Through her 30+career in magazine publishing, Wintour has developed a reputation for being distant and cold. It has been said that she a demanding boss and is difficult to work for, an opinion Wintour doesn’t exactly deny. In 2003, Lauren Weisberger, one of Anna Wintour’s former assistants published the book The Devil Wears Prada, based on her experience working at Vogue magazine. The book was made into a movie in 2006 and Anna Wintour made celebrity magazine and fashion magazine headlines when she showed up to the premiere wearing Prada.
In August 2009, Anna Wintour along with the creation of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine were the subjects of the documentary, “The September Issue.” The documentary shows, for the first time, the demanding work required to produce an issue of Vogue magazine.
Forbes magazine recently reported that though the documentary is touted as “the real Devil Wears Prada,” that “Wintour mostly is portrayed as a professional and a perfectionist with a well-defined vision and an inferiority complex that becomes apparent when she admiringly talks about her three siblings who consider her profession “amusing”; Wintour’s sister, for example, lobbies for farmers’ rights in Latin America.”
Anna Wintour was born in 1949, in London, England, to newspaper editor Charles Wintour and his wife, philanthropist Elinor Wintour. As a teenager, Wintour dropped out of school and instead pursued a life that revolved around the chic London life of the 1960s, frequenting the same London clubs of pop culture’s biggest celebrities and musicians like The Beatles and Rolling Stones.
Before Vogue magazine, Anna Wintour started out in the fashion department of Harper’s & Queen in London. Over the years, she climbed the editorial ladder and bounced from magazine to magazine between New York and London. In 1976, she moved to New York and took over as fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar magazine. With a stop at Viva magazine after Harper’s Bazaar in between, Anna Wintour took a job with New York magazine in 1981. From the start, Wintour was driven and had her own sense of style and direction. In 1986, she returned to London as top editor of publisher Condé Nast’s British Vogue magazine.
It’s at British Vogue that Wintour’s cold demeanor earned her a few memorable nicknames: “Nuclear Wintour” and “Wintour of Our Discontent.” In 1987 she went onto another Condé Nast magazine, Home and Garden, where she abruptly changed the magazine’s title to HG.
Though subordinates grumbled about Wintour’s management style, Condé Nast’s top executives clearly supported her decisions; she earned a reported salary of more than $200,000 plus a $25,000 annual allowance for clothes and other perks.
In 1988 Anna Wintour left HG magazine and became editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine with one goal: reinstate Vogue magazine as the fashion authority. At the time of her arrival, Vogue magazine was losing ground to a three-year-old upstart, Elle magazine, which had already reached a paid circulation of 850,000. Vogue’s subscriber base meanwhile, was a motionless 1.2 million.
In her more than two decades at Vogue magazine, Wintour has more than accomplished her goal. She successfully restored Vogue’s supremacy and today the magazine enjoys the nickname of the “fashion bible.”
For all her critics, Anna Wintour has made many influential decisions that affect the magazine industry at large. She popularized putting celebrities instead of supermodels on magazine covers; she mixed low-end fashion pieces with expensive pieces in her photo shoots; she championed unknown fashion designers, making the careers of Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen and John Galliano.
While Anna Wintour has garnered much attention for her distant demeanor and contributions to the fashion world, many are unaware of her commitment to philanthropy. Some of her generosity includes raising money for the Twin Towers fund after the September 11th terror attacks and with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, she helped create a new fund to encourage and support up-and-coming designers. Each year, she also organizes a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume department, which over the years has brought in some $50 million. This event attracts many celebrities and is covered relentlessly in fashion, society and celebrity magazines.
As for her personal life, she and husband David Shaffer divorced in 1999. The couple has two children together, Charles and Katherine. Currently, Anna Wintour maintains a relationship with investor Shelby Bryan.