In the fall of 1975, a 26-year-old Anna Wintour was hired as a junior editor at Harper’s Bazaar. Nine months later, she was fired. And a few months after that, she walked into the offices of Penthouse Publications and began her new job as a fashion editor.
Wintour got the job with the “help of her lover at the time,” who had contacts at Penthouse and who put her in touch with founder Bob Guccione’s wife, Kathy Keeton — who, with the help of Penthouse profits, had just launched her very own “International Magazine for Women,” Viva.
First up: why Wintour was fired from Harper’s Bazaar in the first place.
Wintour long claimed that she was shown the door “for being too European — they didn’t feel I understood the American woman.” But the magazine’s higher-ups actually gave Wintour her walking papers because they felt a lingerie shoot she oversaw was far too risqué.
On the Penthouse Publications office environment:
As a colleague of Wintour’s asserted years later, “Anna was no prude, but she felt like she was working in a sewer. The whole place was pornographic, and here was this very proper, very pretty young Brit with aspirations of running Vogue virtually surrounded by glossy photos of big boobs.”
Many of the other female employees — the Penthouse secretaries and hostesses — were former subjects in the magazine, with “big hair, lots of makeup, and enormous boobs,” according to a Viva staffer.
On Wintour’s work ethic:
A close female friend of Wintour’s from back then was shocked that she actually was involved with a Penthouse operation… But Anna said, ‘Well, one needs a job. Work is work.’ I know she felt awkward there.”
Despite the surroundings, Wintour was given carte blanche to run Viva’s fashion section in as classy a way as she chose — at least in the beginning — and she took her job seriously. As [her editor at the time] noted, “She was very sure of herself, decisive, a woman to be reckoned with.”
On how she now refers to her two years at Penthouse:
Having spent two years running Viva’s fashion pages, she was as surreptitious as she could be about her former employer — ignoring, downplaying and even fibbing a bit about the time she once worked there. In a London newspaper profile years later when she was at Vogue, which she joined in 1983, she stated, “Once I got over being fired [at Harper’s Bazaar] I did a little freelance again before getting a job at New York magazine.”
And there you have it: lessons in resume editing from Anna Wintour herself.