I am one of biggest fans of Anna Wintour. To be honest, I did not know about her until I learnt that the role of Miranda Priestly on The Devil Wears Prada (probably my favourite movie) was loosely based on her. I started following her very rare (but impactful) media appearances and have since been fascinated – and mildly obsessed with the idea of someone who is that stylish, intelligent and able to churn out wit like the wit that Miranda churns out on The Devil Wears Prada.
I was reminded of Anna again when pics surfaced of Kanye West’s NYFW show where she was seated next to Kim Kardashian who was having a bit of a hard time with her daughter Nori. Not once did Anna flinch. When discussing those images with a friend the conversation somehow moved to the legend of Anna. How she has become so iconic and synonymous with Vogue – the equally iconic magazine for which she is the Editor in Chief.
When I got home I could not stop thinking about it. How I have many times not looked beyond her as an isolated figure. Very seldom have I spoken about her beyond what I perceive her mannerisms to be. I mean, beyond that this woman has worked hard to be a leader in the male dominated publishing world and someone who many look to for approval in various fields such as business and fashion – if Anna is not front row at your NYFW show, you might as well not have showcased and if she does not put you on the cover of Vogue, you’re most probably not on the A-list.
The only other woman I know with this much power is Oprah Winfrey. There was a time where being invited for an interview on The Oprah Winfrey show was the final seal of approval. It was the confirmation of not only your celebrity status, but of your name on the A-list.
Many would argue that what these women have achieved cannot be recreated and that they already have legacies that will outlive them. This makes me think of the next set of talent that will become the Oprah Winfreys and Anna Wintours of the future. How is such talent discovered and at what point do they become iconic?
If Anna Wintour is to die today, who will fill her shoes and at what point will the replacement also be considered an icon?
The other day Janine Jellars (probably one of my favourite people in the history of ever) spoke about how when she was starting out, a senior in the media industry who she had a lot of respect for invited her to lunch to tell her that she had not arrived and that she was not all that great. This was not to help her stay humble, but rather to attack her to the level where she would not aspire to become more than she was at the time- I am glad she never listened.
This is a challenge that many young people face today. While we understand the importance of paying our dues, we struggle to find mentors who do not consider our youth a threat to them. While entitlement issues surely do exist amongst us, there is a dire need for mentors who will humble us when needed without completely breaking us down.
Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) did a study on talent mobility and found that it is important for companies to prioritise how they recruit, manage and develop talent. They have found that young people today have a mind-set, aspirations and expectations that are different from previous generations.
The study also found that training and development were top choice among employer-provided benefits for these young people.
This is what many of today’s iconic figures – and anyone in a senior position really – need to remember when approaching situations where they have the potential to be a mentor. Helping the next set of talent does not mean that your legacy will be eradicated. As a matter of fact, that young person becomes part of your legacy and the young person they help in future also becomes a part of your legacy.
So if Anna Wintour is to die today, I hope that she has not felt threatened by young talent that has entered her turf. I hope that she has mentored her replacement sufficiently and that she knows that her legacy will live on even if she does.
PS: I am using Anna Wintour purely for imagery. I know that she does a lot to advise young up and coming talent. I shared one of the times when she did HERE.
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