Tonight Material Whirl had the honour of attending a very special Q&A with Lauren Weisberger, the author of The Devil Wears Prada that was made into a $27 million-grossing smash-hit film starring Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and the fabulous Stanley Tucci to name but a few.
I had won a prize via Grazia magazine to be part of an audience at the very glamorous Charlotte Street Hotel to listen to Weisberger being interviewed by Decca Aitkenhead of The Guardian. She has penned a sequel, Revenge Wears Prada, and I was curious to discover her motivation for bringing the marvellously monstrous Miranda Priestly back into our lives, immortalised so skilfully by Streep. Oh, how I had missed her.
It's hard to believe but Weisberger wrote The Devil Wears Prada ten years ago. Where on earth have those years gone? She wrote the book at the very impressive age of 24, a year after working as an assistant to the legendary Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of the gigantic US Vogue. She admits that she never envisaged that the novel she started in a writing class would be turned into a book, let alone a phenomenally successful one. This is the stuff that dreams are made of.
We were skilfully taken by Aitkenhead on an interesting journey with the very unpretentious and self-deprecating Weisberger, who seemed very at ease and definitely the kind of girl you could go and have a beer with. She revealed she remains both fascinated and traumatised by her time at Vogue, and who can blame her? When asked what advice she would give to those who read The Devil Wears Prada and still want to go into fashion, she replied 'Read it again'!
From a career perspective, Weisberger said that she loved the writing aspect of being at Vogue, although more the travel and food and less the fashion, and gave some very useful career advice for anyone who had ever worked for shall we say, a challenging boss - work hard and keep at it, it may be painful now but it might only be for a short time and you'll soon move ahead. With the devilish Miranda in mind, when asked what she herself is like as an employer, she joked that she spends a great deal of time trying to get her team to love her. She also emphasised that it is mandatory to be successful and kind, and in real life it is possible to be a decent human being and good at what you do. Some very useful advice and one a lot of successful women could do with taking note of.
She remained very gracious when asked for an insight into life behind Vogue's glamorous doors and would not be drawn into revealing anything defamatory about Ms Wintour herself. Instead she hinted that the 24-hour nature of the role was crazy with lots of things required THIS SECOND or face dire consequences, but admitted this was not particular to that one office. She also lightheartedly revealed that when she made the decision to leave the assistant role, she had to work up the nerve to approach Wintour, explaining 'you don't approach Anna. She approaches you'. Wintour though politely thanked her for her help and Weisberger admitted there was no huge dramatic ending as there was a modicum of civility to maintain. Interestingly, she also described how working for Vogue meant a complete immersion into that one environment and nothing else, which was even more apparent years later when she watched The September Issue (which she felt was more about Grace's story) and realised she had no idea how talented Coddington actually was.
Weisberger was funny and incredibly down to earth and at the end of the Q&A there was the chance to meet her and come away with her new book signed. We had a brief chat, she was very friendly and I plucked up the courage to ask for a photo to accompany this here blog post, which she happily agreed to. Unfortunately my plans were scuppered at the last second, as the Grazia team said they had to be the bad guys and ask for no photos due to the every growing queue of people waiting to meet her. They weren't the bad guys at all, on the contrary, they were lovely.
I found myself in a great audience of interesting, friendly and stylish women and as I made my way home through London town, goodie bag in tow, I felt inspired and motivated to keep writing and to keep on working hard, no matter what the circumstances.
In the words of the unforgettable Miranda Priestly and with a dismissive hand gesture to go with it, That's all.
Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger is out now (Simon & Schuster, £14) from all good independent book shops.