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Chatterbox: The double side


On Jan. 11, 2007, Chatterbox talked about a young doctor who was taken from poverty in Brazil, as a young child, and became one of America’s wealthiest, most famous, and successful doctors.

He was a renowned plastic surgeon, successful family man, author, entrepreneur, television star, and health and nutrition coach. Dr. Robert Rey, with all of his achievements – professional and personal – openly cried over his father’s apathy toward him from childhood through success. Incredible, isn’t it? The world’s acknowledgment can’t compensate for the absence of family validation.

Then, last night I saw a fascinating documentary released in 2009 called, “The September Issue” and watched that same phenomenon repeated in one of the world’s most talented and successful women. The film follows Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief, since 1988, of Vogue magazine. Despite her position and capabilities, she has a disclosing moment while talking about her sister and two brothers and what they each do. Their credentials are impressive, altruistic and civic. She became tentative as she reflected, saying pensively and slowly, “I think they’re very amused by what I do. They’re …” She paused, then swallowed very quietly. She collected herself, looked away and blinked. She maintained her decorum, but seemed nearly tearful. She blinked again. “They’re …” She resigned herself, “They’re amused.” Then, with a nearly silent, submissive chuckle, she shrugged slightly.

One can only be gob smacked at the yearning; success seeking family validation.

Wintour supposedly inspired author Lauren Weisberger’s character of Miranda Priestly in the 2003 novel, “The Devil Wears Prada,” but no one watching this documentary would think that. There was a quietness about her. Viewers would be taken with her seemingly genuine graciousness while still using her weight of influence. Almost reflexively executing her duties, she was effective and efficient, maintaining both power and poise. She was completely competent and saber sharp, knew her mind and what needed to be done; orders were rubber-stamped in granite but had a quiet dignity. A kind of modesty carried control and intuition juxtaposed with gentility. She doled out kudos with no hesitance at all for Grace Coddington, citing the support, experience and brilliance of her longtime friend and right hand associate. She was never volatile or boisterous; she delivered her decisions firmly and definitively, with finality, but in a near whisper, and she seemed to always know when to concede via silence. Her instincts were spot on.

Fashion never goes out of style. Even current changes and occasional blips around the world don’t stop the fashion industry, and that includes its magazines. I’ll admit that chasing the statistics was a journey down a rabbit hole. Albeit fascinating, it must suffice to say that the industry is solid.

One well-cited source reports, “… The magazine industry is growing, despite the increasing use of social media for communication and information sharing …

“This indicates that the magazine industry is still a viable market for publishers and that there is potential for further growth in the future.”

With the legacy of Vogue, first printed in 1892, on her plate, Wintour exerts authority with quiet fire. At ease even in front of continuous flashbulbs and dozens of paparazzi calling to her, she was gracious but in charge. She remained cooperative but still exhibited total strength and leadership; she simply walked away when she was ready. This is a very difficult job reflexively being done very well. Neither Vogue nor any other haute couture magazine is saving the planet, but credit to Wintour where due, with siblings or without.

I always say that some professions have millions of people watching them work and ‘arm-chair quarter-backing” their choices and performance. Worse, their behavior, personality, and personal life are also judged. Wintour has that same scrutiny, and her work is in print, forever, available to the world. The anonymous people of the world don’t deal with that.

Another iconic September issue of Vogue has just arrived and, still at the helm of that ship, this highly competitive, amazingly dedicated, quiet tiger of a lady may harbor some insecurity. Some of us may wonder if she ever had “that” conversation with her siblings. We must suspect they are as impressed by her as she is by them.

It’s heartbreaking, but intriguing, that, regardless of what level of success people achieve, so many look past a world of praise, seeking family for the only praise they value.

On Friday, May 5 of 2017, Anna Wintour was named Dame Anna Wintour by Queen Elizabeth, for her service to fashion and journalism.

I like her.