For some reason, the only people who seem to have taken notice of just how many similarities Vogue's editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and non-fiction demi-goddess Joan Didion have are the fine folks at now-defunct culture site The Toast. Maybe people just aren't reading as much these days, or maybe nobody's really taken the time to really put two and two together. These are two monumental personas that inhabit seemingly different worlds, but if you sit down and really think about it, they may as well be mirrors of the same person.
In celebration of the book club Didion helped Emma Roberts found and the headlines Wintour is making for suffocating everyone at the Met's annual Costume Gala Here are the nine things we've taken into account when comparing these two living legends.
Both these literary ladies are keen on large eyewear and intense expressions. Didion has become known for being reserved and terse, which has given her a kind of enigmatic presence amongst writers, especially younger ones who idolize her. She remains enigmatic; if it's not her shades, it's the woman herself.
As for Wintour It's been said that Wintour's iconic sunglasses are corrective lenses due to her suffering the same vision ailment as her father, but her interview on 60 Minutes tells a different story: "They are seriously useful," she explains. "I can sit in a show and if I am bored out of my mind, nobody will notice… At this point, they have become, really, armor."
Can't argue with that logic.
When will anyone rock a schoolboy bob like this and be taken as seriously as both of them have? When will your fav ever?
After winning an essay competition sponsored by Vogue her senior year at UC Berkley, Didion flew off to New York to reap the prize: a research assistant position at the magazine. She eventually worked her way up the ranks of the magazine to become associate features editor. Wintour is now synonymous with Vogue, but it took her a while to arrive there; after a stint at British Vogue that earned her the nickname "Nuclear Wintour," she came to New York to stake her claim and rebrand a magazine many saw as languishing into the forefront style bible for anyone who took their place in the fashion industry seriously.
'The September Issue' (still)
Didion's style has been as influential as her prose. The world has taken note of her strong, minimalist aesthetic to the point that she was the recent focus of a campaign by Céline. Wintour, needless to say, is scrutinized constantly for her looks; as someone at the forefront of the fashion industry, this kind of comes with the territory. It's for this reason her Chanel suits are always pressed, her sunglasses always polished, her bob always finessed, and her presence always pointed, bolstered only by the power of the name brands that she dons as armor.
One of the enduring critiques of Didion is that her style is a "bag of tricks;" one infamous essay by memoirist Barbara Grizzuti Harrison went as far as calling Didion a "neurasthenic Cher," a critique that reportedly still makes Didion's skin bristle after all these years. She also received flack, alongside her husband John Dunne, for naming their adoptive daughter after the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Whether this was an early instance of celebrities giving their children ridiculous names or yet another instance of white colonial romantic nonsense we will never know for sure. Famously reserved Wintour has also been accused of lacking depth due to her associations with celebrities and hyper-control of what they wear on Vogue covers, as well as her insistence on models wearing fur, a fashion choice which has gained her the animosity of several animal rights groups.
'The September Issue' (still)
Through sheer tenacity, talent, and a fervor that can only be called editorial righteous fury, Wintour put a dying fashion magazine on the vanguard. In other words, Vogue would not be in-vogue were it not for the hard work this woman puts in to curate every aspect, even if it borders on insane. If iconic ex-creative director Grace Coddington was the heart behind the entire operation, Anna Wintour continues to be the soul. Didion's journalistic legacy, from writing now-legendary essays such as "On Self-Respect" to fill space in a print version of Vogue to her being on the forefront of a style that would be heralded as New Journalism, is as monumental as Wintour's is hyper-focused.
Both Didion and Wintour have spent quite a bit of time in the Sunshine State's crown jewel for a myriad of reasons. Didion spent years researching the Cuban expatriate community in her best-selling book Miami, and Wintour has been known to spend time in the city both for her own events (remember when she brought Fashion's Night Out to the Magic City?) and to attend tennis tournaments, the one chink in Wintour's icy proto-human persona.
Vita su Marte
Okay, so maybe this one was just Wintour, and the only concrete evidence is a small entry in Front Row: Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief, a biography of her penned by Jerry Oppenheimer. This was another tidbit that The Toast picked up on and Portuguese culture blog Vita Su Marte parodied with a series of delectable images that have somehow not gone viral. Why is nobody talking about the very real possibility of a young Anna Wintour, sick of the editorial life, complaining and smoking a fat jay with Bob Marley himself? Come on, Internet.
Irving Penn, for 'Vogue'
In a patriarchal world, and in industries that are incredibly difficult to break into, both women have crafted a world for themselves. They've broken the glass ceiling, put the shards back together as they please, and let others contemplate the reflection while they're busy staining the glass. We can talk for years about how problematic they are, but we cannot deny that living legends are living legends for a reason. We can only fathom the kind of conversation that might ensue if we put them in a room together, although The Toast did a pretty good job (and included a skateboarding Patti Smith, to boot).
E.R. Pulgar is a music writer, poet, image-maker, and once cried reading Virginia Woolf. Follow him on Twitter.
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