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In praise of grafters

Let's hear it for determinedly visible women

Teeny tiny me, meeting one of my magazine heroes, Tina Brown, at Edinburgh Book Festival this week

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Never meet your heroes, they say. So when, back in the spring, I was asked if I would interview magazine legend Tina Brown at Edinburgh International Book Festival this week, I nearly said no.

As a wannabe magazine editor, I spent most of my professional life in awe of Brown and her many achievements. She was made editor of Tatler magazine at 25 (because, she claims, everyone else in London turned them down. Unlikely…). Then, six years later, she headed to Manhattan, where she still lives, to relaunch Vanity Fair. It was the holy grail of magazine assignments back in the glossy heyday of the 1980s; a path trodden by magazine greats Anna Wintour (Vogue), Liz Tilberis (Harpers Bazaar) and, later, Glenda Bailey (Marie Claire and Harpers Bazaar).

At Vanity Fair she applied her scrappy editorial smarts to produce headline-grabbing covers that portrayed celebrities (and royals) in ways they had never previously been seen. If you couldn’t be less interested in magazines or their covers, I have three words for you: Demi Moore Pregnant. I’ll throw in a fourth: Naked. By today’s mores this magazine cover (see below) might not warrant a second glance. It might even appear retrograde. But back in 1991 (a terrifying 30 years ago), Brown’s creativity and impact on the industry couldn’t be understated; it was seismic. (You can always tell how important something is, by how often it's copied. In this case, countless times.) She then went on to be the first female editor of the New Yorker, launch the Daily Beast, and so on.

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