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
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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.”