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section three

Expectations None


When I was working,

a lot was going on in the world.

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Andy WarholArtist and godfather of pop culture, coins the phrase, In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes” and dies after surgery at New York Hospital.

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Wall Street CrashBlack Monday (Black Tuesday in Australia and New Zealand because of time zones) is the largest one day stock market drop in all twenty-three markets around the world.

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The Human GenomeThe idea to identify, map and sequence all of the genes of the human genome from a physical and functional perspective is picked up by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and rolled out as a global collaborative project in 1990.

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Sally Ride is the first American woman In space, third woman in space after two Russian cosmonauts and first American space traveler to be known as LGBTQ.



Michael JacksonThriller” is released by EPIC. Produced by Quincy Jones, it is the best-selling album of all time.

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Diana SpencerThe nineteen-year-old nursery school teacher is engaged to and marries Prince Charles. A fashion icon, the most hounded celebrity in history and a philanthropist, Princess Diana destigmatizes AIDS and changes the royal family.




Music Television goes live hosted by Jack Lack, one of its creators, and The Buggles’ Video Killed The Radio Star” is the first video played.

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The AIDS Crisis strikes and stigmatizes the homosexual population. Governments fail to fund research until 1987 and 1996. The epidemic kills tens of thousands as it moves across all populations and borders.



Bodysuits and Fitness RoutinesTights and leotard chic is the look. Danskin, Capezio and upstart fitness brands make lycra the fabric of choice, and Olivia Newton John sings Let’s Get Physical.”

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Shoulder Pads and Power Dressing give women a look of authority in the male-dominated workplace. Big permed hair, short skirts, heavy makeup and glitzy jewelry say just the opposite.

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Working Mothers vs. Stay At Home MothersThe women who entered the workforce in records numbers in the 1970s start having babies and ask: career or family, work or stay home, can you have both and have it all?

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I Will Survive” Gloria Gaynor is the anthem of every woman who has survived a bad breakup and is seen as a symbol of female empowerment. 

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Why Do You Work?

Why Do You Work?

Someone once asked me, What do you do for fun?” My answer, I work.” Why? (If you’re old enough to remember the work-averse and perennially unemployed Maynard G. Krebs, you know he would be appalled.) I work to make an economic and societal impact. To make a safer world. To help people find answers. To entertain, influence, shape goals and values, and occasionally to infuriate people to act. To learn. To hopefully be a positive influence in other people’s lives. To lose my mind. To share my stories and get others sharing theirs. I love to work, always have and always will. 

My Resume Is a Love Story.

My first job in life, starting at birth, was to keep safe and stay alive. My second job in life was to be a translator for my mother, who never learned to read or write English or any language. My third job was to work in my family’s bakery, mostly on holidays, as a cashier, making boxes or filling trays with freshly baked cookies. My fourth was to care for my father through his diabetes and the end of his life. My fifth job was to harness and channel the worry burnt into my DNA and, with the help of many people, take my life in a new direction — teacher, art director, designer, editor, Internet innovator and artist. 

If I Didn’t Have Work, Would I Exist?

In my forties, I asked myself that question. This wasn’t me getting all profound. I knew being without work might be problematic for me. So, I never stopped working, and even when I left the corporate world, I kept working. I still am.

I Have Been Very Lucky.

I have been in the right place at the right time — to meet the right people, to have mentors and extraordinary shrinks and friends and to have come of age in New York City when it was ripe for change. I have also worked hard, some might say too hard, and have been brave enough — in defiance of the fear I learned early in life — to allow for things out of my control to happen and to then walk into the next opening. 

No Joke

I’ve been carrying this New Yorker cartoon around for years. I clipped it out of the September 6, 1982, issue and pinned it up on my office bulletin board. I’ve changed offices and jobs and moved into new studios many times since, and this cartoon has moved with me. It makes me smile.

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New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren captured the voice in my head.


Grand Central Station was my mall. As a commuter, I’d bank, shop, eat and play a game called Walk into the Next Open Space. The rules of the game: walk across the broad beautiful expanse of the historic railroad station without bumping into another person.

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Grand Central Station is my mall for shopping, banking and tech fixes.

Let’s Dance.

Fernando started his class with an exercise about communication. He played a mambo and asked us — a room full of about one hundred strangers — to pair up and dance with each other. The goal was to see how we coordinated our movements, like coordinating conversations. Next, we danced the tango, a very dramatic conversation. Finally, the flamenco, the ultimate power conversation. 

The Rhythm of Life.

For our last activity, Fernando asked us to stand and walk around the room without bumping into each other. Not as easy as it sounds. I had to feel the rhythm of the place and observe the movement happening around me. That required me to listen to and get in sync and engage with my classmates. Walking through the room tuned into how others were moving and what their bodies were saying, I adjusted my pace, speeding up or slowing down, flowing like water to be sensitive to and avoid bumping into those around me. I was deeply aware of all the things happening around me and still able to move forward to get where I wanted to go. I loved the heightened sense of awareness and purpose of this exercise. It became my Walk into the Next Open Space game — an exercise for meaningfully navigating, co-inhabiting and finding my place in even the most public of spaces. Why not try it?

My Career, Like My Walk, Flowed Like Water.

I took what I learned in Fernando’s classroom to work with me — every job. I watched, looked, listened and trusted my instincts about people and opportunities. Career trajectories, we accept now, aren’t linear. Mine certainly wasn’t. I moved around a lot, and when I came up in business, employers staffed to match their hierarchical organization charts and liked squeezing women into tiny boxes within those charts. I didn’t fit in any one box. I fit in a bunch of boxes — teaching, publishing, advertising, branding and retailing, plus add to that wife and mother — and I jumped between these roles and boxes as needs must. Like water, my career was sometimes turbulent, at times calm and impossible to hold. 


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P.S. 99, East 10TH Street and Avenue L, Brooklyn, NY.


My parents’ hopes for me were simple. I should grow up, get married and have children. I did eventually, but first I graduated college and became a schoolteacher, and even that was beyond their expectations for me, even in our upwardly mobile, middle-class Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn where parents were grooming their kids for college when they were still in kindergarten. But my parents gave me what is important: a work ethic, an understanding of charity and giving to those in need, always speaking the truth and taking care of and protecting what is meaningful in life.


Thanks to Mrs. Chast, my fifth grade teacher, I learned critical thinking at age ten. Mrs. Chast gave a gold star if you asked a question. She used to say, I’d rather have a good question than a quick answer.” My lifelong uncertainty about most things has made me crave answers, and so I always ask questions. All of my life and in all that I do, I’ve been trying to re-create Mrs. Chast’s classroom: a space where it’s safe to ask and to never stop asking.

Testing the Waters.

Al Nathans, camp director, threw me in the water my first summer at Camp Woodcrest and I learned to swim. Ivan Cury, camp theater director, put me on the stage, and I found my voice and started my quest to find my place. 

Opening the First Door.

Milton Glaser saw something in me I didn’t see in myself. Whatever it was, having him and others believe in me was a gift. 


I went to where Milton bought his eyeglasses, bought two pairs and made a new pair of glasses with a third eye. That’s when he decided i should work for him.

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Milton Glaser, the celebrated graphic designer.

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Milton created I Heart New York.

Fessing Up.

I wasn’t afraid to admit to Leo Lerman, features editor at Vogue, that I didn’t know the entertainers and writers he so often mentioned. He talked to me about them and I learned. 

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Features editor of Vogue.

Booking My Trip.

Bernie Leser, president of Condé Nast, was the person who said, Rochelle, you’re going to Japan. We’re going to set up our magazines. I’ll take you there.” 


President Condé Nast.


Fernando Flores figures large in my story. He taught me to listen in order to hear, look in order to see, speak in order to communicate — and that it is possible for all of us to get where we want to go without stepping on other people along the way.


Ruth Whitney fell into the camp of the patricians, a very WASP-American and one of the women I wanted to emulate. I idolized and admired her. She was tall, had beautiful posture and thick short, straight hair and spoke with a sense of authority, which was not given to her, but hard-won. She hardly ever appeared in photographs, but she stood out for good reasons. 

Editor-in-Chief of Glamour for Thirty-one Years.

Ruth was fearless and one of the key advocates for women, her readers, and helped them to understand and claim their rights. She was an insider — in publishing, in society — and an influencer, and she drove to change women’s lives through the system. I learned from Ruth about commitment to readers, staff and the bottom line.

Ruth Made Women’s Lives Bigger than just what was in their closets or how they wore their hair, nails and makeup. She created a magazine not only about how to look, but also who to be. And she made it very clear that women were the only ones entitled to decide who they wanted to be. Ruth felt this was her responsibility. Like a lot of people, she recognized that women were moving into the workforce and into management positions at record numbers and that recognizing, supporting and reporting that change and the women driving it was important and could be a powerful tool for all women. So Glamour published stories about women role models and gave all of us who were coming of age in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s formidable female mentors. 

She Was Okay with All the Things I Was and Wasn’t. No Ivy League on my resume. No money. No drop-dead beauty. No pedigree. Nice. Ruth was good with all that. At my annual performance reviews, some of my male bosses said I was too nice, not intimidating, and that was my problem. Jerry Della Femina called me the Anne Frank of advertising.” Carson Kressley (of the Fab 5 on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Get a Room) called me the Dalai Momma.” I think this was maybe better than being called other names. In some ways, all the things I wasn’t gave me strength, and Ruth recognized this. 

The Monthly Print Order Meeting was when the editors from the Condé Nast magazines presented the layouts of their issues to a group of executives — all men — who would decide how many copies of each magazine they would print and distribute to different regions around the country. Most of the men in these print order meetings were much older than the female editors presenting to them and the readers buying our magazines. They did understand the dollar value of the women’s market and why selling to women was critical to the economy. They didn’t necessarily understand beyond what they might have seen in their wives’ and daughters’ lives how women were changing and, in the process, changing the world.

T.M.I. It wasn’t always easy for these men to be in the room — probably as awkward as it would have been for them to go to the gynecologist with their wives. Imagine these men sitting around a table, S.I. Newhouse, the owner of Condé Nast at the head, while I stood in front of them using words like vagina” and pitching covers with headlines like Sex Without Sex” during the AIDS crisis.

Always Put Your Customer at Ease. It’s good for business, I learned at my father’s bakery. So too nice” me dressed fashionably, but not to draw attention to myself. I presented the layouts of my issues with introductory explanations like, I’m going to discuss some topics that are intrinsically female that you might not relate to but are important to my readers.” I didn’t want to put these guys on the defensive. If I did, I could lose their support.

And Then Shake Things Up a Lot. At one print order meeting, Ruth brought in a story titled The Glass Ceiling,” and one of the men in the room asked her, What is the glass ceiling?” She answered, John, you’re standing on it.” 


There was nothing boring about Phyllis Starr Wilson, founding editor of SELF magazine. I got to know her when I was her art director. She exercised her body and mind by taking belly dancing lessons at the Anahid Sofian Studio on West Fifteenth Street off of Fifth Avenue. She took many of us to class with her to get in touch with our bodies and our sense of humor.

Deja Vu

Finger cymbals that sound like Tibetan bells. You played them while you danced.

An Early Adopter.

Long before I met Phyllis, when I was thirteen, I had a romance with belly dancing. Harnick’s, a stationery store, record store and lending library up the block from our bakery, had a record called Port Said, Music of the Middle East, and for some reason, I was drawn to it, bought it and played it at home. 

I Had a Belly and I Knew How to Use It.

Fifteen years later at Vogue, I worked on a story about the Golden Door spa. One night, they had a belly dancer as a lecturer. She got us up and started to teach us some of the moves. The teacher said I was really a natural at belly dancing. Prerequisite for belly dancing, have a belly and be able to dance down. In Western dance, everything is about lifting up. Belly dancing is about touching the earth. 

Channeling My Distant Past.

A year or so later, at the suggestion of my friend Blair Sabol, I went to see Frank Andrews, a psychic. Unprompted, Frank told me that I had been a belly dancer in a past life. Of course, I had. As a treat, my husband, Doug, hired a belly dancer for my surprise fortieth birthday party, and I danced. I think I surprised the crowd. Some of them might have been horrified.


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S.I. Newhouse in conversation with CNP, his Japanese partners, at dinner at Honomura-An which is a Soba Noodle restaurant in SOHO.

S.I. Newhouse was a publishing legend, my boss and a tremendous influence on my life. It was important for me to have his approval. I could tell him what I thought and he would listen. A rare gift. I followed his lead. Content came first, but oftentimes it seemed we were in two different businesses. He was in traditional publishing — getting out good magazines that delivered for their readers and advertisers. I was in communications — making connections, anticipating readers’ needs, identifying their issues and providing solutions as best I could. 

How Did It Go?”

That was the first question I, and any of us at Condé Nast, would ask after returning from a meeting with S.I. To provide a quick and concise answer to that question, I developed a three-point rating system for these meetings. 

Knocked His Shoes Off.

If I was invited to his office to discuss something, I started with zero points. If he stepped from behind his desk and sat opposite me on my side of the desk, I scored one point. S.I. was known for taking off his loafers and padding around the office in his socks. So, if he sat on my side of the desk with his shoes off, I scored two points. If he walked me to the elevator, I got another point. A three-point meeting was a great meeting and spectacular day at work. 

With Creative Freedom Comes Great Responsibility.

Maybe the most amazing thing about S.I. was that he gave the people who worked for him the freedom and great responsibility to take his magazines where they believed they should go. He believed in finding talent and then letting that talent do what they did best. He wasn’t a dictator. He was a smart, thoughtful man. That said, if any one of us screwed up, we fell on our own swords. 


Fashion sits in a cultural context. It also reflects and expresses social and political points of view. Vogue had and has a commitment to report on culture and its access to both the powerful establishment and the up-and-comers across every area of the global culture. This allowed the publisher, editors, designers and reporters to listen around corners, see the before-their-time artists and writers and gain a perspective on geopolitical concerns not usually associated with what some categorized as a fashion and beauty magazine. There was, for example, nothing beautiful about Lee Miller’s photographs of World War II, but Vogue published them and people noticed. 

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Alex Liberman, Editorial Director of Condè Nast, artist, taste maker and known as The Silver Fox.


When I worked at Vogue, the magazine’s editors were global reporters led by Alexander Liberman. Alex was a Russian émigré, and connections to the art world in the country he fled were in his blood. His mother had run Russia’s Children’s Ballet Theater, and he introduced us to Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Thanks to Alex, Vogue published the poetry of Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam. (It had been rumored that Alex’s wife, Tatiana, had an affair with the Russian then Soviet poet, playwright, artist and actor Vladimir Mayakovsky.) So, when there was a need to help the brilliant poet Joseph Brodsky leave Russia, Alex and his Vogue friends were there to help.

The Eyes of a Refugee.

Brodsky arrived in New York and stayed in the apartment of Edith Gross, Vogues copy editor. Whenever I caught glimpses of him, I saw sadness. It was the same silent sadness I saw in my parents — the sadness of knowing that once they left Poland, they would never see most of their family or friends again. I saw in them and Brodsky the grief hidden beneath their stand-tall posture. 

Freedom Fighters.

It was when Joseph Brodsky walked the halls of Condé Nast that I learned about Amnesty International. Alex supported the organization’s efforts with the creation and sale of artists’ posters and letter-writing campaigns to free political prisoners. Through Alex’s work for Amnesty International, I learned about the takeover of the Allende government by Pinochet and about a young prisoner of conscience, former finance minister and secretary general Fernando Flores. Imprisoned, tortured and finally released into the hands of the United States with his wife and children. Flores said, When I left prison, I had to figure out how to embrace my past… I made my own assessment of my life, and I began to live it. That was freedom.” Thanks to Alex, I met Fernando. I became his student; he became my mentor and that changed my life.

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Joseph Brodsky


I’ve had many great jobs and many job interviews. I love the research, preparing and getting my head in a good place for an interview. (Note to self: Prepare for every day as if it were an interview; that way I won’t take myself for granted.) 

My first grown-up job was as a teacher in Brooklyn. You couldn’t really say that I interviewed for the job — I mailed in my job application. The Board of Education wrote back, said I was hired and told me which school I was assigned to and my start date. So, I did what I was told and showed up.

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Teaching at Sheepshead Bay High School, Brooklyn.

While I was teaching, my first husband worked for the graphic designer Lou Dorfsman at CBS. He worked a lot of weekends, and I went into the office with him to help. I loved it. That led me to take the course Design and Personality at the School of Visual Arts. Milton Glaser, the design and publishing legend, was the teacher. The course focused on understanding your audience and communicating emotionally and with clarity. Milton was receptive to people from all sorts of backgrounds, so the fact that I did not have a portfolio was okay. I thrived; I was in the right place at the right time. 

The class was given a packaging assignment: create a container for bread. So, I baked a handle on a loaf of whole-grain bread. Milton smiled. He and Clay Felker had just started New York magazine, and three weeks into the course they asked me to work for them. Milton thought I had an editorial mind. My family thought I was crazy to give up teaching. I thought I was crazy, too. I had job security with a pension, and I loved teaching. But I also loved going into a creative challenge ready to be surprised and not knowing what the outcome might be. I took the job. Working with some of the best writers and artists, I got an education that put me on a life and career path I never could have imagined. 


Bread baked with a handle, ecologically sound packaging.

Fast forward a few years. My first husband was talking to James Brady, former publisher of WWD and at the time publisher and editor of Harper’s Bazaar, about working at Bazaar. I’m not sure why, but instead of talking about his qualifications, he talked to Brady about me. Brady hired me, and though it might be unfair to speculate, I link the beginning of the end of my first marriage to getting the job there. I was so excited about what was happening at work, spinning, too dizzy to see what was happening at home.

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Me with James Brady from WWD to Harper’s Bazaar.

Trial by Fire. Day one at Bazaar, I was charged with getting Barbra Streisand’s approval to use her photograph on the cover. The production department was pressing me. Many people had already left for the day. Barbra was on the West Coast, I on the East. Through her assistant, I set up a call for early evening Pacific time. This was pre-digital anything — no Internet, e‑mail, e‑files, etc., etc. I looked around my new office and found three chromes in a box in a drawer. Each had a number of checkmarks. The one with the three checkmarks matched the cover proof in my hand. Rather than sit in a dark, empty office, waiting for the call, I took the chromes and the cover proof home with me and waited hours, during which time I ate lots of chocolate ice cream. I was unglued, sugared up and a little sick to my stomach. How would I describe what looked like a great cover to me to Barbra Streisand? How would she understand what the cover looked like without the visuals in front of her? Finally, it was time to call. I rang. She answered, and the conversation began. The checkmarks on the chromes were Barbra’s. All was good. And then a few days later, things changed. There was a pogrom at Hearst, and people were getting fired daily. 

Three Months After I Was Hired, I Was Fired from BazaaR. Human resources tried to come to my rescue. They thought I had something and wanted to keep me somewhere at the company. They asked me where I wanted to work, and I answered Cosmopolitan. But there were no job openings. Still, an interview was set up for me with Helen Gurley Brown. It was on a very cold day in late November. I dressed in all black, all bundled up. Slim pants, sweater, long coat, high heeled boots. Very chic. She was dressed in all pink, and she said, Look at you. Look at me. How can we talk to each other?” I answered, Let’s take off our clothes.” We didn’t, but we did talk for two hours. There was still no job open. 

Enter Elizabeth Tretter, Bazaars fabric editor and my friend. She told me she was moving to Vogue and got me an introduction to Bernie Waldman, the head of a fashion advertising agency and a friend of Bob Lapham, a Condé Nast executive who worked for S.I. Newhouse, owner and publisher of Condé Nast. S.I. asked Mary Campbell, head of HR, to interview me, and then she asked Alex Liberman, the editorial director, to see me. 

Stars on the Floor. Stars in My Eyes. Alex’s office called. We set a date. I prepped and I shopped. I went to YSL and bought camel suede pants, a mossy green shirt with an artistic tie, a heathery-colored wool vest and camel-colored boots. I cut my hair short. Vogue was on the nineteenth floor of the Graybar Building. I stepped off the elevator onto a gorgeous lapis blue floor with inset gold stars. My first thought was I have to work here. I love the floor. A receptionist met me, and I was ushered into a small room where the walls were lined with banquettes. Sitting behind a black table with the window light behind him was Alex, editing photographs on contact sheets.

The Sly Gray Fox. A lot has been written about Alex Liberman, aka the sly gray fox. I learned he had been looking for some time to fill the spot left by his long-term art director Priscilla Peck. He did play back to me that he liked that I came from New York magazine, more journalistic,” he said. Whatever the reason, I was hired. A short time after, Condé Nast moved into the Borden Building on Madison Avenue. Goodbye, beautiful blue starred floor. Hello, new home for many years. I was so excited to be at Vogue; Grace Mirabella had just taken over as editor. The magazine was in for a remake, and Bob Lapham’s enthusiasm and love for the company, its history and its tradition was contagious. I repaid his vote of confidence in me by working seven long days a week for as long as I can remember. 

Jerry Della Femina, a very colorful adman and author of From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor, invited me to lunch at the Four Seasons — the Pool Room — because he was interested in hiring me. I had worked on a freelance project for his agency, and it had proved to be successful. Later, when he sold a campaign to Cointreau — a series of ads featuring Cointreau drink recipes — I was brought in to create idea boards that depicted the romance of using Cointreau in mixed drinks. I did what Jerry asked for, and the ads looked pretty good. But I had another idea: the Cointreau kiss. Jerry was brave. He showed both campaigns to the client and said his preference was the kiss. He was persuasive, and the campaign ran and sold a lot of brandy.

On that success, Jerry had invited me to lunch at the Four Seasons. It was rainy, and I wore and checked my raincoat. My coat check was number 300. When Jerry said, I want to hire you. How much money do you see yourself making?” I took out the coat check and put it in front of him on the table. He said, You’ve got it.” We never spoke of money again.

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Jerry was known to say, Advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” 

Condé Nast acquired the irreverent downtown fashion, nightlife and culture magazine Details. I was asked to help integrate it into the company. Late one afternoon, dressed in an Armani suit, I made my way downtown to meet with Annie Flanders, Details founder and publisher. I rang the bell. There was no receptionist. I heard music. The door opened. Annie answered the door herself. It was the middle of the day and still dark inside the space, definitely not corporate. I knew I wasn’t dressed for the people I was about to meet. 

Late 1990s:
Curiosity often sent me into unexplored territory. Sometime in the late 1990s, I met Christie Hefner and liked her. Playboy was looking for a new president. I was curious, and she thought I had the skills to meet the changing needs of the company. She set up a meeting for me with her father, Hugh Hefner. I flew to Los Angeles, and at noon, I drove up to the Playboy Mansion, lifted the hinge on the huge rock outside, pressed a button and spoke into the rock, and the gates opened to a very formidable home. I walked in and waited in the foyer, and then he appeared. Hugh Hefner, wearing shiny pajamas, silk or satin, covered in a robe, a vision in red and black. I was wearing a black Zoran skirt and red top. He was wearing slippers; I was wearing Manolos. He ushered me into a room overlooking beautiful gardens, and we talked. I had read everything I could about him and got conversant with the First Amendment. We talked business, laughed and then I looked down at his hand, and he looked at mine. We both had on matching three-band antique Cartier wedding rings. Was this a marriage? No. I was intrigued by the business challenge, but more dazzled by Hefner’s celebrity than the thought of ever working there. The way women were portrayed in his magazine was not acceptable to me. 

Through a headhunter, I was introduced to Les Wexner, chairman and CEO of The Limited companies. He sent me a ticket to Columbus, Ohio. He met me at the airport — in his own car with a car full of bodyguards following behind us. We talked, and he said, You don’t have retail experience.” I replied, I grew up in a bakery. That’s retail experience. I learned how to dress a window, offer samples to customers, cross-sell, know what customers love and manage the inventory. In a bakery if you don’t sell your inventory, at the end of the day, you eat it.” Hired. Or acquired, and for what? I was on the bench or looking around for things to do for my short tenure there. I never really got up to bat.

Ronald Perelman, chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes, asked me during our interview, What do you think of Revlon?” I answered, There isn’t a beauty editor who wants to write about Revlon. I think that’s a problem.” Hired. Together with Boston Consulting, Jack Stahl, the new CEO, a number of great photographers and filmmakers, including Robert Altman, and accomplished actresses, we launched some new products, said goodbye to others, updated packaging and brought modernity to the glamour brand at a time when glamour had lost some ground to natural beauty. 



My mother used to ask, what do you get paid for? What do you do? Who tells you what to write or draw? She could never understand what I did, and I could never explain it. 

Like my mother, people have often asked me, where did your ideas come from? Answer: everywhere, anywhere — a conversation, an observation, a memory, a song, a movie or something that percolated in my head and came out as an idea, a solution or an ad for one print, digital or social media project after another. Whatever the project, the problem to solve, the task to complete, the process of ideation is timeless, as are my ten commandments for creating advertising, magazines and products. Those of you in the business of communication probably know these rules. For me, they apply to creating work or delivering information and ideas in print, online, in social media, audio, video, live performance or any other media channels and formats now and yet to be discovered. 


When I was working,

a lot was going on in the world.

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Facebook is launched by Harvard Sophomore Mark Zuckerberg and his college roommates as a directory for Harvard students and then all college students in Boston. In 2006, Facebook opens to anyone with an email address. The rest is history.

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9/11 AttacksNineteen al-Qaeda terrorists fly planes into the World Trade Center, The Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and kill 2,996 innocent people. Life in America is forever changed.

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Erin Brockovichconsumer advocate and environmental activist — takes on and wins huge settlements from some of the world’s biggest polluters. Julia Roberts plays her in the 2000 film.

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Y2K FearsWould the world’s infrastructure stop dead when the clock turned midnight on December 31, 1999? Individuals and organizations are terrified into spending money to prepare for the end.”



Google is founded, becomes the search engine of choice, then to google” becomes a verb and Google grows to become the most powerful company in the world.”

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Harry PotterThe first book is published, six more follow. Kids become readers again. Films, theme parks, studio tours, traveling exhibitions, stage plays, etc. follow, and we all believe in magic.



Serena Williamsage fourteen — turns professional, wins the 1999 U.S. Open, goes on to win 23 Grand Slam Singles Titles and is the greatest tennis players of all times. Big, muscular and strong are beautiful.

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The Internet GrowsAnalog telephone networks, modems and browsers globalize communications and everybody wants to get online.

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Flat Irons are redesigned and women now straighten their hair at home. Irons make stick straight hairdos possible for every woman, but can’t combat humidity and rain.



Spanx is founded by Sara Blakely as a pantyhose company. She goes on to create a full shapewear line. Squeeze into Spanx and lumps and bumps disappear.

Anita Hill Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings Senate October 1991


Anita HillLawyer, educator and author accuses U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. Despite overwhelming evidence implicating Thomas, he is still named to the court.

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Supermodels Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell , Stephanie Seymour and Tatjana Patitz are the new celebrities, earning millions a year.

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The Berlin Wall comes down. After a series of revolutions in Eastern Bloc Countries and Ronald Reagan commanding Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall,” the iron curtain cracks, and Germany is reunified.

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How do you measure success?

How do you measure success?


Theme 1: SEXY.

During my career, I got paid a lot for selling sexy. I was there when the culture offered an opportunity for greater sexual expression. I imagine people working in fashion, publishing and advertising now will remember this as the time when the culture opened up to another kind of sexual revolution — just the beginning of the broader expression of gender identity. Women had birth control and miniskirts. Thanks to spandex, surgery, Spanx and other miracle fabrics, the body became the best fashion accessory. Whether I was selling Calvin Klein Jeans, flirting in a series of Cointreau ads or objectifying a man for Perry Ellis fragrance for men, sex was the thread. 


Some of the work I did was about seduction and being attractive — some of it was about staying alive. All of the campaigns I worked on started with a deep understanding of the moment in the culture and what the target consumer wanted and needed to navigate that moment. Sometimes the work I presented wasn’t the work the client and their customers thought they wanted. Sometimes they came over to my way of thinking. Sometimes I had to go back to the drawing board or the client walked. 


I see some of these projects I worked on differently with forty-plus years of hindsight. In life, I often bundled and confused what was happening in and influencing the world with what was happening and influencing me. I knew so little beyond my own experiences, yet in publishing, advertising and the fashion and beauty industries my job was to represent women — all manner of diverse women. That’s a great responsibility. I wanted to be thin and beautiful, and I wonder how my need to be the idealized one-size-fits-all woman influenced what went into the pages of the magazines I edited and the ads I created.

There is so much research now that speaks to the depression, stress, shame and body dissatisfaction women experience when exposed to photographs of thin — retouched — models on the pages of magazines. Thank goodness for the new generation with a more inclusive perspective on sexuality, body image, dieting, social structures, the workplace and pretty much anything in this world. I am so grateful they have the spine to stand up and say what needs to be said about all of these topics. This generation can truly change the world by changing how we see it.

Mea culpa. Sincerely, mea culpa.


If you’re informed, I have always believed, then you are prepared for anything. In the mid-1980s, I worked as an advertising creative director for Della Femina Travisano. Back then, AIDS was considered almost exclusively a gay epidemic and a moral issue. Yes, straight men and women were dying of AIDS, but for any number of all the worst reasons that wasn’t getting much press. So, safe sex wasn’t yet a straight thing.


I was asked to work on an ad for LifeStyles Condoms because of my successful work with Calvin Klein. The client asked for sexy. We gave him responsible and a story that needed to be told. The headline read, I enjoy sex, but I’m not ready to die for it.” The visual was a full-page close-up of a woman. The copy was packed with facts about the disease and prevention. The ad wasn’t pretty, and neither was the TV commercial that went with it.


Fighting for Their Lives.

The client wasn’t buying the positioning or the creative we were selling. The only reason women bought condoms for themselves and their partners, the client believed, was to prevent pregnancy. We ran focus groups and won the day. I enjoy sex, but I’m not ready to die for it” ran, but getting the print ad and commercial in front of people and seen was not easy. It was the power of Jerry Della Femina’s personality, his tenacity, his relationships and his ability to help the media understand the importance of the advertising that got them on air and in print. I’m proud of that print ad and commercial. Both caused women and men to take notice and may have saved lives.


I lost too many friends to AIDS. I delivered too many eulogies. Held too many memorials. The three most difficult were for Ron Kajiwara, Jay Purvis and B. W. Honeycutt. 

Ron Kajiwara

RON KAJIWARA and I met in 1969. I was working at the recently launched New York magazine. A quiet man, dressed from head to toe in black, Ron came to the office to pick up his first assignment. His hair was a life force, long and ebony, brushing the tops of his thigh-high boots. I didn’t see Ron again until 1973 when I was at Vogue, and this time, he came into my life for keeps. Soft-spoken, even silent, stylish, his presence could fill a room. If we stayed late at work, we’d order up burgers and Coca-Colas. I ate. Ron dined. I’d dig in. He’d pull out the china and crystal and use a layout sheet for a tablecloth. A bowl with a floating white flower, perhaps a gardenia, would often make an appearance on our work counter. 

Ron’s Talent Was Too Big to Fit on Any Resume. 
Under Hobbies or Special Interests,” he could have listed Audrey Hepburn. There were days when in the late afternoon he would simply disappear. I’d wander around asking for him until finally I’d find a copy of The New York Times and turn to the TV listings. There was my answer: four-thirty p.m., Channel 5, The Nun’s Story or Funny Face, and I knew he had snuck off to spend time with Audrey. To understand Ron’s love affair with Audrey, I re-read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and I found in it this passage: Be anything but a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore: I’d rather have cancer than have a dishonest heart.” That captured the connection between Ron and Audrey. 

Kvetch or Kvell. 
Yiddishisms were another of Ron’s interests. He was fascinated by everything Yiddish, from the food to the language. That said, he’d constantly confuse the meanings of kvetch, to complain, and kvell, to beam with pride. One night, he called me to kvetch, he said, but really it was to kvell. He’d met a wonderful man, Richard, his Jewish prince. Richard was a lyricist, and for my birthday, he wrote a song just for me. I was hoping for a romantic ballad. What I got was Running Around Looking Swell, Here Comes Rochelle.” Sort of a jingle. 

Dressed Like an Angel. 
In the last year of his life, Ron started to wear white a lot. He cropped his hair short. I thought he’d seen Spielberg’s Always. In the film, Richard Dreyfuss plays a pilot and Audrey Hepburn is his guardian angel. She’s sent down from heaven after he crashes his plane, dressed all in white, her hair clipped short. She cajoles Dreyfuss into following her into eternity. Flying home from a last visit with his parents in San Jose, Ron died at about 25,000 feet above earth. I imagine he might have caught a glimpse of Audrey in the clouds and heard Holly Golightly’s favorite song, Don’t wanna sleep, don’t wanna die, just wanna go a‑travelin’ through the pastures of the sky.” 

Pickles and Porridge were two of Ron’s favorite things to eat as a child. He had them on that final trip. Ron, who had been born in a United States Japanese internment camp in the 1940s, was complete. After Ron’s funeral and cremation, his family sent me a box. They knew I liked to collect boxes. At first, I couldn’t open it. I thought it contained some of Ron’s ashes. Finally, I lifted the lid. No ashes. Just a beautiful box. 

JAY PURVIS worked with me at Condé Nast. He was a great very forward-thinking designer. He did beautiful work and was beautiful, too. He was blond, wore a long romance-novel ponytail, was strappingly handsome and perfectly Southern. His home became a hub for a group of graphic designers, and he always connected people and expanded everybody’s universe. He became our daughter Julia’s godfather and attended our Passover dinners, bringing huge bowls filled with fruit salad. When Jay developed AIDS symptoms, he sought medical care and introduced me to Dr. Tay, who I put on speed dial for those in need.

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Jay and baby Ben.

B. W. HONEYCUTT taught me and most of our team at Condé Nast the meaning of the word friend. He was a North Carolina gentleman with mint julep manners, dignity, gentility and miraculous grace. B. W. had the power to turn the chemistry in a room around on a dime and to be all things to all people while not losing himself. He smiled through those dark days, when he could have been swearing and screaming. He had a passion for food and music and the sheer physical strength to carry his friend Jay through the streets of New York to the emergency room or to Dr. Tay. He also took care of so many others who died before him, comforted mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, handled bosses, healthcare insurers, hospitals, doctors, nurses, medications, home care and food service and confronted the bigotry and fear of the AIDS plague. At B. W.’s memorial, I knew that I was in no way ready to let go of my friend.

EN 17 B BW Honeycutt

B.W. Honeycutt, the handsome southern gentleman.



In 1982, Perry Ellis was a hot young fashion designer launching his first men’s fragrance, and he needed an ad to build awareness. I was working at Della Femina, and some months earlier, I had done a series of lifestyle print ads for the fashion designer Mary Ann Restivo. They were shot and written from the perspective of how a woman is seen by others. Perry saw the campaign and asked me to work on his fragrance launch. It was a big opportunity with a very little budget, certainly not enough to run consumer advertising, so we decided to target retail outlets and run ads in Women’s Wear Daily. Once we got into stores, the money would start coming in.


Big Job. Small Budget.

Introducing a fragrance requires big budgets for advertising, sampling and building an emotional tsunami around the product. As a men’s fragrance, it needed to appeal to women, the majority of the buyers. We asked the fine art photographer Sheila Metzner to take a picture of Matt Norklun, one of the Perry Ellis models. The idea was to take a very subtle, but seductive, picture of Matt dressed, reclining on a chaise and looking at someone he longed to be with (the viewer). Sheila understood that to get the shot she wanted there could be only one relationship in the studio — the one between her and Matt. She asked the rest of us to leave the room. And through the lens, a quiet and very sensual picture was taken to launch the fragrance.

Taking the Words Right Out of His Mouth.

Now, the copy had to be written. The plan: The words would read like they were coming from Matt, his perspective. How did he feel about his job? The assignment was given to a couple of really good writers at the agency, but their words fell flat. So, Jerry Della Femina took it on. He is a wonderful writer. He wrote: 

I hate this job. I’m not just an empty suit who stands in front of a camera, collects the money and flies off to St. Maarten for the weekend. I may model for a living, but I hate being treated like a piece of meat. I once had a loud-mouthed art director say, Stand there and pretend that you’re a human.” I wanted to punch him, but I needed the job. What am I all about?… I know I’m very good looking, and there are days when that is enough. Some nights, when I am alone, it’s not. I like women — all kinds. I like music — all kinds. I don’t do drugs.…Oh, yeah, about the fragrance. It’s good. Very good. When I posed for this picture, the art director, a real nice woman, insisted that I wear this while the pictures were being taken. I thought it was silly, but I said, What the hell? It’s their money.” After a while, I realized I like this fragrance a lot. When the photo shoot was over, I walked right over, picked up the bottle, put it in my pocket and said, If you don’t mind, I’d like to take this as a souvenir.” Then I smiled my best f‑you smile and walked out. Next time, I’ll pay for it. It’s that good.

Hate Hurts.

Perry looked at the ad and said to me, there’s only one word I really don’t like in this ad. I thought it was the F word. It wasn’t. It was the word hate. He couldn’t tolerate the word hate. He finally said, Fine, use the word. I just wanted to give you my opinion.” 

The public didn’t feel like Perry. They had issues with the F word. But the publicity that was generated was extraordinary, which I had not anticipated, and boosted sales. The publicity became an advertising campaign worth millions in dollars spent. Lesson learned.

Today, it is easy to understand Perry’s point of view about the word hate. He was a man ahead of his time.


Being in the right place with the right people at the right time is a big deal. I had the opportunity to share my experiences, ideas, cues from the culture and instincts about what people wanted and might be wanting next. And with teams of breathtakingly talented people, we captured beauty and built awareness and acceptance of differences and dispensed with old taboos; changed industries, buying habits and lifestyles; started conversations about topics that no one had discussed publicly before; gave those who had been silenced a public voice; redefined what it meant to be a man, a woman or a human; created iconic brands and media idols; and changed the world by changing the way people see it.

These Magic Moments.

I also learned some lessons about being in the room and at the table when big ideas are born. Most notably, we all remember things differently. We all remember events from the perspective of what we contributed and retell the stories of any big success we were part of from our point of view. Truths get distorted. There will always be people who claim, I had that idea five years ago,” or take credit for other people’s work. Any number of people have rewritten advertising history. My stories are my point of view about what I saw when I was in the room and at the table. 


In the early 1970s when I was art directing Vogue, I met many fashion designers, photographers and stylists. I got permission from management to work with a young designer, Calvin Klein, who was just beginning to build his business. For his first ad in Women’s Wear Daily, I used a picture of him in a pair of Levi’s and a bomber jacket. He looked great! He looked cool! He looked sexy! He looked like all the reasons women and men buy jeans. They’re comfortable, democratic, able to go almost everywhere, affordable and not complicated. Jeans are personal. They conform to your body as they fade and age. They are a James Dean rebellion. They are rock n’ roll. They are one of America’s greatest gifts to the world.

EN 19 Early advertisement for Calvin Klein in WWD

My first ad for Calvin Klein in WWD.

The Birth of an Iconic Ad. 

As Calvin’s business grew, so did my involvement in his company, and I opened his in-house advertising agency, CRK. Later than some of the designer disco brands advertising on television, Calvin introduced his own line of jeans. The jeans and the man and the brand made sense, and the work to launch them into the world began. Calvin hired Dick Avedon to photograph the ads and direct the commercials. Dick hired Doon Arbus to write the copy, and together with his business manager, Norma Stevens, we got to work. A small group of us sat around a table to figure out the campaign. We all threw around a lot of ideas. Norma told the story of an under-makeup moisturizer campaign she worked on. It had the line What comes between me and my makeup?” and I casually mentioned that I was dating a guy who didn’t wear underwear. After more talking, Doon Arbus wrote, What comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” 

The Shirt Off My Back.

Brooke Shields was cast. She was dressed in the jeans and a white shirt. The look was a little generic. So, for the sake of art, or at least advertising, they took the oversized cranberry silk shirt (from Calvin’s men’s collection) I was wearing off my back and put it on Brooke. Years later, that shirt was featured with the jeans in an exhibition at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had to smile as the crowds of people moved through the exhibit. 

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When creating a commercial, I have always tried to think about how I would want a viewer to feel. I will often choose the music before a project begins because music is a powerful trigger for feelings. One exception: the Brooke Shields Calvin Klein work had no music. The copy really needed to be heard. I learned quiet is a sound while teaching at Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn. The noisier the students in my class were, the quieter I became, and everyone had to quiet down and lean in to hear me.

A Big Impression.


Hand painting the first Calvin Klein billboard in Times Square.


Who knew we were creating a meme?


The face and jeans that launched a mega-brand.

I was a kid when I saw the billboard on the Hotel Claridge at Broadway and West Forty-fourth Street of a man smoking a Camel cigarette and the smoke puffing out of the sign. That iconic billboard was etched into my young memory. So was the image of Anita Ekberg come to life on a billboard in a scene from Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. It inspired my 1979 billboard of Patti Hansen for Calvin Klein jeans — the first billboard or outdoor advertising selling clothing ever to be produced. The billboard cost fourteen thousand dollars and sparked a controversy that led to sales. A rogue photographer took a picture of Patti Hansen stretched out in her Calvins, printed it and sold posters. Rights lawsuits followed, and with them a lot of publicity for Calvin’s jeans. 

High Praise.

Calvin always had a sense of the zeitgeist. Everybody wanted to wear his clothes, his fragrances, his jeans. And it was easy to bring him good news. It always got his highest praise: I can live with that.” 


Years ago, I was working on the Mitchum deodorant brand and the packaging needed to be updated. Deodorant masks or hides bad smells. Camouflage hides a person or a thing, keeps them from being seen, protects against an enemy — in this case, smelling less than delightful. This was my lightbulb moment. Use camouflage prints for the Mitchum packaging. I proposed that each deodorant scent be packaged in a different camouflage color. Thumbs down from the marketing director. He would not buy it. I still love this idea. I am like a dog with a bone. Is now the time?


At Della Femina Travisano, we worked on the Coppertone brand. We did our homework and understood the importance of sun protection and skin cancer prevention. Coppertone was already known as a family brand with a young child and small dog featured on the packaging. Mothers were its market, and we saw positioning Coppertone as a skincare brand and a product that would protect children as an opportunity. However, the male client management team wanted commercials that featured hot babes in bikinis lounging poolside. Hawaiian Tropic was new and hot, and they wanted to go head-to-head with that steamy upstart brand. We lost. Sadly, sexy beat safety. 


Cointreau wasn’t exactly breaking sales records. Jerry Della Femina called me to create concept boards for a recipe campaign, which I happily did. In the process, I came up with another idea. I had tasted Cointreau and believed that if you tasted it, you’d buy it. With the help of photographer Carl Fischer, I shot a couple, close up, in a series of four pictures. Picture one — a man’s hand pouring the Cointreau into a glass and a women’s finger in the glass stirring it. Picture two — she lifts her finger wet with Cointreau to the man’s lips. Picture three — he touches his thumb to her lips. Picture four — they kiss, the bottle between them.

A Film in Stills.

New Look. New Media.

Jerry believed that the Cointreau kiss,” would be better for business than the recipe campaign. He unsold that idea and the client ran the kiss ads in four consecutive pages in The New York Times Magazine, like a still film. Sales rose. Liqueurs had been seen as drinks for dark smoky places, drunk by older people in fancy clothes sitting in leather chairs around a fireplace. This campaign was bright white backgrounds, and the people were young. Cointreau was all about the flavor, and this campaign was all about taste in the sexiest possible way. 


I was at Vogue when scent strips first appeared in magazines. Opening up an issue was a little like stepping into a crowded elevator in Bloomingdale’s. Later, I had the opportunity to work on the Rolls-Royce account. The only thing I had in common with the very exclusive brand were my initials with my maiden name, R. R., Rochelle Ratchick.

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Each Rolls Is an Exclusively Designed Living Room on Wheels.

Its grille is handmade, its veneers and dashboard are made from burled wood and the hood ornament, Spirit of Ecstasy, was based on a car collector’s mistress. To understand the brand, I needed to ride in a Rolls. The first time the car’s door was opened for me and I stepped in, I knew what I was going to do for the ads: include a Connelly leather scent strip. Connolly, appointed tanner to Queen Elizabeth ll, is used in high-profile products like the leather on Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chairs and seats on private planes and Rolls-Royce cars. It is the scent of luxury. 

At the time, only a few hundred new cars needed to be sold in the United States to meet the company’s sales plan. Unlike my father, who parked his DeSoto blocks from the bakery so no one knew he owned a car, Rolls-Royce drivers wanted to be seen. 


Sitting between eyes and mouth, the nose pretty much dominates the face, sniffing out the fresh, the beautiful, the delicious and the absolutely stinky. Part first-alert system, part appetite stimulant and part sex aid, the nose captures scents, makes associations and remembers.

The Scent Of A Woman

The scent of liaisons dangereuses. 

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Francoise de la Renta was the energy in every room. 

The Scent of a Woman.

In the 1970s, I was art director of Vogue, and I had the opportunity to meet Françoise de la Renta. As former editor of Vogue Paris, she moved to New York with her handsome husband, the brilliant designer Oscar de la Renta. Françoise was glamorous, feminine, strong, confident and passionate about whatever she was working on. Personally and professionally, I admired and respected Francoise. My nose adored her. A split second before she walked into a room, I knew she was coming because I could smell her perfume, and it was glorious. I eventually summoned the courage to ask her the name of her fragrance. L’Heure Bleue,” she answered, and I ran out and bought a bottle immediately. That scent became part of my DNA. The blue hour” spoke to the magical time between the end of the day and the beginning of night. 

A Scent Memory.

In the early days of my relationship with my husband, once when I returned home from a business trip, he confessed to having missed me so much that he walked into my office to inhale my fragrance. I’ve flirted with other fragrances over the years, but to this day, my heart, soul, dreams and history belong to L’Heure Bleue. 

Theme 2: CHANGE


Women entered the workforce in record numbers in the 1970s, and they didn’t step into historically women’s jobs — teacher, secretary and nurse. They had college degrees and exceptional skills. Their sights were set on rising up the executive ranks and into the corner office. They were making good money, and marriage wasn’t an economic life preserver. They didn’t need anyone to take care of them. They wanted someone who cared for and loved them on their terms. So, workplace practices, marriage vows, businesses and laws were changing.

1970 Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem on the cover of Time.

Doing It for Themselves.

Title IX passed in 1972 and prohibited sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that received funding from the federal government. That meant sports opened up to women, team sports. Women dressed, styled their hair and did their makeup to look attractive, to be comfortable or to move and defined what attractive meant for themselves. Men were no longer the final arbiters on women’s beauty. And that was just the beginning. 

Caught Up in the Moment.

The definition of family, health care, sports, fitness, the state of our institutions, wages, the design of cars and furniture and more, the launch of lifestyle brands, openness about periods and pregnancy, different body types, wellness, self-care, day spas, environmental awareness, organic everything, career choices and working mothers demanding the flexibility to have families and successful careers. It all changed. Some people loved this. Others fought it tooth and nail. Women’s magazines and savvy, profit-driven companies celebrated it. In many cases, they drove and made sense of the changes in women’s lives, and in the process built customers for life. I wish change had stuck and women weren’t back in the trenches, but I had the time of my life and met some of the most extraordinary people.



A quality of someone or something that causes excitement and admiration because of its style or attractive appearance” is how the Cambridge English Dictionary defines glamour. Revlon once defined glamour and beauty innovation in America. By the time I started working there in 2002, the brand had lost its luster. And innovative? No. A growing number of women thought of it as a drugstore brand that their mothers or grandmothers wore. When women wanted organic and natural good looks, was the idea of glamour still relevant? If it was, what did it look like? After seventy years, did Revlon have a next act?

Timelines Are Inspiration.

In addition to looking at sales figures of products and decks of research on the color cosmetics industry, I went into the company archives and did what I’ve done on many projects — built a timeline. A quick snapshot: In 1932, Revlon started up and introduced the first-ever nail polish. By 1940, it was making lipsticks and selling them and their matching nail polishes in beauty salons, a whole new sales channel. During World War II, the company made first aid kits and dye markers for the U.S. Navy. After the war, Revlon listened and paid attention to what women wanted and needed and played to the freedoms they had gained on the home front and front lines. In 1952, Revlon launched Fire & Ice and positioned makeup as a tool for women to wear for themselves. 


The ad that launched a whole new way of marketing cosmetics to women.

A First for the Cosmetics Industry.

Kay Daly, the highest-paid woman executive in the United States at the time, wrote the two-page Fire & Ice spread. She chose engineer-turned-model Dorian Leigh and geared the ads to women. This was a first. Previously, makeup advertising had always been about pleasing and attracting men. Women loved this ad because it suggested that applying lipstick was something a woman did for her own pleasure and gratification. Fire & Ice became Revlon’s top makeup shade.

Everything Old Is New Again.

Sort of. On the wings of its Fire & Ice success, Revlon became a big-name Hollywood star brand. Marilyn Monroe, though never featured in ads, wore Revlon’s Kiss Me Coral 750 and talked to the media about how much she loved it. Other idolized beauties modeled for Revlon, positioning it as the celebrity brand. On March 4, 1974, People magazine hit the newsstands. Celebrities’ lives were out in the open — their homes, their clothes, their makeup, their cars and their dirty laundry — and they were people swapping stories with the magazine’s readers. Good news for Revlon.

Celeb BFFS.

Stars and supermodels and their fans were now on a first-name basis — Marilyn, Cindy, Halle, Julianne, Susan, Eva, Claudia, Linda, etc. — friends. Welcome to the age of relatable glamour. Women had the money to buy what their celebrity friends were selling and had enough money to switch up to the higher priced department store brands. The 1970s, 80s, 90s and beyond woman was also on the hunt for natural and for product innovation, not just in color cosmetics, but in skincare, hair color, nail care and fragrance. Cosmeceuticals were hot; claims of hope in a bottle — eternal beauty, better skin — were everywhere. Revlon had to get to know its market better and how to reach it. 

Up to the Job.

Jack Stahl, Revlon’s CEO from 2002 to 2006 and my boss, was a great listener and a brilliant student of consumer behavior. He believed in unlocking the potential of his powerful brand across all its businesses. This would be a complex job. Each business category had different competitive needs and goals. Every retailer had different measurements for success in order for Revlon to maintain relationships with it. 

You Don’t Learn Everything Sitting in Your Office Chair.

To find where the brand sat on the shelves and in consumers’ minds, a group of us flew down to Bentonville, Arkansas to shelve products at a local Walmart. We started work at midnight, moving products out of the stockrooms and onto the sales floor. As we filled the shelves, it became clear that Revlon had too many products that were similar, and the type on the packaging was too small, especially if a shopper needed to bend all the way down to find a small tube or jar on the bottom shelf. We came back to the office, edited the lines and created bigger, clearer navigational graphics. I can say that making a picture card Rolodex for my mother forty years earlier had most certainly helped give me insight into Revlon’s customer and improve their shopping experience — and with that, the company’s sales.



Mary Ann Restivo’s advertising celebrated the woman not her clothes.

Mary Ann Restivo designed clothes that had style but never overwhelmed the woman wearing them. So, the challenge for this campaign was to tell the story of a woman like Mary Ann herself — smart, present and charming. The solution: you cast a model, not a supermodel. Have other people tell her story, because the Mary Ann Restivo woman would never say great things about herself. The ads gave the woman’s father, child, hairdresser, doorman and partner voices to talk about who she was, not about what she was wearing.


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The first issue of Ms. in New York magazine.

To paraphrase Samuel Goldwyn, the harder I worked, the more I stretched, the luckier I got. I still celebrate the day in 1971 when I stepped into my job as assistant art director at New York magazine. Milton Glaser, my teacher, my navigator and rabbi, took me on board. I had no experience, but he believed I had more in me than I could see.

Publishing Firsts.

When the New York Herald Tribune, where New York magazine had been the Sunday supplement since 1963, closed its doors in 1966, Milton and Clay Felker stepped in and, a year later, launched New York as the first weekly city magazine. They cultivated a home and a platform for great literary talent, plus cultural and political thinking, and gave birth to the New Journalism, Radical Chic and then Ms., the first feminist magazine. 

High Anxiety.

Clay was all emotion. If we couldn’t get a source for a quote, if photography was coming in too late to make a deadline, he would stand up, slam something down on his desk and pace. He had four hairs on his head, and for me, they were his emotional barometer. They stood up straight when he was anxious or angry. Milton was Clay’s tranquilizer. I stayed away when those four hairs stood on end, but not too far away. We were too many people in a small space. I think all that bumping into each other contributed to us connecting and working well together.

Founding Mothers.

As part of the 1971 launch of Ms., I worked as founding art director with Gloria Steinem and Nancy Newhouse. With the support of Clay and Milton, Ms. was born as a magazine within a magazine — a special section in New York. Naming the baby was not easy. The list of possible names for Ms. was long. Very briefly, we played with the name Sisters. Close, but not big enough. Tapping into a movement, Ms., the honorific not tied to a woman’s marital status, spoke of self-definition and a power to be reckoned with. Ms. was the right name — it was momentous and would impact the culture.

Sisters Ms


Lee Eisenberg, an author and the editor of Esquire in the 1970s and 80s, called me and said he was working for this brand, Chico’s, and they had a lot of interesting clothes and accessories. I laughed, Oh, my mother-in-law wears Chico’s.” He paused and responded, Come talk to me about it.” Never one to walk away from a challenge, I went.

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Chico’s started as a Mexican folk craft store in 1983 on Sanibel Island, Florida by Marvin and Helene Gralnick. Their biggest seller was sweaters. That’s how they got into women’s fashion retailing. They were given a gift of a talking parrot named Chico, and that’s how they named their store.

Out to Pasture.

Chico’s was doing catalogs and advertising, but they weren’t shifting product. I looked at their advertising, and it reminded me of Cialis advertising — a couple in bathtubs gazing at a sunset. Chico’s ads were women on the top of a hill looking out on the sunset. Taking time to smell the roses? 

Pumping It Up.

Jerry Della Femina once told me he’d done advertising for a product that promised to give you more energy. He’d put older people in a rollercoaster, and that said youthfulness and tremendous energy. Connection made for me. Chico’s ads needed energy. I agreed to take on the job of revamping the company’s advertising and branding for a year or two. I ended up staying at Chico’s for six years. 

Sticking My Neck Out.

We searched and found a beautiful, lively middle-years model, short dark hair, great legs, and we paired her with a very energetic photographer. Chico’s brand manager was nervous about the idea and straying too far away from what they’d always done. The CEO gave the campaign the green light. Still, I was worried I might lose my job on the first ad I did for them. 

You Should Be Dancing, Yeah!

We dressed our model in a little jacket with a ton of beads and jewelry on, and she danced in front of the camera. She and the photographer fed off of each other’s energy. 

A Big Opening Night.

The commercial ran, and that jacket sold out by ten o’clock in the morning the first day it was on-air. Women loved being represented in an energetic way, being seen as vital, still standing, engaged and contributing — and the jacket and beads were adorable at a great price point. Accessible, affordable, attractive fashion. 


Skin damage

As the keynote speaker at a fundraising gala hosted by the beauty industry, I brought in a camera that captured facial sun damage and set it up at the back of the room. I started my speech with my before and after pictures, taken before I got on stage, and watched as most of the attendees went and had their pictures taken. An impactful experience for all.

Fashion is and always has been art, politics, social history and cultural marker. It supports women’s lifestyles and is a statement of identity. Fashion has a voice, it does speak, and it performs both practically and emotionally. A universal voice made visible, fashion has different meanings in different cultures. Fashion has line, texture and color and follows shape. Making and selling fashion takes a huge team of players. Nothing explains that better than the scene in the 2006 comedy-drama The Devil Wears Prada in which Meryl Streep describes to Anne Hathaway all the work that went into selecting the right color blue for a sweater. Whether a woman rates herself as a lover of fashion or not, it plays a role in her life. Embracing or rejecting fashion is a conscious choice, and that in and of itself reveals the power it wields in our lives.

My Body. My Difficult to Dress Self.

When I was growing up in the 1950s, the women in my family and all their friends surrendered to fashion, enslaved themselves to ideas of beauty. They fell in line. Me? 

I was an adolescent, and it was the era of the shirtwaist dress. Operative word, waist. Dresses often came belted, and I had a problem because I had a mesomorph (solid) body with an endomorph (round) center and ectomorph (slim) legs and neck. (I paint such an attractive picture of myself.) When I was growing up and watched Father Knows Best and other television shows about perfect American families, every one of the women and girls had a waist. I didn’t have a waist. 

A Necklace Around the Waist.

Years later and for about fifteen minutes, I did have a waist and jumped on the opportunity to buy my first belts. Kauffman’s riding store was close to the New York magazine offices, and I walked down and bought some of Kauffman’s big, elastic belts. They came in bright colors, and I could adjust them and make them bigger or smaller depending on what I weighed at any particular moment. I eventually graduated to a Kieselstein-Cord belt that my sister Debby coveted. Plus, she had a waist, so I gave her my belt. 


The Kieselstein-Cord belt: THE belt of the 1980s and a necklace around my waist.


In the 1960s, we had A‑line dresses. No waists, like me. Clothes were freer, easier and let women move. Skirts were shorter. We saw the beginning of women taking control of their bodies. (Hello, birth control pill.) Yes, women still followed fashion — in fact, the mini-skirted girls of the 1960s more than ever — but there was a shift. The way women lived their lives was changing, and designers were changing to fit the new lifestyles and mindsets. Fashion started following the women who wore it.


Through the 1960s and 70s, fabrics changed. Jersey and Lycra were the wonder fabrics. The dancer and choreographer Martha Graham showed us how the body could stretch and expand fabric. Shoes no longer had to match bags. Goodbye, garter belts, girdles and hose, and hello, pantyhose or no hose at all. Fashion was freed from the constraints that bound women — like no white in winter. We wore our clothes, not the other way around, and walked into a room before our outfits.


And revealing or concealing as much or as little was each woman’s personal choice. Fit and healthy and natural-looking became the new standard of beauty. If they chose to, women reshaped their bodies through diet, exercise, body shapers and surgery. There were more types of clothes and a dizzying selection, and women wore what they wanted to wear, when they wanted to wear it. That was a seismic shift.

When I was working,

a lot was going on in the world.

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Roe v. Wade is overturned. The Supreme Court votes 6 to 3 and women’s reproductive and same sex marriage rights are at risk at the hands of a conservative, Trump-appointed, court. Are we living The Handmaid’s Tale?



Zoom connects work-at-home, locked down and quarantined people through the COVID pandemic. We’re all on Zoom calls all day. Waist-up professional dressing takes off. The joy of Zoom wears off by 2022 but we remain grateful to this lifeline.

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Second hand luxury goods outsell new goods. The stigma of buying used is gone, and fashion brands demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by extending the life of their products.



Big bushy eyebrows are hot on Instagram and TikTok and then everywhere — natural, soap brows, laminated, micro-bladed, penciled, tattooed. Frida Kahlo was ahead of her time.

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The Me Too Movement gains momentum and greater visibility with the accusations of sexual abuse against Harvey Weinstein. The hashtag #MeToo goes viral on social media and powerful men lose their positions and face prison and fines.

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Donald Trump is elected 45th president, gaslights and scams us all, removes environmental protections, strips civil and human rights, colludes with Russia and makes America hateful and ugly again.

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AthleisureYoga pants, leggings, shorts, sneakers, hoodies, t‑shirts and sweats that go from workout to anywhere are the big fashion trend and support our comfort-driven couch-potato lifestyles.

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The Paris Agreement is adopted and signed by 196 countries and put into effect in 2016 to curb greenhouse gases. Trump pulls the U.S. out in 2017. Biden reinstates the U.S. in 2021.

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LGBTQ rightsThe United Nations Humans Rights Council passes its first resolution on LGBT rights. In 2015, all fifty states expand LGBTQ and same sex marriage rights through various legal and legislative means.

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Instant everythingWe want everything in a nanosecond or less. Time-saving products are hot. We’re strapped for time and making ourselves sick and losing our sanity. Just breathe.

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Faux fur—PETA wins and faux fur is the new luxury. It looks as good as the real thing and clothes and home decor are sophisticated, utterly over-the-top and unapologetically fabulous.



The iPhoneIn development since 2004, the iPhone debuts to a chorus of raves and is hailed as a revolutionary breakthrough for the mobile phone.



Capturing shot after shot, rapid fire, the new 35mm cameras caught models in motion. They were no longer mannequins standing in place. Model and photographer moved in rhythm, and stills became film. In photo sessions and on the printed page, models moved the way women moved in their lives — walked, danced, jumped. Photography celebrated and sold the clothes, and readers saw and connected with the women modeling the clothes. Models, designers, hairdressers and makeup artists were suddenly superstars. We knew them by their names and were attracted to their styles on and off the page. 


I found, early in my time at Vogue, that one of the best ways to capture the new spirit of fashion freedom of choice was through the use of symbols and heroic images of clothes, shoes, bags and accessories on the fashion pages. The portrait of a tote bag (Vogue, 1977) spotlighted a solution to a relatively new problem.


The tote bag takes its place in Vogue.

Carrying a Lot of Baggage.

Women in cities were walking to work in sneakers and needed bags in which to carry their shoes. Women firefighters, police officers, plumbers, electricians needed a bag in which to carry the clothes they would change into to go out with friends after work. Women carried work home, and later laptops. The tote bag became the must-have accessory, and designers from the mass market to the luxury labels sold them and introduced new products with every season’s collection. 

My First Executive Tote Bag Was a Bottega Veneta.

Years earlier, when I was teaching at Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn, I carried my lesson plans in a blue canvas tote bag with white piping. One day, I drove into the city in my red Volkswagen Beetle to run some errands and left the blue tote bag in my car behind the driver’s seat. When I got back to my car, it had been broken into, and the tote bag with all my lesson plans and notes was gone. I thought it was the end of my life. There were no computers or copy machines back then. I used to create carbon copies of my course outlines and turn them in to the head of my department so she knew what I was teaching, but I had no copies of my lesson plans. They were in my stolen tote bag. 

Garbage Bag?

The next day, the New York Sanitation Department called to say that they had found my tote bag and papers, and I needed to come down to Varick Street to retrieve them. I went and got my bag, which the Sanitation Department workers had found when they were emptying a dumpster. My lesson plans smelled so bad, but I was so grateful I got them back. Still, I was sad that the thieves thought my lesson plans were garbage. 

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What do you wear to work?

What do you wear to work?


My feet are not so wonderful: flat, bunions, narrow heels, Morton’s neuroma. Shoes have always been a challenge, beginning at age five. After seeing Cinderella, I got a souvenir plastic glass slipper and, of course, it didn’t fit. When I was appointed editor-in-chief of SELF, I received a clothing allowance and bought signature Carolyne Manolo Blahnik pumps, which are named after Carolyne Roehm. The pumps lived up to their promise of comfort and style. 

One day, to save time walking from Lexington Avenue to Madison Avenue, I took the shortcut through Grand Central Station. As I was climbing the stairs at Forty-fourth and Vanderbilt to get to the Condé Nast building, the heel of one of my Manolos landed in something soft — a New York City rat. It was not pretty, but I discreetly shook my leg, and the rat fell loose and slowly hobbled off. I soldiered on, up the stairs to my job in the chicest shoes with the chicest people in New York City. 


Coats are loaded with meaning. For my parents, while they made their way from Europe, a coat was a shelter, a blanket, security. The importance they placed on having a proper coat was significant, and swaddling me in wooly layers became their obsession. From late fall to early spring when I was a toddler, my mother dressed me in a plaid wool coat, matching hat with earflaps and leather leggings that zipped from the bottom up. It was almost impossible to squeeze me into this get-up. It took forever to get me ready and out the door, but that get-up protected me from cold, rain, snow, sleet, hail and whatever else might fall from the sky.


Me, looking like a sausage, dressed ready to go outside.

The Power of Television.

When I was nine, my needs for a coat were less about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and more about ego. I begged and begged, and my parents finally surrendered to my pleading for a turquoise leather jacket with matching leather buttons. This jacket triggered my obsession with Revlon’s Aquamarine Lotion and turquoise ink from the five- and ten-cent store. As a twelve-year-old, I watched the West Point Story television series. I loved the cadet uniforms, and I cajoled my mother into buying me a gray wool collarless slim coat with black grosgrain trim. I was a little cadet and would even hum the theme music when I wore that coat. 

Investment Dressing.

When I was older and had to spend my own money on coats, I opted for more practical and expensive outer garments. As a high school teacher, I invested in the Calvin Klein camel wool polo coat from his first collection sold at Bonwit Teller. Then there was the muted pink cashmere and wool blend Mila Schön coat with beautiful matching apricot-colored Bakelite buttons and loop fastenings that I bought at Henri Bendel. Around the same time, I converted my mother’s old fur coat into a collarless jacket that had hidden closings and purchased a long wool gabardine trench. When I switched jobs, I stepped off the elevators onto the floor of the Bazaar offices wearing a long, black shearling YSL coat with fur trim and frog closings. That winter, many of my colleagues were wearing the Norma Kamali big Sleeping Bag Coat. It was lightweight and warm and everyone felt cozy and was all smiles.

A Coat for All Seasons.

A black Halston wool knit cape was what I thought I needed to round out my outerwear wardrobe. That cape had drama like a Martha Graham costume. Many editors, like Mary Jane Poole of House & Garden, swept their capes over their shoulders with one hand and great bravado. I bought the cape but could not master the entrance, so I gave it to my fashionable sister. Next came the Stephen Sprouse oversize car coat in black wool with toggle closures, which I wore until it was threadbare. When I was pregnant with my daughter, Julia, I appropriated my husband’s raincoat lined in gray flannel. After eighteen years and many repairs, I went to a tailor and attempted to have the raincoat copied. That turned out badly, and finally I had to say goodbye.



Today, there are fewer rooms for me to make an entrance. Coats are less loaded with meaning, and I think about them as getting me from here to there, keeping me warm and dry in any weather. This last layer on and first layer off, a transitional object. I put on a coat to protect me before I step outside and take it off to settle into my inside world. And yes, it is emotional armor, and its pockets still serve as my purse.



My husband, Doug, was hired in the 1970s to create the corporate identity for a new high-end shoe store in Pittsburgh. The client loved the logo, shoeboxes, shopping bags and advertising he designed and wanted the store opening to be a major local fashion industry event. I suggested smearing concrete on the sidewalk in front of the store, inviting Pittsburgh’s celebrities to the grand opening and having them leave their footprints in the cement. That didn’t happen. Luckily inspiration hit, thanks to Andy Warhol and the I Love Shoe campaign he did for Andrew Geller. I told Doug, Bring in a piano and pianist, and I will sing show tunes — Gershwin and Porter, etc.” Remember, I don’t sing. I belt. The night arrived. I got drunk, handed my sheet music to the pianist and opened with Embraceable Shoe.” I followed with I Love Shoe a Bushel and a Peck” and then Shoe Were the One.” By my third song, our guests were around the piano singing with me.


I believe everyone who works on Seventh Avenue really wants to be on Broadway, treading the boards, singing their hearts out, bowing to thunderous applause. If you walked up and down Seventh Avenue, there were dance studios, voice coaches. I had been wanting to do a fundraiser for breast cancer and decided to organize The Fashion Follies.

Fashion Follies

It legitimatized a dream.

The Industry Rallied.

People came out to show off their hidden talents — the head cutter from a design studio who always wanted to be an opera singer, the showroom models who imagined singing and dancing in the chorus. With a lot of help from a lot of people, I pulled a team together. 

Curtains Up! Light the Lights!

Leo Lerman, features editor at Vogue, got an actual Broadway theater for a Monday night. We printed a Playbill, which I still have, and for one dazzling night played to a standing-room-only crowd that included everyone at Condé Nast, including S.I. Newhouse, and the entire fashion industry. 

We Opened on a Real High.

Everything went beautifully until the last number, which was a takeoff on the bridal gown at the end of a fashion show. There was a multitude of dresses lined up and ready to go. Unfortunately, they did not fit through the opening on the stage. Traffic slowdown. I was sweating. The audience was patient and kind, and certainly for a lot of people on Seventh Avenue and for women struggling with breast cancer, dreams did come true that night.

Theme 4: CULTURE


Magazines, both print and digital, anticipate needs, guide, inspire, transform, build awareness and acceptance, drive change, charm and make sense of and navigate trends and culture. The print versions are physical objects. That’s their special sauce. You hold them, literally and figuratively. You set the speed, not your thumb, for reading front to back, back to front, for taking in pictures and words together. Like an Adirondack chair, the print version allows you to relax, sit back and escape. You can breathe in and exhale out as you tear out a page and save it for future use.

Today, when a nanosecond is too long to wait, magazines can deliver a digital experience through instant email and text updates, social media that takes you inside the action, podcasts that speak to you as you drive or walk and webcasts and films that take you to places real or imagined. No mere dalliance, the love affair between a magazine and its reader. It is built on shared interests, identification and understanding.

Magazine Firsts


Advance Publications, the parent company of Condé Nast, bought The New Yorker in the 1980s and brought in Robert Gottlieb as editor-in-chief. Bob Gottlieb, having served as editor-in-chief and good shepherd at Simon & Schuster and Knopf, knew how to edit. 

Smedrik to the Rescue.

S.I. Newhouse assigned me to help Bob and The New Yorker in any way that might be useful. Bob paired me with Ingrid Sischy, former longtime editor of Artforum and Interview, as well as contributor to both Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Both Bob and Ingrid were the highest order of the cognoscenti class, knowledgeable about all things cultural and very connected. Compared to them, and comparison was my problem, not theirs, I was a smedrik, an outsider. That’s what I felt, not what they projected. 

I Fit Right In.

It was like being invited to the best party in the world, and better yet, I didn’t have to dress up. Bob wore khaki pants, no tie, no jacket and his shirtsleeves were always rolled up. Ingrid’s glasses were always broken and held together with tape. 

The three of us spent Monday afternoons ever so slowly transforming the G.O.A.T. (Goings on About Town) black-and-white, all-text section of the magazine. We added illustration and a bit more descriptive copy and talked and laughed. Late in December, Bob asked what I was doing for the Christmas holiday, and I mentioned that my husband, Doug, and I would be in North Miami Beach visiting his grandparents. Bob asked a favor for his book project titled A Certain Style, The Art of the Plastic Handbag 1949 – 59. If I had the time and the interest, would I keep my antennae up for plastic handbags? The guidelines: If the bag cost ten dollars or less, buy it; more than that, call him. 

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One of the plastic pocketbooks I picked up on my treasure hunt.

I Love a Mission.

After scouting at the early-bird specials and bargaining at post-modern junk stores, I filled the overhead compartment of our plane home with a dozen plastic architectural masterpieces smelling a bit of mothballs. 


Among the other nicknames I’ve earned during my career, some might add midwife or doula, as I’ve assisted at the birth of a number of magazines. I have lost a lot of sleep wondering if I spent my publishing career simply creating solutions to problems readers didn’t know they had until we started writing about them. 

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Do you dream in color?

Do you dream in color?

The Pink Ribbon Campaign Advanced the Cause of Breast Cancer Awareness and Research. 
These days, we all go pink for breast cancer awareness in October. In 1990, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation started handing out pink ribbons at its Race for the Cure. After Phyllis Starr Wilson died of breast cancer, Alexandra Penney, SELFs then editor-in-chief, and Estée Lauder’s Evelyn Lauder took the pink ribbon and launched the campaign to put ribbons on cosmetic counters across the country. Every one of us at SELF got behind this effort.

Funding for Breast Cancer Research Grew by the millions and billions. More women and men had mammograms. Health screening guidelines were issued and updated. Prevention, patients’ rights and new treatments made news. Breast cancer was caught at earlier stages. Quality of life and care for many breast cancer sufferers and survivors improved. Women shared their stories, started talking about what had once been taboo, knew they were not alone and found support and advocacy, and SELF and its staff was at the forefront.

Drive-Through Mastectomies Were Commonplace
when I stepped in as editor-in-chief of SELF. Some insurers didn’t cover overnight hospital stays for women undergoing these radical procedures. Due to this cruel and potentially life-threatening practice, many women suffered serious physical and mental health complications. SELF took up the cause. We brought the four big breast cancer organizations and women with breast cancer, some very young, to the White House. We met with Vice President Al Gore and First Lady Hillary Clinton and made the case to stop drive-through mastectomies. They listened to our research and the women’s stories, promised to take action and did. Insurance companies made changes. Doing this work to help end drive-through mastectomies will always be one of the proudest moments in my career. 


My career with Condé Nast, pretty much ended with SELF magazine. I started as an art director there shortly after it launched. I filled in for the very talented Bea Feitler, who had gotten sick, and I went on to become editor-in-chief in 1995. When I was editing, I took on controversial topics: LGBTQ issues, smoking, abortion rights. Some people weren’t too happy with me taking on these topics, and they were particularly unhappy with me when I decided to feature a section about death. 

Five Years at the Helm Of SELF.

During that time, a number of people close to me died. AIDS was taking people every day. Wars were raging. That got me thinking about how I could help my readers to be ready when someone they loved died or to face their own deaths. So, I decided to do a twenty-page section, The Good Death.” 

The Final Taboo.

I thought I could help women understand some of the choices they might need to make for themselves and their loved ones — like end-of-life care, social and religious concerns, resolving positive and negative feelings and grieving — so that they might be better prepared for and benefit more from what is a sad but universal experience. One of my senior editors, Judy Daniels, who had started Savvy magazine, came to me and asked if I really wanted to cover this sensitive topic. I answered yes. She shrugged and said with a long sigh, Okay.”

Good Teachers Know If There Is Readiness for a Student to Take on Something New.

Good editors must, too. I was ready to talk about death, but I was absolutely numb to the fact that my editors, salespeople and, most importantly, our readers were not. The Good Death” was the beginning of my editorial demise. Lessons learned: Check in with and listen to your readers or customers. Vet your ideas. Put your readers’ needs above your own, which I certainly didn’t do with this story. Reader readiness is critical, and you cannot persuade anyone to embrace an idea, a topic or a product if they are not ready to do it. And I should have listened to Judy Daniels. Her question was a good question. But I couldn’t hear what she was saying. I couldn’t think about what was going to do the most good for the greatest number of people. I had lost so many friends to AIDS and with that my perspective. I was so overwhelmed by my need to deal with death that I couldn’t listen to or heed any warnings. 

Theme 5: FOOD


My first apartment in New York was smaller than most walk-in closets, but it was mine. I was working at New York magazine, and I didn’t believe life could get any better. Ten of us at the magazine — including Milton Glaser — created a dining club named the Downtown Gourmet Society. Once a month, we would meet at one of our houses for a themed dinner. Each of us was assigned a course to prepare — appetizer, soup, salad, entrée, dessert, side dish, drink — and Ruth Gilbert, the editor of the CUE section of the magazine, the theater, arts, movie and restaurant listings for the week at the back, was our notetaker, capturing the minutes of our gatherings. 

Silly, Creative and Fun.

One month, we hosted an all-white food dinner. For our out-of-the-box dinner, every dish was from a recipe on the back of a food box. On our mock dinner menu, we had delicacies like chopped liver made from vegetables. When it was my turn to host, we had a handheld foods dinner. I didn’t have room for a table, much less a sit-down dinner for ten, and I couldn’t afford enough plates and cutlery for all of us. So, we ate finger food. I was responsible for the soup course. I made gazpacho popsicles. Disaster. They tasted horrible and dripped all over. 

Gazpachcicle 3

The real soup popsicles dripped down the sticks and all over the hands of the people holding them.


Talking Turkey.

I was an early user of AOL. I still use AOL. I’m waiting for something old to become something cool.

Thanksgiving 1993.

I was having a large crowd over and needed to get two turkeys. Big problem — I couldn’t get two turkeys and all the sides in our oven. I’d learned from watching a distant uncle by marriage, Bob DuBeau, roast lots of turkeys on multiple grills for an outdoor family wedding one summer. So, if my oven was too small, I wondered, could I roast one of the turkeys on our backyard grill? I pulled out about twenty cookbooks and back issues of Gourmet and Bon Appétit, sat on the floor and started searching for recipes. No luck. Not a single How to Roast Your Turkey on the Grill” recipe. 

Six Thirty A.M., Thanksgiving morning.

I got on the AOL Talk Turkey hotline and posted: Can I cook my turkey on my barbecue?” I got twenty answers in two minutes and a lot of them read: Just make sure you don’t run out of gas.” I responded to everyone who answered me, asked for extra tips, said thank you and fired up the Weber. 

I Had Two Thanksgiving Celebrations That Year.

One was with my family and guests sitting around our dining room table enjoying our oven-roasted and barbecue-roasted turkeys, and the second with my AOL family emailing to ask how my meal had turned out.

I Learned Three Lessons That Thanksgiving.

First, being uncertain about how to do something can lead to a new opportunity. Second, the Internet is a place where you can access information and advice from multiple places. Third, the Internet makes sorting through those multiple sources of information easy. I was so inspired and excited by my conversations with my AOL family and the three lessons that I started talking with S.I. Newhouse about entering the world of new media. He was already hearing the murmurings.


No one really knew the potential impact of the Internet in 1993. But Condé Nast had a point of entry — high-quality recipe and lifestyle content from Gourmet and Bon Appétit—and S.I. Newhouse. He was willing to step into the next open space. CondéNet and Epicurious, the food and gourmet resources site that grew from my search through those twenty cookbooks for a turkey recipe, were born. It wasn’t an easy delivery, but as always, I turned to my rabbis and mentors.

I called Jeff Jarvis, one of the great magazine editors, and told him what I was doing and that I needed to build a team. He suggested I call Joan Feeney, a colleague of his. Joan and I met, and we talked and talked and talked about, in addition to the project on hand, how to clean fiddlehead ferns. Joan was a trailblazer. She had grace, smarts, tenacity and the perseverance to put Epicurious together.

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Here I am with Joan Feeney who gave birth to her daughter Charlotte and Epicurious at about the same time.

Back in the Dark Ages.

In the early days of the Internet, we worked off a radio signal. One day, we panicked — editors, writers, publishers, art directors, in a tizzy because the network was down, the network was down; or so we thought. The cleaning person had moved a plant in front of a window and blocked the radio signal. Plant moved and we were back in business. 

A Law of Nature.

For every action, there’s a reaction. When we went high-tech with the Internet, we also went high-touch. These things happen simultaneously. When I started Epicurious, I loved getting information to lots of people and connecting them to each other. That’s the blessing and the curse.


Amy Gross, a brilliant editor, came to work at Vogue and we became very friendly. A talented and wonderful woman, Amy went on to become the editor at Mirabella and then at O, Oprah’s magazine. She lived out in Bridgehampton, not far from Lee Bailey — chef, stylist, designer, lifestyle guru and entertainer extraordinaire — and she introduced me to Lee. He had a shop in Henri Bendel that sold everything to do with entertaining, and he wanted to do a book about his modern and comfortable way to say, Welcome.”

Henri Bendel

The fabulous Henri Bendel and the always welcoming doorman Buster with Gerry Stutz, who turned the store into a fashion finds mecca.

A Whole New Way.

This was long before people like Martha Stewart were on the scene. Publishers were doing cookbooks that were just pages and pages of recipes in black and white with an eight-page insert of color photographs in the middle. This was not for Lee Bailey. He wanted to do something completely different, to bring style to casual entertaining, and I was able to do it with him. 

Surprise me with an idea that I’ve never seen before and that my readers and customers will love.” 

That was Lee’s ask of me. Not the easiest thing to do, but he gave me the freedom to go through the fits and starts of my creative process and access to his resources to do that. Lee had glorious photographs taken of napkins folded on the backs of chairs, beautifully plated food, perfectly dressed tables and picnics with sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.

Partners in Everything.

Doug and I designed Lee’s first seven books together. We both worked from home, and when we needed to step out of our married couple life and into our professional couple life, we did. We were busy, but we didn’t stress over finding balance. Personally, I don’t think balance exists. For me and Doug, there was no separating one part of our lives from the other, and there still isn’t. We still work together and on individual projects and continuously bounce ideas off of each other. 



The first book Doug and I designed for Lee was Country Weekends: Recipes for Good Food and Easy Living. We were working in magazines at the time and designed the book like a magazine — text and pictures together on the same pages. For the time, it was groundbreaking. The books had a great flow and were very visual. Lee broke the mold on casual entertaining by celebrating everyday food.

For the ultimate wonderful memory, in Country Weekends, there’s a picture of our daughter, Julia, as a toddler reaching over the table for a popcorn ball. It’s one of her first food pictures. I still have my Lee Bailey plates, and Julia has a lot of them, too.

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I have never been on the board of directors of a fashion or beauty business, but I’ve led many creative departments and collaborated on many teams. In the corporate world, creative departments are seen as expense centers and are usually the first departments to lose people or budget when cuts have to be made. Sad truth, because while talented people can hit a target, talented creative people can hit a target no one else can see. Why? Three reasons. First, many creative people are by nature outsiders and take an unconventional view of the ordinary. Second, creativity is born from chaos balanced with discipline — the macro and micro, the analytical and emotional. And third, creative people are willing to live with ambiguity and to look beyond what is to what could be. 

None of us is as smart as all of us” is the concept behind what I consider to be one of the most important business books of our times: Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman. I have probably given more than one hundred copies of this book to people who have worked for me over the years. I handed them out to not only set the bar high, but to help talented people unwrap the gift of their own creative possibilities and yield magic. 

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The creative projects I worked on were commercial. They had a job to do: to sell a product or connect a reader to information and ideas in a magazine, online or in a film. I worked with some of the greatest photographers, filmmakers, designers, models and supermodels, writers, illustrators, influencers, actors and actresses — those up-and-coming and near or already having achieved stratospheric celebrity.

Image Is Everything.

At least that is the case in the businesses I worked in. Images were the centerpiece, the star of the show. They captured a promise, the reason to make a purchase, and all the businesses I worked in traded on the currency these visual artists brought to a project or campaign and still do. The images they created captured an idea, emotion or aspiration and grew from the connection that was made between the campaign or story concept, the person in front of and the person behind the camera. None of the visual artists I worked with ever settled for less than their mind’s eye. Every project always took another roll of film, another take. 

First, the Idea.

Before anyone — famous or not — sat down in front of a camera, some creative person — art director, writer, photo editor — had to come up with the concept for the photograph, story, campaign, script, etc. Without a concept — which David Ogilvy, legendary adman and founder of Ogilvy & Mather, called the big idea” — and people to make it happen — get the budget, the buy-in from the publisher, advertiser or client — there is no superstar photographer, no model, no photograph. 

The Magic Starts Behind the Camera.

For every picture that tells a story, there is a whole other backstory. First, the clothes, accessories, beauty products, personal care products, objets d’art, flowers, home furnishings, food, kitchenware — whatever an editor wants to photograph — are selected. Picking the photographer is next. Celebrities often insist on using their photographers. Otherwise, the selection is based on the reader’s or consumer’s, editor’s or art director’s preference and budget, each photographer’s style, the client and the editorial line-up. Every issue of a magazine must be a pure reflection of its readers and brand, but all the stories and photographs cannot look the same. That means different photographic styles and themes for each story. So, the watch is always on for photographers who see and capture things in new yet resonant ways. 

It Takes a Village.

The projects I worked on with these talented men and women prompted customers, audiences and readers to see their emotional connections to a product, article or book — to understand the experience of a brand and where and why it fit into their lives. The projects I worked on with these creators were collaborations that opened my eyes and opened doors for all of us involved. Each team had its own dynamic chemistry, magic. Each team was like an orchestra, each soloist brilliant, but together creating something bigger than the sum of the parts and always, always, always giving all for the work. We made each other better. 


Richard Avedon shot his first Harper’s Bazaar cover in 1971 and is credited by many with creating the modern woman. Irving Penn once said, Avedon’s greatest creation has been a kind of woman… a very real woman and not to be mixed up with any other age.” By the time I started working with Avedon in 1968, he was a household name, able to capture in his photographs beautiful and disquieting moments that stayed with us. A master brand-maker, Avedon took intense, powerful pictures meant to provoke. His desire was always to be more than a fashion photographer. His large-scale photo of the Chicago Seven earned him that acclaim. To lure a celebrity or supermodel for a shoot or to elevate a magazine on the newsstand, I hired Dick. He often personally brought his film into the office, making his choices known.

Francesco Scavullo just loved to make pictures of beautiful women and wanted them at their societal best. He was also protective of the women in his photographs, pampering them with the best hairstyling and makeup. He photographed many women in reclining, soft poses, while men were photographed more vertically. 

Irving Penn was serious and witty at the same time. He designed through the lens. Whether it was the shapes of a posed model, a still life or the textures of a fabric, the final still was always complete. Through his pictures, Penn helped me understand the passage of time. As far as I can remember, he was the only photographer I worked with who did not play music in the studio. 

Helmut Newton was about sex and seduction, dominance and submission. His women became players in his private dramas. I would hold my breath when the envelope with his film was marched into the office. His picture of Lisa Taylor eyeing a man walking by her signaled the shift that was taking place: the object becoming the observer. 

Albert Maysles and I had so much fun working on a takeoff on My Dinner with Andre and titled it Lunch with Vogue. In our film, influentials talked with one another about the state of fashion, the economy, health, beauty and the arts. We shot at the Four Seasons, 21 and La Grenouille. Albert wanted to shoot from the center of the table, but reconsidered after he was advised that he would get seasick spinning from one character to another. So, we shot with several cameras. 

Gilles Peress, with Murray Bruce behind the camera and Jesse Kornbluth interviewing for Portraits of Photographers,” brought us to tears as he recounted bearing witness to the genocide in Rwanda. 

Patrick DeMarcheliers incomprehensible accent motivated subjects to lean in and engage. 

Ridley Scott before he was RIDLEY SCOTT shot for Calvin Klein Activewear. 

Robert Altman regaled our Revlon team with stories of shooting Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid while he shot Revlon’s Age Defying makeup with Susan Sarandon, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry and Eva Mendes. I was in awe as he gently commanded the room. I think it was his last commercial work. 

Peter Lindbergh always captured the person in his pictures. He was happy, seductive and twinkly, and you got that from his work. 

Aldo Fallai epitomized a timeless elegance. 

Arthur Elgort: I could hear the music in his pictures and feel the romance of a prima ballerina’s grand jeté or a fabric in motion. He appreciated everyday scenes and captured women in the moments between moments. I was lucky to work with him at the beginning of his career. 

Hiros images were designed so I saw the poster in each of them. 

Bob Richardson was introduced to me by Polly Mellon, an editor and model. It was at her request that I used him for a story, and it was sincerely and beautifully shot. Bob had been encouraged to return to photography by Dick Avedon and Steven Meisel, and I caught him at a good time. 

Deborah Turbeville made fashion both sensual and strange and found beauty in the melancholy. 

Oliviero Toscani, who I worked with at Harper’s Bazaar and New York, faced the realities of the everyday through his journalistic lens. 

Brigitte Lacombe made the modern romantic, and her images were right for the fresh, healthy and hopeful power of SELF.

Denis Piel captured the sensuous. That is his talent. 

An interviewer once asked me, You worked with so many photographers. Who would you want to take your picture?” None of them was my answer. I’m camera shy.

(Source for quote about Avedon: Vanity Fair, October 2020, Avedon Ascendant“ by Philip Gefter, page 86. It’s an excerpt from What Becomes a Legend Most: The Biography of Richard Avedon.)

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Can you control your feelings?

Can you control your feelings?


California. I’m there for a shoot. The night before, the talent tells her driver to pick her up at five a.m. so she can run on the beach. The driver shows up. The talent doesn’t. About two hours go by and a million dollars of crew, photographers, wardrobe and makeup are waiting. We call the driver. She’s not out of the house yet,” he says. We wait some more. Call the house. Call the agent of this star in the making. I’m trying to understand. Is she okay? Is she sick? Is she scared? What’s she thinking? Doing? My thoughts: When talent is late, perhaps they should pay for everyone else’s overtime. Wanting to keep a client calm while at the same time wanting to stick a latecomer’s head in the toilet is a line I too often walked. Talent that demands on-site massages or invites too many friends to a set should get a scolding. Each time this happened, I had to keep these thoughts to myself. I needed the film. 

Plates four season


Building relationships with colleagues and clients is so important. Some people are very good at building relationships over lunch. If you’re good at schmoozing over food and drinks, invite people and go out for lunch, coffee, dinner, cocktails. Enjoy, and if you can pick up the tab, do it. Business lunches were not for me. Eating comes with too much baggage and too much self-judgment. Food is too big a distraction.

Bon Appétit.

Near the Graybar Building (where Vogue was housed), there was a charming French restaurant, Le Cheval Blanc. Once a month, a group of us met there for lunch. It was organized by Despina Messinesi, Vogues travel editor. We sat at a big table in a corner of the room, with the requirement that we spoke only in French. I understood just a little French, so I kept my mouth shut except to eat. 

Free Lunch.

The original Four Seasons restaurant had two entrances, one on Park Avenue and the other on East Fifty-third Street. On the walls of the Park Avenue entrance hung a Picasso tapestry. There were private rooms for private parties and then the two main rooms: the Pool Room, which you entered from East Fifty-third Street and where the advertising industry ate, and the Grill Room, where the heads of media empires ate and the maître d’s and waiters were ruthless gatekeepers. Everyone seemed very friendly with each other. I felt like an impostor and truly feared the Grill Room. We had corporate accounts, so we ate and talked business with our lunch dates, and a bill was never brought to our tables. Condé Nast held its Christmas party every year in a private room. The new editors sat at S.I.’s table. As the new editor-in-chief of SELF and later as president of CondéNet, I had the honor to get a seat at the table, twice. 

Above the Store.

When I worked with the photographer Richard Avedon, we sometimes ate lunch in his apartment kitchen above his studio. It was small, but beautiful. Dick cherished beautiful things, right down to his table setting. Only he could never remember how to set a table, so hanging on the wall was a drawing of a plate with a knife on the right, fork on the left.



I’m a seeker. I’ve seen astrologers, psychics and tarot card readers, and I have taken lots of business courses and read self-improvement books. I’ve played the I Ching and been in and out of all kinds of therapy. I’m an EST graduate, a six-day training survivor. I meditate and read sections of the Old Testament while I’m looking for answers, sometimes not knowing the questions, but always feeling that something is missing.

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My business card for Japan.

Opportunity Knocked.

On one of my quests with Fernando Flores, my mentor and a leader and coach in business management, I learned how people work together, and that opened up an opportunity for me. I was working at Condé Nast and the company was growing. I wanted to understand how our titles could be successful in cultures with different voices, foundations and behaviors. So, I set out to understand: What was the heartbeat of a magazine and could its title be its umbrella as it grew globally? Bernie Leser had always wanted to start a magazine business in Japan. I became his associate on this project and that meant traveling to Japan. 

When in Tokyo…

To prepare, I took an etiquette course at the Japan Society. The course was very practical and began to give me an appreciation and understanding of the Japanese culture. 

I wanted to follow the local etiquette so that I would build some bridges and be productive. For starters, I made sure my business card was in both Japanese and English, and in the process of all my preparations, I learned the many ways respect is given and why. The Japanese have high expectations for their children, and teachers are key to their future, so teachers are a group of highly respected people. In my business conversations, I decided to mention that I had been a teacher, a sensei. It helped with conversations. 

Being Outside Got Me Inside.

Over a two-year period of to-ing and fro-ing in and out of Tokyo, I met Japanese publishers, potential advertisers and printers, but most of all, I found an answer to my question about belonging. Simple: Be the outsider. This gave me what I needed and valued: fresh eyes, an unconventional perspective and a chance to learn. I felt at peace in Tokyo because it was clear that I was the outsider, the traveler, the student. In Japan, I was myself. 

My experience in Japan was like taking a global business course in graduate school. Best of all, it was exploratory and there were no precedents for me. That was freeing, and the skills I built were transferrable to other ventures. 


Everybody does it. You march through the aisles of a bookstore or scroll online, and what stops you and makes you pick up a good book? Its front cover — image, layout, typeface, title, author, blurb raving about what’s inside. You peruse from top left to bottom right, then you flip to the back cover, eye the visuals, scan the great reviews. After that, you open to page one and start reading. And you will stop dead on even the most brilliant words if the typeface is all wrong, the leading between lines too narrow or too wide. I’ve designed a lot of books in my career and love working with the authors, illustrators and photographers to do my bit to make their books jump off the shelf and be welcoming to their readers.

Pile of books

Here is a pile of all the books I designed.


I love headlines, calls to action, catchphrases, memes, maxims and quotes that trigger ideas, inspire and motivate. A slew of these sorts of phrases about how to look at life, projects, business and people or how to get things done, figure things out and shift my thinking to a different speed or direction is catalogued and filed in my head. People I know have shared them with me or I’ve found them in books, plays or songs. These quips are my whatever-gets-you-through-the-night soothers and stimulants, my open sesames to my next aha moment. I share them in the courses I teach, with the teams I work with and with family and friends — and now you. 

  • Everyone matters; everyone wants to be heard and recognized.
  • Don’t let anyone rent space in your head.
  • Don’t talk to anyone when they are angry. They cannot hear.
  • If someone tells you they are humble, they are not.
  • Read poetry.
  • Always have a paper and pencil handy. It keeps the ideas flowing. It opens up more space in your head.
  • Pay attention to your thoughts and jot down notes, even if they don’t make sense at the time. Have an idea and don’t have anything to write with? Text yourself or call yourself and leave a voicemail.
  • Timelines are an organizing principle. Use them to gain confidence with a subject.
  • Business is human.
  • Value great editors.
  • Knowledge is dynamic, not static.
  • Don’t jump to judgment.
  • Work through an issue — don’t just look to jump to a solution.
  • Look at a situation or project brief again, and make sure you see the real problem to be solved. Think about what information might be missing.
  • To think outside of the box is ultimately a decision you make for yourself or others working together on a project.
  • Work with people who are agile and can adapt to change.
  • When you are working together, make sure you have the same sense of purpose and values as you move toward the goal.
  • Do not be seduced by speed or power.
  • You need to name it to sell it.
  • You need to measure it to manage it.
  • Keep learning to be comfortable with revenue versus expense and keep an eye on balancing bottom-line commitments against investments.
  • It is not a one-size-fits-all world. It never was.
  • Different cultures create a counterpoint to the ordinary.
  • To be creative is to be a steward of organizational energy.
  • Accept that you may not have much power to affect the outcome, and don’t be compelled to control it.
  • Be aware of the ghosts of past successes, mourn their loss.
  • Remember tension is a source of energy between what is and what could be.
  • Not easy, but sometimes being fired may be for the best.
  • The biggest danger is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.
  • Thinking growth? Ask: what is the right size for this business? Should I add on or start another business?
  • It takes a team — there is no one person alone who can do or fix everything and anything.
  • Understand your value.
  • Be careful of shiny objects.
  • Simple is the hardest thing to do because great design should disappear so that the message you’re trying to communicate can come through.


Existential angst. I’m riddled with it. Life has and continues to raise many questions for me. Different times in my life have brought different questions. Are they any easier to answer than the questions I asked when I was younger? I don’t know, but the number one question that keeps echoing through my brain now that I’ve left the corporate world is: Where do I go from here? I’m still living in the question, and I hope you will stay tuned for what’s next.