Harper’s Brown Loves Making “A Fantastical Idea A Reality”

Harper’s Bazaar features and special projects director Laura Brown spoke with FishbowlNY contributor Diane Clehane for a “What Do You Do?” article on Mediabistro.com earlier this week.

The Australian editor and special judge on Bravo’s “Project Runway” spin-off “The Fashion Show” spoke about the challenges of her unique job including celebrity wrangling and conceptualizing the special features that get the magazine noticed, like last year’s photo feature with Tyra Banks as Michelle Obama.

Have favorite part of the job? “It’s basically being able to make what is seemingly an untenable idea or a fantastical idea a reality — to have a light bulb go on over your head like, ‘How about Tyra [Banks] as Michelle Obama?’ and then having that happen,” she said. “I feel like a little girl from Sydney when I do those things like, ‘Wow, look at that!'”

Getting into the details of how the Tyra/Michelle piece came about, Brown said:

“Obviously, the election was on everyone’s mind. I just said to [Tyra], ‘Why don’t we do this?’ We have one pop cultural icon who is paying homage to a woman who is about to become first lady and is clearly an icon herself.’ She got it straight away. She had no hesitation whatsoever. We shot this months before the election, and we imagined the White House with the family. If we get one point for prescience, we’ll take it…She was great. We got so much press. There were people who loved it — and then there were some people from Harvard who couldn’t believe we put a Harvard sweatshirt on Tyra and thought it was outrageous. I love doing that kind of stuff when you get a reaction from people. That’s the point — you don’t shoot stories to have them die.”

Read on for Brown’s take on which celebrities sell best today and some inspiring advice for magazine writers.

On what celebrities are most influential today:

“There was a time a couple of years ago when everybody was following Paris [Hilton], Nicole [Richie] and Britney [Spears]. That’s passed a bit now. I think the women for our readers who we find compelling are the politicians — the lens is more on them than it has been. I think a woman who manifests curiosity about being compelling and straddling all different worlds would be Angelina Jolie. She manages to compel all of us in various incarnations, whether you work at the United Nations or read Us Weekly. The actresses like Jennifer Aniston are never going to go away. ‘When times are tough’ — it’s a cliché — but you want to read a bit of candy. You want to see a nice girl wearing a nice dress. We have enough news and swine flu to deal with. Also, women who live their lives well are important to us — they have families and rewarding careers. One of the greatest examples of that is Sarah Jessica Parker. I think she lives her life with such integrity, and she’s such a professional. She’s a mom and she takes James Wilke to school every day and goes to Gourmet Garage [grocery store]. She’s a Bazaar woman and another archetype that we like. A lot of these women are in the 30s and 40s. We like to think we can relate to them.”

And some advice for writers working for magazines today:

“I moved here right before the worst disaster in American history, so I kind of feel like if you want something enough, you can get it. Print and television all feed each other, and you need to understand and be able to maneuver within all of it. I knew one person when I came here. You need to have passion — passion is going to drive you where you want to go. If you have passion and you’re good at what you do, you’re going to do well regardless of the economy. I honestly believe that. You have to earn your stripes. You can’t expect things. Kids these days that expect things to be handed to them on a plate drive me nuts. Times are tough. It is really hard to be a freelancer. All the magazines have tightened their budgets. Nobody wants to be a young, startup freelance writer right now. Try and get a staff job. If you’ve had a career freelancing, stick with it — it will get better.”

Read the full story here.

Recommended articles