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Where does Anna’s reputation as an ice queen come from? Is there any truth to “The Devil Wears Prada”? Why is the Met Gala so important? All of these questions are answered in Amy Odell’s new book ‘Anna: The Biography’

How do you even start writing an Anna Wintour biography? That was the question that tormented Amy Odell, Cosmopolitan.comformer editor and creator of The cup, in 2018. “I thought it was an opportunity to separate Anna, the icon, from Anna, the real person,” she says over the phone. And that’s precisely what this book does: it demystifies the woman hidden behind the bucket hat and designer sunglasses. In fact, the very first page is about the protagonist crying during a staff meeting the day after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016.

Anna: the biography looks like the latest book in a three-part series of iconic fashion characters – the first being by Grace Coddington The 2012 memoir, then André Leon Talley’s biting autobiography in 2020. Certainly, Wintour’s rise to prominence in the golden age of fashion publishing is meticulously chronicled, and those who have read all three books are sure to appreciate the different perspectives of certain events. But where Odell’s book really shines is in its study of vogue the matriarch’s life off the clock: Wintour’s relationship with her mother, her friends questioning whether she’s outgoing or introverted, and a full story of her love life. It really is as juicy as it sounds!

Below, FASHION spoke with Odell about all the gossip from his new Anna Wintour biography, like where the iconic editor got his chilling reputation, how accurate Meryl Streep’s portrayal was in The devil wears Pradaand how much she controls the Met Gala.

Anna: the biography feels so easy to read, but I can imagine writing a book about perhaps the most important fashion icon of all time wasn’t.

Photograph courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

It was extremely difficult [to write an Anna Wintour biography]! I started working on this book in 2018, and when I started making calls and asking questions, about half the people said, “Anna’s going to do whatever she can to stop this.” You don’t stand a chance. Then the other group said, “Oh, I’m sure she’ll help you. And luckily, they turned out to be correct. Although Anna declined several interview requests, her team sent me a list of her closest friends and colleagues to contact. Once everyone heard Anna was involved, everyone who had previously hung up on me returned my calls and I interviewed over 250 people, many of whom had never spoken at length about Anna before. . So, yeah, it was a lot of work but rewarding and completely fascinating every step of the way.

Why have you written a biography on Anna Wintour now and not, say, in a few years if/when she retires?

I thought the opportunity with this book was to explain the power of Anna Wintour. She was head of vogue for 34 years. Reaching the top is one thing, staying there that long is another. And though she has been in the public eye during this extraordinary time, she remains an enigma even to those who know her. So I wanted to draw the curtain on this fascinating figure.

Have you ever met Anna?

I met her twice, and wrote about the first time in my other book, Back row tales. She was perfectly fine, but don’t expect chatter. If you get 15 minutes with her, that’s considered a long meeting.

There are many very different and extreme opinions of Anna, which you cleverly include in the book. In one of the first chapters, you note that her friends argue even if she is introverted or extroverted. Why do you think she inspires such different reactions?

Biography of Anna Wintour
Anna walking the runway to take her place at a fashion show while working as a fashion assistant at Harpers & Queen in the early 1970s. Photograph by Monty Coles

Anna is very delicate because she doesn’t talk about herself. A friend of hers told me that she doesn’t dwell on the past, she just keeps moving forward. I can’t speculate what’s on her mind, but we all show different versions of ourselves to different people, like when we’re at work, at home, or with friends. She’s just particularly good at compartmentalizing.

I’ve interviewed Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who had planned the Met Gala with Anna for more than ten years, and she said they had a personal relationship outside of work. But as soon as they arrived at the office, it was completely different, and Anna would be freezing. Stephanie was okay with that, and I think if you accept that, it helps you with Anna.

For our readers who have yet to read your Anna Wintour biography, can you tell us where Anna got her Ice Queen reputation?

I would go back to the mid-1980s when she became the editor of British vogue. There was so much gossip around her because her father, Charles Wintour, was a well-known publisher of the London Evening Standard. People were so scared of him that they gave him the nickname “Chilly Charlie”. It is this parallel between him and Anna that the press picked up.

But at the same time, the way she edited British vogue led her to call herself “Nuclear Wintour”. The magazine operated the same way for a very long time, and she wanted to revamp it. She had no problem changing personnel, cutting columnists, and completely altering her look. And I feel like it was totally foreign to the UK publishing world to operate like that, so it was quite a shock.

So how accurate is Meryl Streep’s character in The devil wears Prada?

The devil wears Prada is fantastic entertainment, but it’s a one-dimensional vision of Anna. She intimidates people and [when she walks the halls of the Vogue office], I was told that some people press against the wall because they are afraid of her. But what she reacts to is if her team members talk to her like she’s a normal person. And one of my favorite stories from the book is how Anna wore Prada to the New York screening of the film. In fact, she has a pretty sharp sense of humor.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned about Anna while writing this book?

Biography of Anna Wintour
Photograph by Getty Images

Anna has a large network of powerful people who are loyal to her and who seek her advice on things. For example, Bradley Cooper spoke to her before he spoke to Lady Gaga about her movie A star is born. Hugh Jackman wanted to know Anna’s thoughts The greatest showman when he set it up. And Serena Williams even said that Anna’s tennis tips helped her win Wimbledon.

And finally, in honor of the Met Gala, you mention in the book that this is really where Anna’s power comes in. Can you expand?

When you watch the Met Gala, you see a group of famous and influential people who are only there because Anna invited them. She literally chose them. The event is therefore a physical manifestation of the powerful network it has been building for 30 years. And celebrities are clamoring to join this network! Like I say in the book, Kim Kardashian has been trying to get into the Met Gala for years. Then, of course, she did after her cultural relevance became so important that it was impossible for Anna to ignore her.


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