Anna Wintour and Tina Brown: Inside their enduring magazine rivalry.

Anna Wintour. It's a name that is synonymous with high fashion, front rows, conversation-starting magazine covers and…

… that bob.

While we have always associated her with the upper echelons of sartorial society one could be forgiven for thinking that she has been the head honcho at Vogue since birth. Yet in reality, there was a time before she became one of the most revered figures in fashion and she climbed the ranks to the top. 

Anna Wintour via Getty Images.


Throughout her career, Anna has remained tightly coiffed and tight-lipped about her trajectory only offering the public crumbs around her drive and inspiration to become the best of the best.

But there was one woman who was always nipping at her heels and was perhaps her biggest motivation to succeed. That woman was her long-standing, much publicised 'rival' – Tina Brown.

Tina Brown via Getty Images.


To really understand how these women went head-to-head (and least on paper) as they rose in the ranks at the hallowed halls of Condé Nast, we have to go back to the beginning of their journeys. 

Two women with pluck and a ferocious appetite to succeed, hurtling along in complete tandem as they quickly became the darlings of the media industry.

Watch: Anna Wintour Answers Questions From Total Strangers. Post continues below.

Video via Vogue

After growing up in London in the 60s Anna (with her bob in tow) moved to New York in the 80s with a dream to join the ranks of the fashionable elite. 

She took a job as a junior fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar and thus began her career in the high-flying world of magazines. In the few short years that followed she cut her teeth working at a number of different publications including Savvy and New York Magazine - her experiences here laid the foundations for the ferocious work ethic and ability to monetise a masthead like nobody else before her.


In 1983 Anna had gained such recognition in the industry that she was touted as one to watch. Long-standing Condé Nast editorial director Alex Liberman appointed Anna with the role of creative director at American Vogue thus beginning her illustrious career working for the famed global media company.

Just two years later she took up her post as editor-in-chief of British Vogue where she began revolutionising the way magazines are produced and promoted. 

"There's a new kind of woman out there," she told the London Evening Standard at the time. "She's interested in business and money. She doesn't have time to shop anymore. She wants to know what and why and where and how."

In 1987 Anna returned to New York to head up House & Garden magazine before swiftly landing the role of editor-in-chief at American Vogue.

The role, it seems, she was almost destined to have.

At the same time in the 80s the media world was being shaken up by another young Brit with talent to boot. 

Raised in Buckinghamshire by a film producer father and a publicist mother, Tina Brown had somewhat of a leg up when it came to knowing the lay of the land inside the media industry. Showing real talent for writing at a young age, she studied at the University of Oxford at age 16 before starting her career contributing for the Sunday Times.

In 1979 she became the editor of Tatler which sparked the beginning of her career with Condé Nast. Much like Anna, the people at the top of the publication food chain were beginning to notice her talent and brought her over to New York where she took the editor role at Vanity Fair in 1983. 


It was no secret that with Tina at the helm of Vanity Fair readership increased two-fold and interest in the magazine grew week on week thanks to her brazen editorial choices.

So there they were, two powerhouses at the top of their game with everyone watching to see what they would do next. Anna making waves and revolutionising fashion editorial through American Vogue and Tina becoming the tastemaker of all things Hollywood while heading up Vanity Fair.

It will come as no surprise that at a certain point these whip-smart, ambitious women were pitted against each other in a hush-hush so-called rivalry that followed their every move through the halls of Condé Nast. 

Tina Brown and Anna Wintour via Getty Images.


As editorial director Alex Liberman was looking set to retire from his tenure, all eyes were on Anna and Tina with speculations running high as to which woman would become his eventual successor. Fellow employees recall the two women being friendly with each other, but make no mistake - they were both gunning for glory. 

By the time the 90s rolled around it was clear Anna had become the front runner in taking over more responsibility within Condé Nast. In 1992 Tina left Vanity Fair and moved in the role of editor at The New Yorker before leaving Condé Nast altogether in 1998. In 2013 Anna became global artistic director of all Condé Nast magazine titles and in 2020 was promoted to global chief content officer.

While their trajectories have frayed apart over the past few decades, they've never been able to shake whispers of their rivalry. In 2019 author Thomas Mair released All That Glitters: Anna Wintour, Tina Brown, and the Rivalry Inside America's Richest Media Empire, a tell-all that lifted the veil on how these two powerful women rose in the ranks. 


Shortly after it was announced that the book - and their subsequent tale of frenemy-ship - would be making it to the small screen in a six-part series produced by Bravo. 

"As they have to fight their way to the top of a male-dominated industry driven by greed and betrayal, they each find new paths to change the world around them — Tina, through the intersection of high-culture and celebrity, and Anna with a gut instinct for high fashion and emerging talent," read the sell-line. A juicy tease for those chomping at the bit to learn more about their story.

Perhaps in an effort to quell growing interest in their 'rivalry' both Tina and Anna put on a united front at the Women in the World conference in 2019. 

They sat down in front of an audience for a casual chat that by all accounts barely scratched the surface of what might really be boiling down underneath the very polished facades of both women. It appeared that their years in the spotlight taught them better than to let their guard down - at least in public.

Anna Wintour and Tina Brown at the Women In The World 2019 conference via Getty Images.


Not long after their conference conversation the TV series was killed and the secrecy surrounding their relationship lived to see another day. Whether it was the work of these two well-connected women joining forces to shut down the production will remain a mystery - much like many aspects of their rivalry.

On one hand, it is easy to see why two powerhouse women were pitted against each other. It happens every day across a multitude of industries. But for now they're once again brushing off the rumours and letting their impressive careers do the talking. 

Whether there was ever a burning rivalry there or not, it's safe to say they've both landed precisely where they were meant to.

Feature Image: Getty.

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