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Front Row: Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief Hardcover – January 27, 2005

3.6 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Already skewered in the 2003 novel The Devil Wears Prada, Wintour now gets a marginally more factual treatment in this latest unauthorized bio from celebrity trasher Oppenheimer (who's profiled Martha Stewart, the Clintons, Jerry Seinfeld, Barbara Walters and others). As in his previous works, Oppenheimer combs his subject's past, interviewing old school pals, ex-boyfriends, distant relatives, professional enemies, former colleagues and anyone else in possession of an ounce of dirt. Wintour has a reputation for being one of the nastiest women in both the fashion world and the realm of magazine publishing, a standing Oppenheimer bends over backward to bolster, dotting his pages with catty stories about her "calculated," "offensive" maliciousness (she'd buy clothes that were too small for her high school girlfriend, just so the girl would feel fat; later, at New York magazine in the early 1980s, she stole story ideas from colleagues). Although Oppenheimer clearly feels Wintour's notoriety is deserved, he does recognize her achievements: putting a model in jeans on the cover of Vogue, for example, when no one had dreamed of mixing denim with couture. If readers can ignore Oppenheimer's often over-the-top style ("The Wintour of British Vogue's discontent was about to begin"), they'll find some fun dish here. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This book is, expectedly, filled with gossip and scandals and peppered with celebrity names and tales. And, should even three-quarters of this bio seem scurrilous and unfounded, the rest of the details serve to underscore the incredible bitchiness of the world of women's magazines. The scenes painted by popular biographer Oppenheimer (who chronicled the life of Martha Stewart in Just Desserts, 1998) seem 150 percent in alignment with his subject, Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue magazine. The "poor" little rich girl, daughter of a well-known British journalist and social worker cum heiress, used wits, guile, charm, and connections to move from high-school dropout to the pages of world-famous publications. No stranger to scheming and dreaming, Anna at an early age set her sights on the top job at the American Vogue and, with rudeness, heartlessness, and unmasked ambition, shattered a few lives on her way up. This is not a pretty tale; after all, Lauren Weisberger's best-selling The Devil Wears Prada [BKL Ap 1 03] is a not-so-fictionalized portrait of Wintour, among others. Yet this remains a fascinating read about one of the great queen-bee bosses and her mission to determine and define fashion. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312323107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312323103
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.3 x 10.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #733,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lee Mellott TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I stopped reading Vogue years ago. I dress simply in classic styles and have little interest in the fashions shown by Vogue and many other magazines. And Vogue seems out of touch with its readers with stodgy articles and clownish fashions. (I find Elle to be more fresh and appealing). But I am always interested in a good bio and decided to read about the mystery behind the woman at the helm of Vogue.

It appears that Ms. Wintour was very "cool" from the get go. Nice when she needed to be but rarely covering her true frosty nature. Confident and collected she knew what she wanted from an early age and went after it.

Ms. Wintour did not graduate from high school and does not write very well, according to the author..so luck, family background, a strong sense of fashion and animal agressiveness played a large role in her rise to the helm of Vogue's masthead.

As I read throught the book, I couldnt help but be glad that I have no desire to enter the apparent competitiveness and cattiness that marks the world of fashion magazines. A cutthroat business where wearing the wrong shoes or skirt style will send smirks your way.

As Anna climbs to the top you read about how she loses friends, alienates people (yet somehow many come back for more abuse),and tramples on others to get where she wants to be. All the while she appears to fascinate others with her cool demeanor and aloof attitude. She is portrayed by the author as a shallow individual whose interests center around herself and clothes and thats about it.

The author is exhaustive in his research. As another reviewer pointed out, more photographs would have been nice. But overall an interesting read and one that may have you studying Vogue magazine to see how much the masthead varies from month to month as Ms. Wintour fires and hires at her imperious leisure.
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Format: Hardcover
Anna Wintour is one of those people that it's almost absurdly easy to hate... especially if you've worked under her. "Front Row: Anna Wintour" opens with a description of the poor girls who show up bare-legged in freezing temperatures, all to cater to the fashion diva's whims. It gives a taste of what is to come.

Anna Wintour was born the daughter of high-ranking British parents, one a social do-gooder and the other a major newspaper editor. She followed in neither parent's footsteps -- from her early schooldays, it became obvious that Anna cared first and foremost about fashion, shortening her gym skirts and defying strict dress codes (which led to expulsion from high school).

As a teen, she was a minor club goddess. Then with her father's credentials as a calling card, Anna started delving into the world of fashion writing, including brief stints at magazines like Harper's Bazaar, the ill-fated Viva, and Home and Gardens, which she singlehandedly destroyed. Finally "nuclear Wintour" got her dream job: editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine.

Jerry Oppenheimer isn't exactly the ideal biographer, having written some truly awful biographies of Ethel Skakel Kennedy and Martha Stewart. However, he does a passable job with "Front Row," by coolly and calmly exposing the many flaws of Vogue's editor-in-chief, including how she incited rebellion and destroyed at least one magazine with her celebrity-obsessed revamps.

He also does an excellent job of deflating Wintour's imposing image, by revealing the times she was found sobbing, played "little girl," or acted in a manner that could have gotten her sued.
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Format: Hardcover
I read "The Devil Wears Prada" by Lauren Weisenberger last summer, knowing it was written by a former assistant of Anna Wintour. I expected to be entertained with reports of the outrageous behavior by the rich and famous and wasn't disappointed. I found myself humorously horrified at the extent to which the Miranda Priestly character reigned with terror over her subordinates and colleagues and astonished at the number of people who took her abuse as "just part of the job." I also recall thinking at the time, "if these were real people, I'd recommend therapy...and fast."

Well, I've just finished "Front Row" and it appears that much of what is set forth in "The Devil Wears Prada" is closer to the truth than one might have originally thought. The book appears to be well-researched and unbiased. He gives a solid reporting of her life from childhood to present and never does the reader get the idea that Mr. Oppenheimer is "out to get" Ms. Wintour or that he is only reporting the negative side of things. While there were a few positive comments here and there, however, most reports related to Ms. Wintour do tend toward the negative. Given the the number of people willing to comment "on the record" and be quoted by name, I'm guessing this is just a simple case of "the truth hurts."

Okay...now pardon me while I pull out my soapbox for a minute...

After reading this book, the saddest thing to me is the fact that there are so many people -- starting with Anna Wintour herself, her colleagues, photographers, writers, assistants, etc. -- who actually perpetuate this type of behavior and treat it as if it were to be taken seriously. Anna Wintour is a fashion editor, for God's sake! She isn't a teacher or a scientist or a doctor or a law enforcement officer...
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