06 July, 2011

Anna and I

An online questionnaire which asks people random questions about their Facebook friends once asked a guy on my high school magazine editorial team whether he’d ever seen me cry. He answered “No. I don’t think it’s possible”. Needless to say, in my year as editor, the magazine had more members than any other society, produced more content than any year before us and initiated the beginnings of a censorship agreement with the school. I was proud of myself and didn’t in the least mind that my reputation as a somewhat icy, no-nonsense leader preceded me.  On the contrary, I was chuffed that I had the same ice queen image as the infamous Anna Wintour.

Anna Wintour has worked at many different publications but is most renowned for her role as editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. In her 23 years there, she has transformed not only the magazine but the fashion industry entirely. She has turned Vogue from a stagnant, repetitive publication into the international bible of fashion. She’s made the magazine more accessible to women by mixing mass-produced clothing with designer labels, raised over $10 million for charity and started a fund to endorse young designers.

When I first came across Anna, after saving up to buy my first Vogue, the thing that struck me was how she was able to make such a contribution to the society around her even though she worked in the seemingly self-serving fashion industry. Throughout my career as a writer so far I have been faced with the conundrum of how to make a change in the lives of others while still working in the self-indulgent industries that, I have to admit, I enjoy, such as fashion and advertising. I always thought that I had to make a choice between the two, but Anna showed me that I could very well do both.

After reading more of Anna’s work, more work about her and watching RJ Cutler’s revealing documentary called The September Issue, I realised that on a personal level I identified with Anna a lot too. While some interpret it as coldness, I like that she has a direct and straight-to-the-point approach. In today’s professional world too many people fluff up their words to make others happy. I also like that she has high standards for herself and expects the same standards from the people she works with and I try to work in this way too. The growing standard of mediocrity that people live by annoys me!

Anna has also had to prove herself to her family in the same ways that I have. Her father, the editor of The Evening Standard, and her two siblings, who work in government and law, look down on her career in fashion journalism somewhat. However, she has proven to them that the industry can make an impact and has become the leading voice in the field. In the same way, I’ve had to prove to my parents, who both work in the medical field, that journalism is a worthy career path and am on my way to making them understand!

In terms of her personality, Anna has created a lot of controversy. She is someone that sticks to her guns no matter what other people think and asserts herself well. This, coupled with the fact that she is not a fan of socialising within the industry or making public appearances gives her the image of an ice queen. This is perhaps, one point on which Anna and I have come to differ. Since high school I have realised the importance of having good, positive relationships with colleagues and that it does not mean that I can’t get work done.

 Although I admire Anna and everything she’s doing, I realise that to be successful like her, I don’t have to be exactly like her. So, the boy on my editorial team would be glad to know that I’ve thawed out my ice queen ways and am on my way to becoming my own icon, with Anna helping me along the way.  

By Devaksha Vallabhjee

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