There’s no shortage of accolades when it comes to the leader of Bravo Media, Oxygen Media and iVillage. Lauren Zalaznick has been one of Time magazine’s most influential people, Fortune’s most powerful women and on Vanity Fair’s New Establishment list. The Brown University grad and mother of three values the same things in her employees as she does in her friends: discretion, trust and ultimate support.
What’s your greatest success?
I think it’s been taking an essentially lousy, dyspeptic, existential view of life, and somehow rechanneling that negative and insane energy into a healthy competitive drive, business success and immense personal satisfaction.
What’s your biggest failure?
At Trio, we did a brilliant documentary on the history of flops. Not failures, which you can’t even remember because every day has certain failures of spirit, or execution, of decision making, and they’re all kind of forgettable and boring. If I’m going to fail, I would hope that it would be a gigantic flop that shifts the shape of the culture as much as phenomenal success does. Ishtar. Cop Rock. The Edsel. That’s the way to fail.
What’s your motto?
Low hopes, high expectations.
What do you wish you invented?
Google. Or Spanx.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year?
Don’t underestimate the growing power of digital media and how it can truly fuel traditional media’s success. We’ve seen that with the launch of something like the Bravo Talk Bubble or Oxygen Live. Serving fans with ways to immediately impact content can be an organic, explosive, DVR-buster that creates an instant nationwide watercooler conversation. It’s not just about Web sites alone or cool apps. It’s about the alchemy of rabid consumers, great content and a powerful marketplace.
What’s your best business decision?
To ask to expand my business purview from leading two terrific, individual cable television brands to running a portfolio, focusing on an expert approach to an entire market segment. That’s when I went from being the head of Bravo Media and Oxygen Media to the head of Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks. It’s a long title, which is annoying. But every day, it puts to the test the adage of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. So far, it’s working.
What’s your worst business decision?
I don’t have a single business decision that has been so bad that it ever gutted a successful P&L or even mortally embarrassed anyone. All that tells me is that I haven’t taken a big enough swing at something.
Your greatest influence?
My first real job after college was as the assistant to the director of a movie. I don’t think there’s one thing I didn’t learn on that job. Business vs. creativity; physical labor vs. intellectual labor; stars and their needs; men and their needs; unions, budgets, negotiations; the value of great catering and craft service on a set; why you shouldn’t do drugs at work; that how people perceive you trumps how you perceive yourself. Most of all, stamina. Everything has been a variation on a theme since then.
What characteristic do you like best about yourself?
That I figured out how to accept the characteristics that I like least about myself but can’t change. That I can find humor in, literally, anything. That I think anything is possible if I try really hard to make it so.
What characteristic do you like least about yourself?
The ability to leave any e-mail unanswered.
What do you like to do best?
Be alone and think about how to solve difficult problems while I perform menial tasks like emptying the dishwasher, sorting laundry, or cooking.
What fact would surprise people about you?
I don’t own a pair of jeans. And I’ve never thrown up. I’m not sure that the two are related but they’re both true and when I tell people, they’re always incredulous.
• Zalaznick most admires people who have made lifelong professional commitments to bettering the world in fundamental ways.
• She does not like being put in a position where she’s asked to lie.
• At 47, she says, she’s too young for regrets. Regrets, she notes, are for deathbed confessions.
Lauren Zalaznick photographed by Jeff Ufberg