The Story of Anna Wintour, “The Iron Lady of Gloss,” Who Was the Prototype for the Editor-in-Chief in “The Devil Wears Prada”

Before the release of The Devil Wears Prada, Anna Wintour was mostly famous among people from the fashion world. But after we all saw Miranda Priestly, who was based on Wintour, millions of people found out about the editor-in-chief of Vogue. But that was just a movie, real life is way more interesting. Anna is believed to be one of the most influential figures in the world of today’s fashion. She’s famous for her impeccable style, professionalism, and perfectionism.

Because there are the most incredible rumors around Anna, we at Bright Side decided to find out who Anna Wintour really is and why her nickname is “Nuclear Wintour.”

  • Anna was born in London in 1949. Her father was a newspaper editor and her mother was involved in social activity. By the way, Anna Wintour comes from a noble family: Anna is a great-great-great-granddaughter of the late-18th-century novelist Lady Elizabeth Foster (later the Duchess of Devonshire).

  • While Anna was studying at school, she often protested against the dress code because she didn’t want to wear the school uniform. For example, she liked short skirts and she even cut the skirts she had. Also, at the age of 14, she had a short bob haircut which is still part of her image. So, she hasn’t changed her haircut in 58 years.

  • Since early childhood, her father tried to get Ann interested in fashion, she even said, “I think my father really decided for me that I should work in fashion.” When Anna was 15 years old, he got her a job at the famous Biba boutique.

  • At the age of 15, she began dating well-connected older men. She was involved briefly with Piers Paul Read, then 24. In her later teens, she and gossip columnist Nigel Dempster met.

  • When she was 16, she decided to not enter college but to do fashion journalism instead. Her parents insisted that she started studying at Harrods and she took a special training course, but she soon gave it up, saying, “You either know fashion or you don’t.” Another friend of Anna’s got her a job at his own magazine. And this was the start of her amazing career.

  • For some time, she worked at the editorials of fashion magazines in London, she used an innovative approach when writing articles, but at some point, she decided to leave England and moved to New York.

  • Soon, Wintour became the editorial assistant at Harper’s Bazaar. But her ideas about the photos in the magazine lead to the editor-in-chief firing her 9 months later.

  • At about the same time, there was a rumor that Anna was introduced to Bob Marley and they went missing for about a week. But in a 2017 interview, she said that she never dated the legendary musician.

  • Anna became one of the first editors to start inviting movie stars on magazine covers. She realized that it boosted sales. Later, this trend was picked up by almost all other magazines.

  • Wintour had always wanted to work at Vogue. Once, her ex-colleague arranged an interview with the editor-in-chief of Vogue, Grace Mirabella, which ended with Wintour telling Grace she wanted her job.

  • In the end, Anna started working at Vogue. The director was impressed with how effective her previous work was and offered her a job as creative director of American Vogue. Wintour accepted the offer but wanted her salary to be doubled.

  • She thought that the magazine had become boring and outdated, so she started changing its concept a lot. Anna didn’t discuss a lot of her decisions with the editor which, of course, led to some tension between them. In order to avoid serious problems and conflicts, Wintour was appointed editor-in-chief of British Vogue and she returned to London.

  • When she got the new job, she replaced a lot of employees right away and showed a new level of control which earned her the nickname Nuclear Wintour.

  • 10 months later, she became editor-in-chief of American Vogue. It was because Vogue started losing ground to the American edition of Elle. The first thing Anna did was change the style of covers. Before, there were models in really expensive clothes posing in special studios. Wintour decided that it was better to do the shooting outside and hire less famous models. She also started mixing inexpensive clothes with high fashion.

  • So, the cover of the first issue Wintour was in charge of was revolutionary for 1988. It featured a photograph of 19-year-old Michaela Bercu in a $50 pair of faded jeans and a bejeweled jacket by Christian Lacroix worth $10,000. It was the first time a Vogue cover model had worn jeans. The model was originally supposed to have worn a skirt, but she had gained some weight since she was pregnant and it didn’t fit.

  • Years later, Anna said that the photo ended up on the cover by accident, “I just said, ’Well, let’s just try this.’ And off we went. It was just very natural. To me, it just said, ’This is something new. This is something different.’ The printers called to make sure that this was supposed to be the cover, because they thought a mistake might have been made.” In 2015, she said if she had to pick a favorite of her covers, it would be that one.

  • Anna understood what the audience wanted. She said, “There’s a new kind of woman out there, 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.”

  • Despite her crazy work schedule, Anna didn’t neglect her personal life. In 1984, she got married to a child psychiatrist David Shaffer. Soon, they had 2 children. Their son finished at the University of Oxford and became a doctor and their daughter finished at Columbia University and even wrote columns for The Daily Telegraph. In 2018, her daughter married Italian-born director Francesco Carrozzini, son of Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani.

  • In 1999, Wintour divorced her first husband. The newspapers claimed it was because of her relationship with investor Shelby Bryan. Anna didn’t comment on that. Her friends said Bryan mellowed her. “She smiles now and has been known to laugh.”

  • Over the years, Wintour has become one of the most influential people in the fashion world, setting the trends and discovering new names. The Guardian has even called her the “unofficial mayoress” of New York City. She even recommended that fashion companies hire young designers. For example, it’s thanks to her that John Galliano started working for Christian Dior. She persuaded Brooks Brothers to hire the relatively unknown Thom Browne.

  • In 2005, her salary was $2 million a year. Besides, she receives several perks, like a Mercedes S-Class with a driver (both in New York and abroad), a $200,000 shopping allowance, and the Coco Chanel Suite at the Hotel Ritz Paris while attending European fashion shows. She also got an interest-free $1.6 million loan to purchase her townhouse.

  • Wintour has a very tight schedule. She tries to get up before 6 AM, she plays tennis and arrives at the Vogue office early. She also comes to the fashion shows long before they start. According to the BBC documentary Boss Woman, she rarely stays at parties for more than 20 minutes at a time and goes to bed by 10:15 PM every night.

  • She has 3 assistants, but she sometimes surprises callers by answering the phone herself. She often turns her mobile phone off to have lunch, usually a steak (or a bunless hamburger). High-protein meals have been a habit of hers for a long time.

  • Because of her position, Wintour’s wardrobe is often closely analyzed. At the start of her career, she loved to wear fashionable T-shirts and vests with designer jeans. Later, she switched to Chanel suits with miniskirts.

  • She is more conservative when it comes to shoes: since 1994, she’s preferred Manolo Blahnik shoes that are made especially for her. She has them in 2 light colors that look good with her skin tone.

  • She has often been the target of animal rights organizations, because she loves fur and she often uses it for fashion shows. “Nobody was wearing fur until she put it on the cover in the early 1990s,” says Vogue co-worker Tom Florio.

  • Her big sunglasses are probably one of her favorite accessories. Many people think that she’s just hiding behind them but in fact, they have corrective lenses for her poor vision.

  • Wintour was listed as “one of the 50 best-dressed over 50” by The Guardian in March 2013. But this doesn’t mean that she has never made a fashion mistake. In 2008, she wore a Karl Lagerfeld gown which was called “the worst fashion faux pas of 2008.”

  • Anna Wintour became world-famous after The Devil Wears Prada book was published. It was written by her ex-assistant Lauren Weisberger. In the novel, the character has a lot in common with Anna: she’s British, she has 2 children, she’s bossy, and she loves setting hard-to-achieve goals for her colleagues. The author said she based the character not only on her own experience but also on the experience of her friends.

  • Wintour told The New York Times, “I always enjoy a great piece of fiction. I haven’t decided whether I am going to read it or not.” After the success of the book, a movie was in the works. There were rumors that she threatened famous people from the fashion world and told them not to take part in the film or Vogue would never mention them again. Wintour denies this.

  • The film was released in 2006 and it was really successful. Wintour attended the première wearing Prada. She has a great sense of humor. Miranda Priestly’s office looked a lot like Wintour’s, so Anna decided to redecorate it soon afterward. She also said that she found the film really entertaining and praised it for making fashion “entertaining and glamorous and interesting.”

  • Anna is often described as an emotionally distant woman who’s cold even with her friends. “At some stage in her career, Anna Wintour stopped being Anna Wintour and became ’Anna Wintour,’ at which point, like wings of a stately home, she closed off large sections of her personality to the public,” wrote The Guardian. Some friends see her purported coldness as just traditional British reserve.

  • She’s also criticized for making everyone meet her standards. In 2005, creative director André Leon Talley said on The Oprah Winfrey Show that, at one point, Wintour demanded that he lose weight. “Most of the Vogue girls are so thin, tremendously thin,” he said, “because Miss Anna doesn’t like fat people.”

  • At Milan Fashion Week in 2008, she requested that some key shows be rescheduled for earlier in the week so that she and other U.S.-based editors could have time to return home before the Paris shows. So, a lot of people complained because some young designers that were supposed to show their collections at the end lost a lot of attention. Dolce & Gabbana said Italian fashion was getting the short end of the stick and Milan was becoming a “circus without sense.”

  • Today, the legendary Anna Wintour is 71 years old and, despite all the criticism, she’s built an amazing career: she’s been the Vogue editor since 1988. When she was asked about complaints about her personality, she said, “I have so many people here that have worked with me for 15, 20 years, and, you know, if I’m so intolerable, they must really enjoy it because they’re still here... If one comes across sometimes as being cold or brusque, it’s simply because I’m striving for the best.” “She’s honest. She tells you what she thinks. Yes is yes and no is no,” according to Karl Lagerfeld.

  • Anna Wintour does lots of charity work. She is a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where she has organized benefits that have raised $50 million for the museum’s Costume Institute. She’s organized a foundation to support and promote young fashion designers. Besides that, she’s also managed to raise more than $10 million for AIDS charities since 1990.

  • When in 2011, Forbes named her 69th on its list of the world’s hundred most powerful women, Anna said, “I don’t think of myself as a powerful person. 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.”

Have you watched The Devil Wears Prada? What do you think about the image of Anna Wintour?

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