Master’s Tea with Cynthia Leive, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour

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On Wednesday, Cynthia Leive, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour, came to my university to give a Master’s Tea, which is basically a conversation between the Master of the residential college, the Guest, and interested students.  As soon as I saw the flyer in my school newspaper, I knew that I had to attend and I’m so glad I did!
Leive was very well-spoken, friendly, and refreshingly down-to earth.  She started off the conversation by telling us about her career path and sharing the lessons she has learned along the way.  When she was in college, one of her first internships was with the Saturday Review in Washington, D.C.  That magazine was primarily about literature, but at the time was going through financial troubles, which caused the Editor at the time to take on the responsibilities of another magazine, which was a magazine for Phillip Morris.  Leive said that she learned about the tricky relationship between editorial and advertising when she worked at that magazine and had to edit articles in support of Phillip Morris.  Another internship she worked was at the Paris Review, where she fact-checked for a volume of Russian poetry that the magazine was publishing at the time.  At that job, in the age before computers, this meant that she had to go to the New York Public Library every day and scan microforms to check the spelling of these authors’ names.  With that experience, she remembers being bleary-eyed and tired from all the time she spent at the library, but shared that it was absolutely worth it to be around the amazing writers and editors of the magazine.
From there, Leive moved on to Glamour. She remembers the very first thing she wrote that was published in the magazine, which was a small caption accompanying a picture in a beauty article.  Just like many people, she started from the bottom and worked her way up.  She said that as her writing style improved, she began to pitch ideas for articles, until one day she pitched an article about investigating why cases in New York that were strongly recommended by the police to go to trial were often rejected by the DA’s office.  Her boss loved the idea and suggested they get a big-time writer to write the piece.  Naturally, she was disappointed because it was her idea, she had already begun researching, and she really wanted to write the article.  She said at that point, she could have gone back to her desk and stewed about it, but instead, she sat down and wrote a respectful memo to the editor about how passionate she felt about writing the article.  Long story, she got the assignment and wrote a piece that went on to win some awards!  Her message with this story was that we shouldn’t be afraid to pursue the things we are passionate about.
She also talked about how she became Editor-in-Chief of Self, where she worked to really focus the magazine on health and wellness issues.  Due to her efforts, revenue for the magazine increased greatly.  Then she moved back to Glamour in 2001 as Editor-in-Chief.  In the second half of her talk, she focused on how digital media has become so important in magazine publication.  One example she cites is the case of their September 2009 issue.  As soon as that month’s issue was released, the staff at the magazine began to receive emails commenting on “the woman on p.194.”  This page featured a small picture of model Lizzi Miller, a normal and healthy-looking young woman.  You can read more about the buzz over that picture here, but basically Leive said that it was amazing to receive that sort of immediate feedback from the readers, which wouldn’t have been possible in previous years.  Also, she said that the staff is really working to improve the website because they don’t want the website to simply be an online version of the print magazine, but instead to have more content for the readers and more ways that the readers can interact with the staffers and voice their opinions.
In the Q&A section, Leive fielded all types of questions, from the future of couture (which she feels will still continue in the larger, international fashion houses that have a solid foundation) to how she balances work and her family life (saying that her husband is a extremely supportive of her and spends a lot of time with the kids).  She said that her entire career has been a learning process, that her job is evolving every day, and that she can only imagine what it will be like in a couple of years!
I thought that she was a stylish, real woman that perfectly exemplified what I love about Glamour.  It is fashion and fantasy, but “attainable” for the real woman, as she described.  Also, they include articles about issues that affect women and really try to listen to the readers when they voice an opinion.  As a fun little activity at the end, she showed us the three covers of the May issue and had us guess which one would be the best-selling cover.  Most people chose Freida Pinto or Emma Stone, but I went with Freida because I think she is gorgeous and would totally buy a cover with her on it!  At the end, I went up to the front to shake her hand and I have to say it was quite thrilling!  I thanked her for coming to speak to us and told her how fascinating her talk was and later, when I tweeted her to thank her one more time, she totally responded!  I thought that just showed how she really does care about interacting with her readers.  :D
I hope you guys enjoyed this post on my experience and if you have any questions, do let me know in the comments, on twitter, or by email! :D