When Eva Chen was named as Lucky‘s new editor in chief yesterday, the news was met with general approval and excitement across the board. The reaction could be heard loudest on the many social networks where Chen has tremendous influence–she has over 47,000 Twitter followers, nearly 45,000 Instagram followers, and a widely read Tumblr. All total, Chen reaches around 1.6 million across her various social media platforms–which is part of the reason she has been embraced so immediately and so enthusiastically as Lucky‘s new leader. She takes the time to answer questions from all her followers. She makes everyone feel like she’s listening to them. And what more could you hope for in an editor in chief?
In his story about Chen’s appointment in today’s WWD, media reporter Erik Maza emphasized Chen’s young age (she’s in her early 30s) and gently mocked her use of social media, noting that her Twitter following was “over 46,000 and rising!” and that she was “likely the only editor in chief at Condé Nast who has tweeted her enthusiasm for the upcoming Disney show Girl Meets World.” And while Chen’s certainly not the only Condé editor in chief to embrace social media (Glamour‘s Cindi Leive tweets up a storm to her 27,000 plus followers, including shout outs to her “gangsta” babysitter), she’ll certainly be the Condé editor most adept at using it. She’s a digital native–and that’s a boon for Lucky–not a sign of her immaturity.
Most women’s magazines’ editors in chief are over 50 (Anna Wintour is 63). And, sure–with age comes wisdom and experience, but since when is being young and ambitious a drawback? It wasn’t that long ago that many EICs were on the younger side–much younger than Chen. Jane Pratt was 24 when she became the editor in chief of Sassy in the early ’90s. Atoosa Rubenstein was Hearst’s youngest editor in chief when she was installed at CosmoGirl at 26. But since the early ’90s, when we saw a flurry of younger editors, there hasn’t been much turnover. Anna Wintour, Cindi Lieve, Glenda Bailey, Joanna Coles, Deborah Needleman–they’re not going anywhere (even if they bounce around between titles). So it’s rare and really worth celebrating the fact that Chen is joining their ranks.
One reason we’ve seen fewer under-40s rising to the top in print is that, with the advent of digital, many young editors are moving from print to digital or to brands, foregoing the long road of dues-paying it takes to get to the top of the masthead at a glossy. Look at Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power, who left Elle to found Who What Wear. Or Susan Cernek, who left Glamour for Madewell.
But it must be said that Chen is more than just a social media wunderkind. She’s racked up years of experience at Elle, Lucky, and, most recently, at Teen Vogue as the glossy’s beauty and health director and special projects director. She’s got the glossy “grooming” as well as the skills of a “digital native.” As one of Chen’s colleagues, I’ve worked with her on various panels and stories. I can attest that she is one of the most whip-smart, attentive, and kind people I’ve come across in this industry. I’m personally excited that someone I feel is “of my generation”–who thinks Girl Meets World is worth tweeting about, who knows how to deftly manage several social media platforms, churn out stories, answer to advertisers, and impress Anna Wintour–is Condé’s newest editor in chief.