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Front Row: Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 1, 2005
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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. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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...she's a fashion editor. She tells a very small segment of self-important society what to wear. If everyone in the world started wearing togas or Catholic-school uniforms tomorrow and Vogue closed it's doors, putting Ms. Wintour out of a job, how many people would be worse off than they are today? How many people would actually even notice? Perhaps "Nuclear Wintour" should give that some thought the next time she rides alone in the elevator up to her office to berate her latest assistant.
One last thought as I put the soapbox away...
If you're interested in reading "The Devil Wears Prada" in addition to this book (and I recommend both), you should definitely read "The Devil Wears Prada" first. Somehow, I can't imagine "The Devil Wears Prada" is quite as funny once you've read "Front Row" and realize how close to reality Ms. Weisenberger's "fictional novel" might actually be.