The so-called glamorous life
Lizzie Renkert of Madison.
Since The Devil Wears Prada and then The September Issue, the magazine editor emerged like a shiny and terrifying spectre bedecked in couture, leaving trembling interns in her wake.
Or at least this particular idea of a magazine maven entered the zeitgeist. The editor as an archetype is, for better or worse, a facsimile of what people think Anna Wintour is: an arbiter of style and taste, one who can make or break designers. She gets paid to jet halfway around the world for runway shows. She is probably bedecked in top labels at all times. There is not a single chip on any of her 20 nails. She has us shaking in our (last season) boots with nothing more than a glacial stare.
We hunted a few of Australia's top editors down to find out a bit about their lives. All three swore they were a long way from scary.
The editor of madison, Lizzie Renkert, insists there's no glamour coded into her DNA.
Likewise, she says, the biggest misconception about life on a women's glossy is ''that you can just potter about in high-heels and make-up. That's not what it's like at all.''
For the record, Renkert was, at the time of her chat with Relax, in flats, not heels. That said, a pair of YSL heels was tucked into her handbag in anticipation of a Moet & Chandon party at an open-air cinema for the launch of Anna Karenina.
''I'm very privileged,'' Renkert says. ''But most of the time it's just about putting your head down and doing the work.''
Going back in time to when she began in magazines, it was a pre-email, pre-internet, pre-digital photography age. She spent her time at the fax machine or looking at photographs on light boxes.
''I didn't know when I started it would be so retro [one day],'' Renkert says.
Discussing the perks of her job these days, she says she does get to travel to see the international collections (''always thrilling''), loves the team she works with, and gets pleasure from encountering brands steeped in history.
On the downside, Renkert explains it's a tough time in retail and madison - also a discretionary spend - has been hit hard. ''The job has become more difficult. I [also] find it challenging being away from my family because the job is all-consuming. I have to spend a lot of time here.''
The world of magazines is overwhelmingly female and is populated with a lot of mothers, including Renkert, who has a 16-month-old daughter. This means late nights working from home, then rising at 4.30am to get everything done.
''The thing I don't have much time left for is myself,'' Renkert says.
Asked about the stereotype of the terrifying magazine editor, Renkert says she couldn't be further from it. ''I'm not like Miranda Priestly. You should come to work and be treated well. You get the best out of people by being kind and fair. I don't think it's necessarily the case that in order to be successful you have to be tough and horrible.''
As to why there is a seemingly unending army of women who harbour ambitions of working in magazines, Renkert is initially at a loss to explain it, but thinks it's probably because people love to dream. ''Magazines have always been about inspiring people and about putting your best life forward, and maybe people want a piece of that.''
Kirsten Galliott at the helm of InStyle since October, is convinced no one's particularly terrified of her.
''I'm the least intimidating person you can imagine,'' she says. ''I think the only similarity any magazine editor would have with Anna Wintour, is an absolute passion for what they do and a commitment for making their product the best it can be.''
Galliott's big challenge is getting into the mindset of her reader and figuring out who they're most interested in at any given time, then landing this person on the cover.
This is easier now in an age of social media. ''Whereas once upon a time a magazine used to be quite static and far from its reader in a lot of ways, we're now really engaging with our readers and getting their voices back quickly in a way the postal service couldn't really do 10 years ago.''
The February InStyle cover features Amanda Seyfried, who is enjoying the spotlight thanks to her role in Les Miserables.
Galliott says the shot of Seyfried was chosen and locked in before anyone knew how well or otherwise the film would do. Now, she must hope Seyfried has enough intrigue associated with her that readers will want to know more about her.
It sounds as though there's scope for drama, if, say, the star has fallen from grace by the time a cover goes to print.
It's also possible for a cover to be less than fantastic, despite high expectations.
''Oh yes, of course,'' Galliott says. ''That's how you learn.''
She won't reveal which star's cover tanked, except to say ''it was an Australian''.
InStyle shoots many of its own covers and has a budget to fly a photographer, fashion director and creative director over to Los Angeles for a shoot. This does sound tremendously glamorous but Galliott hastens to point out it's all business.
''We want this magazine to be something every woman wants to pick up, so we pour so much energy into every page.''
One benefit InStyle enjoys is its status as a global title that carries a certain cachet. The US edition is described as America's biggest-selling fashion title, so the name alone can help access a lot of celebrities.
Stars and jetting off to LA aside, ''[It's not] all champagne and getting your hair blowdried.'' Interns know this firsthand. Galliott says, ''The unglamorous side for our fashion interns is the huge volume of clothes that come into the office, are taken out on shoots and need to be captioned, returned and packed up.''
She admits she does feel some pressure to look a certain way.
''Certainly there's a little extra scrutiny placed on the way you dress.''
Like Renkert, Galliott also juggles motherhood with magazines. The InStyle editor has a five-year-old and a 15-month-old.
''[Fortunately] these days, husbands are a lot more involved,'' she says.
Editor of Total Girl, Amanda Nicholls, is concerned with the tween crowd and the fickle passions of girls aged six to 13. Age-appropriateness is everything and content must be at once exciting and engaging but also safe and never too mature. Bare midriffs are verboten, as are swimsuits. The magazine's young readers cannot be exposed to anything harmful.
''The balance between delivering something cool and on-trend right now and doing it in a way [so] that parents know their daughters are reading a trustworthy product, is really important to us,'' Nicholls says.
Research into her readership revealed the girls were - as yet - too young to feel body-image pressures, which the editor felt was great news.
She herself is a new mother and this has only enhanced the protectiveness she feels for her readers. ''We get cuddles from them, they think the world of us, we couldn't take that for granted,'' Nicholls says. ''I can empathetically understand how mums of little girls feel - how precious your baby girl is.''
The nature of Nicholls' job has given her a kind of teenage dream life. She has sat in a hotel room with Rihanna and has tucked an Olsen twin under each arm.
Far from being starstruck, she much prefers meeting her readers and getting swept away in their enthusiasm for her product. The magazine presents a fun, perky and girly world so well that one intern was amazed to discover that working there was not one big party.
''I once had an intern say to me at the end of a week of work experience, 'So it's not all nail painting and doing each other's hair?' She couldn't believe we did real work,'' Nicholls says.
''We just laughed and said, 'No, we write slumber-party stories but we don't tend to have them in the office.' ''
Asked why there is a persistent fascination with magazine editors and what they do, Nicholls says the top job can seem unattainable.
''There's only a handful of people lucky enough to get to sit in that chair.'' The appeal of the swag was a potential lure, with PR contacts sending Nicholls plenty of Cabbage Patch dolls and Barbies. ''I have seen some amazing handbags arrive for marie claire and I think, 'Ooh, maybe I'll work there next year,' '' she says, laughing.
If she could swap places with another editor, it would be marie claire's Jackie Frank.
''She is like the uber editor. Who doesn't want to be Jackie Frank for a day? I have fairy lights and pink toys in my office; I don't think anyone would trade places with me.''
Except, maybe, those legions of fans who would give anything for Total Girl's access to One Direction.