I was about seven months pregnant when I was laid off as a feature writer at The New York Daily News in 1981. The paper was in bad financial shape, and since I was among the last employees to be hired a year earlier, I had to be let go, according to writer’s union rules. It was my dream job and I was devastated.
Fortunately, a top editor at wildly successful New York Magazine called to offer me a temporary assignment to write the cover story on redecorating. Home furnishings was my specialty, and the editor, a college classmate, had heard about my job situation and thought I’d do a good job on the article. I had written a number of articles for them before. She also told me that if I did a “really good job,” I’d be a candidate to become the magazine’s new home furnishings design editor. That was exciting news.
I worked feverishly for the next six weeks and put together a wonderful article, if I say so myself. New York’s editor-in-chief loved it, too, and invited to the magazine’s gala Christmas party, which was considered a big deal. At the party, he told me what a great job I had done, which put me on cloud nine. Surely, I’d get the home furnishings position, I thought.
Weeks later, my college classmate called to tell me the news. It went something like: “I’m sorry, Geri. We love your work, but we’ve decided to give the job to a woman who is going to cover fashion as well as home furnishings.”
Of course, I was crestfallen. When I started seeing this new editor’s home furnishings features, I thought they were odd and impractical. Perhaps I was jealous, but it seemed like she cared more about dresses than dressers, more about shoes than sofas, and more about blouses than beds.
My suspicion was right. The young woman’s name was Anna Wintour, a fashion journalist from England (her well-connected, British father was the editor of a London newspaper.) She had worked for a couple of fashion magazines in the US before landing the job they concocted for her at New York Magazine.
She left the magazine a couple of years later to join Vogue.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Interesting footnote: BTW, I returned to Fairchild Publications for the next 17 years, where I became the vice-president of publishing. Fairchild is now part of Conde Nast, where Anna works. If I had stayed at Fairchild, instead of starting my own company in 1998, I might be working for her. Then again, maybe she’d be working for me.