Fashion editor Staci Sturrock frequently felt the sting of Anna Wintour's sharp tongue — her reminiscences have us wondering what Wintour's ice-queen image would be like if she edited a Serious Publication.
Sturrock, fashion editor for the Palm Beach Post, writes in PulseStyle that "There is something about Anna Wintour that can make people very nervous." As proof, Sturrock offers a couple of not-so-cutting remarks Wintour made over the years (a one-sentence answer about New Years' plans does not an ice queen make), and then this anecdote:
And there was the unfortunate time I knelt in front of her (literally knelt - that's what made it all the more humiliating) and asked, "What is style?"
Insert derisive cackle here.
"Oh, that's a silly question," she said. "Everyone always asks that. You need to think of something more original."
I stammered something about how my boss had put me up to this …
"That's my answer," said Wintour, her eyes already scanning the room for someone more interesting. "Think of a more original question."
Definitely sounds like a painful encounter. And Sturrock deftly points out that Wintour frequently addresses the question "what is style?" in the pages of Vogue. Sturrock writes,
There it is on Page 340 ("What is personal style? ‘It's your life experiences … expressed through your clothes.' ") and again on Page 463 ("Style, as we sometimes forget, is really about fun, plain and simple.")
Wintour certainly comes off as ungracious here, but I wonder how this ungraciousness would play if she were a man. Sturrock quotes Wintour on her management style: "I'm very decisive … and sometimes unfortunately [people] don't hear the answer that they would like to hear." People are notoriously more judgmental of female bosses than male ones, and perhaps Wintour's "decisiveness" would go down a lot better if she had a beard rather than a bob. Even a "West Coast fashion editor's" statement to Sturrock that Wintour is "teeny and perfectly coiffed and looks at everyone as if they are ants that need to be squished" reads as vaguely sexist.
Then there's the matter of Wintour's field. Is it possible that her reputed nastiness is a response to Vogue being taken less seriously than more intellectual publications? Might her refusal to answer an "unoriginal question" be a way of asserting her own and Vogue's intelligence, of resisting the perception of fashion as something silly and lightweight? And if Wintour's remarks were uttered by a male editor of, say, The New Yorker or The Atlantic, might we read them as acid wit rather than bitchiness? At the very least, nobody would ever call David Remnick a "Prada-clad queen beeyatch."
Of course, Vogue isn't The New Yorker (much as I'd like to see the cartoons replaced with LOLVogues). Wintour's journalistic standards aren't as high as those of more "serious" magazines (cf. pretty much any profile of a woman in politics that includes a discussion of what she's wearing). And she's known for promoting expensive shit, plastic surgery, and well-nigh-impossible body types. Wintour's no hero, but her gender and her job might make her both meaner and more maligned for being mean than she would be otherwise. And maybe if her position were more respected, she wouldn't feel the need to make herself feared.