This definitive biography of the legendary fashion journalist and media mogul follows her journey from the trendy fashion scene of swinging 1960s London to becoming the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine.
[A] peek into the soul that inhabits the iconic bob and sunglasses is what the book promises. On the cover, Wintour smirks from behind her armor, her arms crossed defiantly, as if challenging the reader to pierce the veil. The author, Amy Odell, tries valiantly ... The book is the product of over 250 interviews and exhaustive archival research ... Odell’s extensive reporting dredges up a wealth of delightful details ... Anna is a biography with naturally completist goals, so these details are scattered across a sprawling work that sometimes, well, sprawls ... But Odell rarely achieves sufficient altitude to situate Wintour in the flow of history — to fill in the background and the floor underneath her Manolo Blahnik shoes. Our subject does this, and our subject does that, but I wished at times that the focus on her would loosen just a bit, because Odell’s insights into how fashion magazines work (or worked) are fascinating when they arrive ... You’ll walk away knowing every step — and misstep — in Wintour’s famous ascent to the heights of magazinedom, but without a working theory of the case, no conceptual framework to pack it all into and remember it by ... At times, the profound pull of her power seems to distort Odell’s efforts ... Odell doesn’t seem to have her mind made up about Wintour: Is she a cold apparatchik of this harsh industry, or an exacting, driven and visionary boss who is subject to sexist double standards? The text leans toward the latter interpretation, but includes anecdotes that provide grist for the former ... The resulting portrait is vexingly quantum: one moment packed with fantastic morsels of gossip, and at others strikingly obsequious.
The longtime Vogue editor-in-chief and Condé Nast global editorial director and global chief content officer seems to exist in her own eco-system ... How did that come to be? Well, if you want answers, you won’t find them in this book ... [Anna] is deadly serious in her ambitions, and her creation of her own mythology is fascinating. She deserves a more acute analysis of her life. But perhaps she didn’t want it ... To what degree she collaborated in the writing of this book is unclear ... While we get some delightful glimpses into her home life...there is little examination of her professional skills, or of her weaknesses, from people operating at a similar level ... I would have loved to hear what the big-name designers—Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Donatella Versace—could add to this portrait ... She survives not because she is an excellent magazine editor, which she is, but because she understands power and what other powerful people want and need. How frustrating it is then not to get a greater understanding of how this enigmatic woman operates ... What is her opinion of … well, actually, anything? For that we will, unfortunately, have to wait for another book.
A takedown biography of Wintour would have been easy, and Odell resists the temptation, seeking to paint a more nuanced portrait without any input from Wintour herself ... But the book lacks a strong point of view. Is Wintour a tyrant who should have been let go from Vogue years ago, or an effective boss whose leadership methods would be readily praised in male form? Odell, an opinionated writer, is curiously reticent on these and other questions ... Wintour obsessives will no doubt revel in the details of her diet (whole-milk lattes, rare steaks, caprese salads without the tomatoes), and management style. But as for the woman behind the manicured bob and dark sunglasses? The mystery remains intact.