Anna Wintour Responds To Being Called A “Cold Bitch”

“60 Minutes” devoted a 13-minute segment to profiling Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, this weekend. Journalist Morley Safer described Wintour as “a name that strikes terror in some, loathing in others, and transforms some into obsequious toadies.” Not that his observation is incorrect, but, geez, what a way to introduce someone.

It didn’t stop there. If the “60 Minutes” profile didn’t have you squealing at the high-profile cameos (Karl Lagerfeld! Andre Leon Talley!), maybe you’re a bigger ice queen than this supposed queen of the ice queens herself. Clip after the jump …

Wintour has been editor-in-chief of Vogue for 21 years. She’s an A-lister’s A-lister. She dominates the gossip pages and hosts the star-studded Met Ball every year, which most celebs would kill to attend. She makes—and breaks—careers in fashion and entertainment.

Yet the question that opened her TV profile? Safer asked her if she’s a bitch. Seriously.

He reminded Wintour that she’s “been portrayed as Darth Vader in a frock” and read a line from her unauthorized biography, which describes her as cold and a bitch. (Anna’s answer? “I try not to be.”) She handled the whole conversation politely, although we gasped and rolled our eyes at how rude he was being.

Of course, no one can deny Anna’s bad reputation, so “60 Minutes” can’t ignore The Devil Wears Prada entirely. But why is Anna’s stereotypically un-feminine personality considered to be more interesting than why she’s been successful at her job for so long? One wonders, would Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair or David Remnick of The New Yorker be asked—as the first question in an interview—if they are a-holes?

Safer also asked about her “coldness,” and the rumor that other Conde Nast employees aren’t allowed to ride in the same elevator as her, let alone speak to her. She laughed and reminded him that some of Vogue’s editors and stylists have been in her employ for 15 years. “They must be a glutton for punishment,” she chuckled.

By the end of the segment, one comes away with the impression that Anna is a shrewd businesswoman involved in every detail of putting out each issue of Vogue, from running the editorial meetings to choosing the clothes that will grace the pages. Any magazine is a collaborative process, of course, but Anna owns her power and knows what she wants. Mediocrity “angers” her. “I’m striving for the best,” Anna explained. “In the end, the final decision has to be mine.” It sounds to me like she’d taking responsibility. She’s the editor-in-chief. That’s her job.

Sure, she’s kind of a ridiculous public figure. She publishes a magazine that hawks clothes, shoes, and makeup that any woman who’s not in the highest of tax brackets can scarcely afford to look at. Conde Nast pays for her haircare and makeup application, and her clothing allowance is rumored to be $200,000 a year. [Note to our bosses: How much is our clothing allowance, again?] But we watched that “60 Minutes” clip only knowing Wintour from her “The Devil Wears Prada” infamy and by the end of it, admiring this extraordinarily powerful woman for her dedication to Vogue, her trust in her aesthetic judgment, and her business acumen. She’s clearly smart, if not warm and fuzzy.

Furthermore, there’s a recession going on, yet you won’t find out how it might affect “Vogue” until the very end of the piece. And we would have liked to hear more about that.

We can disagree over whether she uses her power, such as using fur in her magazine, or using very skinny models, in the best possible way. But we’re convinced that Anna Wintour is the best person for Anna Wintour’s job. We just wish “60 Minutes” didn’t hinge their story on reminding us about her reputation as a cold bitch.