Never Say No

Never Say No by Helen Gurley Brown

After Helen Gurley Brown’s graduation from high school, she attended Texas State College for Women for one semester, but left to take business courses at Woodbury Business College. Typing and shorthand were the basics and Helen did well – typing 80 words per minute, shorthand 130 words per minute. She had already secured a job at KHJ Radio Station and was working for a grand $6 per week while taking her secretarial courses.

Since life turned out well, Helen has few regrets about not finishing college. Her career is an unbelievable success story. She knows education is important but her husband says if she had gone to college, it probably would have ruined her! Brought up in a poor family, her sister in a wheelchair, her mother broken-hearted at not being able to send her younger daughter to college, Helen kept soldiering on.

A sore spot in her life that almost took precedence over every other was perpetual acne. Jealous of “pretty” women around her, Helen dreamed of being successful. She now feels she is a living example of the good things that happen to good people who try!

After secretarial school, Helen had 17 secretarial jobs before settling in to work for advertising executive Don Belding, partner of Foote, Cone & Belding. They were together for five years. “He is a prince and his wife, Alice, a guardian angel,” says Helen. Alice was a feminist. Helen was reasonably happy, and Don wanted to keep her as a secretary but, through his wife’s insistence, he gave Helen writing assignments. With some nagging from Alice, Helen “the secretary” was allowed to write Sunkist radio commercials once a year at Christmas.

While working at the agency, Helen entered a Glamour Magazine contest called “Ten Girls with Taste,” and was one of the finalists that first year. The second year, Helen was winner of one of the prizes, a wardrobe, and trip to Hawaii. A question on the entry form had asked: “What do you want to be, what is your ambition?” Though Helen would actually have been happy continuing to work for Don Belding (she was treated like family, taken on vacations and bought lavish gifts) on the questionnaire she said, “I’d like to be a copywriter.” After reading her contest entry, the personnel director of Conde Nast called Don and said, “Why don’t you give her a chance?” He did. Helen became a copywriter on the Catalina Swimsuit account where she continued for the next five years. Her hard work and talent paid off, and she became a three-time recipient of the Frances Holmes Advertising Copywriters award.

Working since she was 18, now 37, she had tried writing at various times but was never able to get anything published. Thirty-seven was also when she got married to David Brown, who became a wonderful mentor. He suggested she write a book about her single-girl experience, which would ultimately become the bible for the single woman. “Sex and the Single Girl” debuted in 1962 and became an immediate bestseller. A smashing success, published all over the world, the book became the basis for her revamp of Cosmopolitan magazine and is still considered a publishing phenomenon. Helen, at 83, is editor-in-chief of the international edition of Cosmopolitan – there are 54. Her last book, “I’m Wild Again: Snippets From My Life and a Few Brazen Thoughts” was published by St. Martin Press in February 2000, and “Dear Pussycat” in 2004.


“Do the best you can with the work in front of you, deadly as it may seem. Somebody could notice that hard work and talent – and give you a chance to move up. Say yes to a lot of things people ask you to do. Don’t close down any options.”

“Degrees of Success” captures short inspirational stories of every day people who became successful without a college degree.

“Claudia Fox has written an enlightening book that will demonstrate to you, that although education may be the key that will unlock doors, with only dedication and desire, you can blow them right off their hinges.”
– John Roland, WNYW, FOX 5