Which Anna Wintour factoid is most compelling? Perhaps the official announcement the 63-year-old has been given the newly-created executive position of Artistic Director for publishing behemoth Condé Nast? Or maybe it’s her immigrant status to the United States that strikes a chord with me? Could it be her reported intense affair with Bob Marley back in the 1970s? Whatever it is, the legendary inspiration behind Meryl Streep‘s character Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada is a boss lady to be saluted for Women’s History Month.
As she moves into senior executive ranks crowded with her male counterparts, Wintour is also celebrating her 25th year as editor of VOGUE. In the cutthroat world of fashion and media, not only surviving but innovating for a quarter of a century makes the London-born icon one of the most powerful women in magazine publishing today.
Wintour came of age in the “swinging 60s” and rebelliously wore her hem lines short and her hair in that famous bob style from the age of 14. “Growing up in London in the 60s, you’d have to have had Irving Penn‘s sack over your head not to know something extraordinary was happening in fashion,” she once recalled. After a string of editorial positions at various magazines, Wintour’s big break came with her first editorship at British VOGUE in 1985. While the publication’s staff at the time allegedly referred to the period as “The Wintour Of Our Discontent” due to her growing control, Wintour set about changing the entire style and direction of the magazine to reflect the times. “There’s a new kind of woman out there,” she told the Evening Standard during her tenure. “She’s interested in business and money. She doesn’t have time to shop anymore. She wants to know what and why and where and how.” She moved to New York to work on House & Garden magazine and 10 months later, landed the coveted role of editor for American VOGUE.
Throughout the years Wintour has come to be regarded as one of the most powerful people in fashion, setting trends and anointing new designers. And while many tend to focus on her chilled mystique and tough exterior, we’d like to look at her positive and much more important qualities: namely, her philanthropy. Wintour serves as a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where she’s organized benefits that have raised $50 million for the museum’s Costume Institute. She began the CFDA/VOGUE Fund in order to encourage, support and mentor unknown fashion designers and she’s also raised over $10 million for AIDS charities since 1990 by organizing various high profile benefits.
“I don’t think of myself as a powerful person,” she told Forbes in 2011, when it named her 69th on its list of the world’s hundred most powerful women. “You know, what does it mean? It means you get a better seat in a restaurant or tickets to a screening or whatever it may be. But it is a wonderful opportunity to be able to help others, and for that I’m extremely grateful.”
To get a better idea of Anna at work, be sure to watch The September Issue, the 2009 documentary about the behind-the-scenes drama that follows Wintour and her staff during the production of the September 2007 issue of VOGUE.