a trend or a hot lead, but interest cools quickly. There are no guarantees that you'll get a deal, even after spending months writing a book proposal—and we know this from several of our own experiences. Study the market, and tie your idea to as many big news stories as you can. Even if an agent or editor loves your idea, the marketing and sales departments always seem to have the last say. And it always comes down to numbers.
Tali: Also, writers get very attached to their ideas, and the way they think their book should be written. Definitely protect your artistic integrity, but be flexible and open to input, too. Writing is a business as much as it is an art, so if you want to make a living at it, you may have to let go of a little control.
In the end, unless you're a megastar like John Grisham, you as the writer have to be the marketing force behind a book. You have to think of creative ways to get the word out there. Build a website, hold a reading series, lead a seminar—generate some buzz or hype or credentials for yourself first.
Ophira: Always make them think you're bigger than you actually are.
Do you follow your own astrological advice? Is it a battle to not write yourself a great horoscope every time?
Ophira: Of course we'd love to have a great horoscope every day, but it doesn't work like that.
Tali: We look at the movement of the planets every day and the energy their motions bring up. There's always a range of both positive and negative possible outcomes. That's what we base our advice on.
A study was published a few months ago disproving, supposedly once and for all, astrology. Does that affect you?
Tali: Hell, no. There will always be skeptics, and we welcome them. We don't have hard-and-fast scientific evidence that astrology works. But it has for us.
Ophira: Anyway, science doesn't account for things like intuition and spirituality. There's a great guy named Bob Marks on Manhattan cable access, a former chemistry professor who set out to disprove astrology and ended up becoming a full-time professional astrologer.
Working as a team, how do you collaborate? Do you work on each horoscope together or split them up?
Tali: We split up the work.
Ophira: It would take too long otherwise!
Do you ever disagree? And how do you handle it when you do?
Tali: Definitely. It's fun.
Ophira: One of us threatens to kick the other's ass into the next galaxy, and the winner gets to determine the day's horoscope. Just kidding.
Has your career affected your personal lives? Are friends constantly hitting you up for astrological advice?
Tali: Our career is pretty much an extension of our personal lives now. We're constantly giving astrology advice to friends—we've joked about opening a 900 number hotline.
Ophira: We compulsively try to guess people's signs within a couple minutes of meeting them. Sometimes we're dead-on, and it freaks them out.
Kelly Nicole Lee, a true-to-form Aries, is a fashion editor, horoscope writer, and handbag designer living in Detroit. You can learn more about the Astrotwins at their website, and you can buy AstroStyle at Amazon.com.