Freeform's upcoming series The Bold Type follows Kat, Jane, and Sutton as they navigate their careers and love lives while working at the fictional magazine Scarlet. But after watching the first hour of the two-hour pilot, which premiered sneakily after an episode of Pretty Little Liars, one can't help but wonder if not everything about it is fictional. Some details of the series seem specific enough to be plucked from real life, and the series calls to mind any number of magazine-set shows and movies. But is The Bold Type based on a true story? The answer to that question is both yes and no.
The Bold Type is that heady mix of fact and fiction that takes inspiration from real life without being entirely true at the same time. The characters were all created for the show, but the series was also influenced by the life and career of Joanna Coles. Scarlet is a stand-in for Cosmopolitan, where Coles was editor-in-chief before moving on to work as the chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, which is her current position. She's an executive producer on The Bold Type, too, and she was able to share some stories with the the writers, giving them plenty of real life material to work with.
While The Bold Type may be mostly fictional, some of the more absurd moments might be the truest; snagging stories from Coles' career gives it a little boost of realism. In an interview with The New York Times, Coles said, "I have hundreds of anecdotes that I've kept in a journal throughout my time at Hearst and Cosmo. Many of the incidents —including the incident in the second episode when someone gets a vaginal yoni egg, uh, stuck — are based on true incidents at the magazine."
Coles was also the inspiration for one very important character on the series: Scarlet's editor Jacqueline, who is intimating at first but ultimately acts as a guiding force for her young female staff. Unlike many bosses on TV and in the movies (particularly in projects set at fashion magazines), Jacqueline is encouraging to the women who work for her instead of tearing them down.
That was the goal of the show's creator and showrunner, Sarah Watson, who stated in the same The New York Times interview: "We always see on TV the women who are tough and not rooting for other women to succeed, and that's not the kind of mentors I've had in my life. I've had incredible female bosses, and I wanted to show someone one wants to bring up the next generation of strong women writers."
It wouldn't feel right to say that The Bold Type is entirely based on a true story because its three main girls are decidedly fictional, but it has enough real inspiration that it wouldn't feel right to say it isn't, either.