Oprah Mag’s EIC on Gayle King and Gatekeeping the Superbrand

The roster of media mavens, moguls and boldface names spotted today at Michael's.

DianeClehaneLunch_FeaturedI knew there would be no shortage of dishy topics to talk about with today’s Lunch dates, since I’ve been an avid fan of Lucy Kaylin’s writing dating back to her celebrity scribe days at GQ.

The editor in chief of O, The Oprah Magazine arrived at Michael’s at noon on the dot along with Jayne Jamison, the magazine’s senior vice president and publisher and Randi Friedman, Hearst’s executive director of PR. The gals were there to talk to me about all things Oprah and, as you might expect, they had plenty to say.

Diane Clehane and India Hicks
Lucy Kaylin, Diane Clehane and Jayne Jamison

I recognized the dress that Jayne was wearing immediately. It’s popped up in print and online a lot lately and Kathie Lee Gifford wore it on the Today show not too long ago. The floral frock is part of The Oprah Magazine Collection for Talbots, which was co-designed by the magazine’s creative director Adam Glassman and Talbots’ Leon Green, as part of a joint effort to support Dress for Success. The organization gets 30 percent of the net proceeds from each piece sold. No surprise here — everything is selling like crazy. (I ran out and bought several items the first day it showed up in the stores) and the collaboration has generated Oprah-sized impact for all concerned. Talbots has sold over 15,000 pieces and the collaboration has racked up 100 million media impressions in the past month. “The partnership made sense on so many levels,” said Jayne. Indeed.

Lucy told me it’s the first collaboration of its kind for the magazine (and the store) but that’s certainly not because there’s been any shortage of suitors looking to bask in the reflected retail glory that can turn any Oprah-endorsed product into an overnight sensation. The flood of pitches from companies looking to hitch their wagons to Oprah’s star is “constant” said Lucy, “Part of my job is to protect her from too much of that and perserve the integrity of the brand.”

After 19 years at GQ, where she penned more than 100 pieces and interviewed every celebrity you could think of (more on that later), Lucy made the move to Marie Claire, when she was at a point in her life when she “didn’t want to channel the desires of 23-year-old men” anymore. In 2009, she was tapped as O’s deputy editor and during her tenure scored armfuls of awards and accolades, including the ASME National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 2012, the Clarion Award for Best Overall External Magazine, as well as MIN and GLAAD awards for articles she conceived and edited.

Lucy moved up to the top of the masthead in May 2o13 and has found the job richly rewarding. “[Initially] I was overcome by how satisfying it was. Oprah is such a force for good and is helping people live their best lives. [The magazine] wasn’t about entertainment. It’s about something so much deeper.” A critical part of Lucy’s job is assigning and editing long-form pieces (bless you) for the magazine’s topical issues which have ranged from hair (in September 2013 with Oprah sporting an afro on the cover) to this month’s examination of depression which is the first installment of a three-part series on mental health. “Oprah knew [depression] is something a lot of women struggle with and she wanted to go for it. That’s her coverline ‘You are not alone.'”

Fellow gatekeeper and editor at large Gayle King, who is a daily presence in the magazine’s offices, plays a critical role. “She is hugely imporant. She has amazing taste and has a deft sense of what’s possible [with Oprah] in a larger realm.” Lucy’s communication with Oprah is largely through email (“She is not a micro-manager; she trusts the magazine’s makers”) and monthly in-person meetings. “Oprah and Gayle are wonderful in letting us do what we do.”

Lucy also manages to maintain a presence at events with Jayne and company when they take the show on the road. Shortly after Jayne joined the magazine in 2014 (after having served as Redbook’s first ever female publisher), both women got a crash course in the cult of Oprah when they made the rounds on the multi-city tour of Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend which included stops in Miami, Detroit, Newark, N.J., and Washington, D.C. It wasn’t unusual to have 10,000 people turn up to see Oprah while Lucy, Gayle and Adam mingled with the faithful in the ‘Oprah Lounge.’ “I got the most incredible letters after every appearance,” said Lucy. “It was such a joyful experience.”

The superbrand that is Oprah continues to grow “unabated” by the media mogul’s absence from daytime, said Lucy. With 42 million followers on social media and a devoted magazine readership (who spend, on average, 44 minutes per issue — the most time within their competitive set), the magazine, is, shall we say, not exactly a hard sell to advertisers who still believe in the power of print. In the past year the magazine has landed 14 new advertisers including Talbots, Diet Coke, Ford and Chevy. “We don’t compete directly with any specific magazine,” said Jayne. “So we’re a nice add-on.” Lucy added that plans are in the works “to move into a new phase of innovative collaborations” involving “the other parts of the [Oprah] empire.” Hmmm.

Now getting back to Lucy’s celeb reporting days. I asked her who was the most interesting celebrity she’s ever interviewed. “Tom Cruise,” she answered without hesitation. “He’s the greatest guy. We got along fantastically and it was during a difficult period.” Could it have involved a certain couch jumping incident? Yup. Brad Pitt is another favorite. “I spoke to him right after his break-up with Jennifer Aniston. We were literally crouched down in his suite at the Chateau Marmont and we could hear the paparazzi rustling outside in the bushes.”

As we finished up our coffee, I asked Lucy if she missed going one-on-one with Hollywood’s A-list. “I’m in a different place in my life. That was during my Sex and the City days when I was not married, didn’t have kids and could take off on a moment’s notice. Now I’m married with two kids. This is the greatest gig. I wouldn’t have imagined it would work out this way in my wildest dreams.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Lynn Nesbit and pals

2. Peter Brown

3. Jerry Inzerillo

4. Act One: Mitch Kanner; Second seating: Barry Frey and TouchTunes’ CEO W. Ross Honey (Great name!)

5. Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman; The Late Show: Beverly Camhe and Bill McCuddy

6. Andrew Stein, with so we’re told, girlfriend Dominique

7. Donny Deutsch in his usual uniform of jeans and a T-shirt (this time with some sort of vest-like looking garment) and a table of three pals

8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and Head Butler’s Jesse Kornbluth enjoying their pizzas

11. Chris Taylor and Felicia Taylor

12. Errant Real Housewife Jill Zarin with three very Housewife-looking blondes

14. Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew

15. Marketing man and politico Robert Zimmerman (who is always the best dressed man in the room!)

16. Producer and proud mama Joan Gelman with her sons Josh Gelman and Gregg Gelman

17. Maureen Reidy

18. Armando Ruiz

20. PR maven Maury Rogoff, who I will be ‘Lunching’ with next month

21. Gary Zarr

23. Adam Miller

24. Tal Keinan

25. Tech guru (with open laptop tableside to prove it) Shelly Palmer

26. Samantha Topping

27. Lucy Kaylin, Jayne Jamison, Randi Friedman and yours truly

28. James Amereen

Diane Clehane is a FishbowlNY contributor. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.