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a new biography tries to solve the mystery

The figure of Anna Wintour is as unmistakable as that of Queen Elizabeth. Since the age of 26 she has had the same haircut, bob style, a predilection for dark glasses and a fascination with printed Prada dresses, which she always wears with a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes.

That she does not change her style says a lot about the person who has been crowned the empress of fashion, being the director of the magazine fashion in the United States, the artistic director of Condé Nast, one of the most influential publishing houses in the field, and the host of the Met Gala, the world’s top fashion event. How she has managed to maintain her hegemony at 72 years old is one of the unknowns for many, especially when Wintour has had the reputation of having a rigid and unforgiving personality, which inspired the film The Devil Wears Prada.

From its beginnings, it was nicknamed Nuclear Wintour, a play on words in English that would translate nuclear winter.

Her father raised her to always aim high for her goals.  She from the beginning she told him that she should work at Vogue.
Her father raised her to always aim high for her goals. She from the beginning she told him that she should work at Vogue. – Photo: Getty Images

Wintour’s new biography, Anna, written by Amy Odell using interviews with hundreds of people who know or worked with her, aims to solve that mystery: is she the loving grandmother who changes diapers for her grandchildren, as some claim, or the cold and calculating woman who loves fur coats, for which many compare her to Cruella de Vil, the Disney character.

The truth is that she is all that and more. In this new and fascinating story about her life, woven with hundreds of testimonies, Odell draws her as an enigmatic character with no sense of humor, but also as a talented woman who knew how to adapt to changes.

Thus, he has achieved a position among the world elite and has remained despite time. Odell highlights three elements in his favor to conquer that top. The first is his talent and ability to work, which are undeniable, inherited from his father, Charlie Wintour, an Englishman and well-known editor of the Evening Standard newspaper, who taught him what he needed to know about journalism. Her mother, a member of an influential family in the United States, helped her make friends in high places from a very young age.

Recently, his employees protested for better wages outside his home in New York, with harangues such as
Recently, his employees protested for better wages outside his home in New York, with harangues such as “The boss wears Prada and the workers get nothing.” They say that she only laughs on rare occasions, like this one with Queen Elizabeth. – Photo: Getty Images

The author says that she has always traded just to be friends with the best in each field: Kanye West, Serena Williams, Princess Diana, Roger Federer, Hillary Clinton, the Obamas, Amal Clooney. The list has been expanding to Hugh Jackman, Bernard Arnault and Oprah, who had to lose 20 pounds if she wanted to appear on the cover of Vogue.

The second key is that she has always been surrounded by a great and loyal team. It is true that many of her assistants ended up exhausted by her whims and demands. But others have faithfully accompanied her in all her works thanks to the fact that, in return, they receive good salaries and designer clothes approved by herself, which nobody knows how she pays.

In the third instance, there is his chameleonic capacity. Odell says that Anna has always adapted to the circumstances, because she has known how to read the times to make good decisions: she was the one who first knew that it was better to have celebrities than models on her covers and that events like the Met should include celebrities, like Rihanna and Lady Gaga, to survive and grow, despite criticism that the gala was downgrading. The beginnings of the young Anna in the media were not good. She was fired by three bosses, and then hired by Viva magazine, a kind of Penthouse for women, which was not successful.

In 2003, a former assistant, Lauren Weisberger, published The Devil Wears Prada, based on her leadership style.  It was brought to the big screen with Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway in the lead roles.
In 2003, a former assistant, Lauren Weisberger, published The Devil Wears Prada, based on her leadership style. It was brought to the big screen with Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway in the lead roles. – Photo: Getty Images

In 1990 he was not profiled in a high editorial position. But like all celebrities, the time came for her to break when the directors of Condé Nast, editors of The New Yorker and Vogue, took a look at her and took her to work for British Vogue, which would compete with that of the United States. , where Grace Mirabella served as editor-in-chief.

There she achieved miracles: she increased circulation by a relatively modest 6,000 subscribers, but still a significant figure for her bosses. In addition, it increased revenue from advertising. Given the success of her mandate, at 18 months she was offered the jewel of Condé Nast: to be the head of Vogue in the United States. Mirabella found out about her departure through gossip on television. Since then, she Anna has been indethronable.

All this, despite the fact that, in 2003, Wintour’s former assistant, Lauren Weisberger, published The Devil Wears Prada, a fiction that made no secret of being based on her own experience working at Vogue America, while Anna’s side.

She has been loyal to troublesome names like John Galliano, accused of being a racist, and photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, singled out for misconduct.  She said that Asma al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian president, was glamorous and chic, and she was criticized when she posed Kamala Harris in tennis shoes.
She has been loyal to troublesome names like John Galliano, accused of being a racist, and photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, singled out for misconduct. She said that Asma al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian president, was glamorous and chic, and she was criticized when she posed Kamala Harris in tennis shoes. – Photo: Getty Images

The book went unnoticed, but the movie, starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway, became a box-office hit that earned more than $300 million and propelled Wintour to fame. As expected, the most hated character in the series, Miranda Pristley, was inspired by her and everyone wanted to know who was the flesh and blood woman who asked her assistants for coffee in the morning at an exact temperature and other eccentricities.

Wintour never forgave Weisberger for what he considered to have been a major brand disloyalty, but today no one doubts that the film catapulted his image. And it is that, according to Odell, the power of Anna lies in her silence, her cold gaze and her prickly personality.

Such was her hatred of wrinkles that she once, the author claims, had the fat under a baby’s chin touched up before it could be admitted into the pages of her magazine. Her exacting standards first became known when a beauty editor suggested Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop makeup line as a subject, and Wintour responded, “If you do, make sure we touch her up, she’s in pretty bad shape these days.”

The book tells fascinating details of his day to day life. Anna starts emailing at five in the morning, she expects assistants to work 24/7, and she never small talks or lets personal life affect her performance.

Wintour has managed to hold out in his position, for which he receives a millionaire monthly check.
Wintour has managed to hold out in his position, for which he receives a millionaire monthly check. – Photo:

At six in the morning she plays tennis, clad in a pink or purple Prada sweatshirt. On the way to the office and from her car she sends text messages and when she arrives at the office she gives the women who work for her the “touch”, that is, a look that lets them know if she approves of their work or not. She doesn’t smile unless she wants to, she’s bad at remembering names, she likes red meat and she hates vegetables. Wintour had many boyfriends before marrying David Shaffer, a child psychiatrist at Columbia University, in 1984.

He is 13 years her senior, and Odell suggests he was a father figure who doubled as an inner advisor, in life and work. The marriage ended when Wintour had an affair with Shelby Bryan, a Texas millionaire. Hers, two of her children are close to her, and, according to her book, in her spare time she acts as a splendid grandmother, which makes us think that all the coldness that is foisted on her would be the product of her shyness. .

The most striking thing is that with these peculiarities, which would have earned him a dismissal for labor abuse a long time ago, Wintour has managed to hold out in his position, for which he receives a monthly check of millions. But the most fascinating thing is that while magazines tremble under the influence of the internet and many disappear to make way for online portals, the importance of Anna remains stronger than ever today.

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