In the past couple of years, Anna Wintour has become more publicly involved with politics than at any other time in her career, leading many to wonder: Why?
Wintour, who is one of Obama's top-tier fundraising bundlers, has been particularly politically active over the past few months. She's attended two state dinners (one of which honored UK prime minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha) and hosted a fundraising event with Scarlett Johansson for Runway to Win, an official fashion fundraiser for the Obama-Biden campaign. This week, she'll host another Runway to Win event with Iman in Chicago, as well as a fundraising dinner in New York at Sarah Jessica Parker's house. While conservatives are criticizing Wintour's involvement in Obama's campaign as an indicator of the President's "out of touch"-ness (the phrase-du-jour), the Brits are suddenly speculating that she may be up for a job with the president, should he be re-elected.
Both the Guardian (where it just so happens Wintour's brother, Patrick Wintour, is a political editor) and the Independent, are saying Wintour may be a candidate to succeed Louis Susman as the US Ambassador to London, when Susman retires later this year. As the Guardian points out, the position is often given to someone whose fundraising efforts have been significant, as Wintour's obviously have.
In addition to her fundraising efforts, The Guardian points to Michelle Obama's evolution into a style icon as evidence:
In addition, Wintour has been instrumental in helping Michelle Obama dress fashionably, pleasing not only the first lady but presumably her husband as well. That in turn, benefits the business of fashion, particularly young designers who gain from sales and exposure after their designs are worn by Mrs Obama. Moreover, Vogue has consistently supported the first lady's effort in education and public health and was the first glossy magazine to land her for a cover.
The paper also spoke to a state department spokesperson who said,
An ambassador serves at the pleasure of the president. It's a designation of the most qualified person. But it would be erroneous to think of London as a nice, cushy, westernised post. This is a key strategic ally, so you're going to want a very seasoned person, be it on the economic or diplomatic side of things.
So is this a legitimate possibility? Is Anna Wintour qualified? Would she even be interested?
Speculation or a real possibility?
It seems unlikely. The reports, first of all, seem based on little more than speculation (though, as we mentioned, the Guardian does have an in with Wintour's family). And while Wintour's support of Obama has been quite public, so has that of several celebrities. "Anytime someone gets out front like that and becomes an integral fundraiser for a campaign you're going to have some speculation about their end goal," Donovan Slack, White House Reporter for Politico, told us. "In this case, however, President Obama has had so many similar people involved. If Anna is angling, does that mean that George Clooney and Sarah Jessica Parker are, too?"
While researching this story, we asked Sarah Wildman, a fellow at Johns Hopkins’ International Reporting Project who covers US politics for PBS and the BBC, if she thought Wintour might be up for political appointment, to which she initially replied, "Like an ambassadorship? Huh." Of course, "Anything's possible," she added. "I think that if you're Anna Wintour and you feel like over the course of the last quarter century you've made your mark in a huge way on the fashion world and you're still ambitious, you still want to make your mark in various ways, what way would be more amazing than contributing to an historic presidency, which this still is in many, many ways."
Plus, Wintour's never really seemed interested in a career change. This isn't the first time her public participation in the Obama campaign fueled speculation that she had political ambitions of her own, which she's swiftly denied. Of her political involvement, she told the WSJ last year:
With all the new media outlets out there, with all the noise, a voice of authority and calm like Vogue becomes more important than ever. The more eyes on fashion, the more opinions about fashion, the more exploration of fashion around the world, the better it is for Vogue. Vogue is like Nike or Coca-Cola—this huge global brand. I want to enhance it, I want to protect it, and I want it to be part of the conversation.
While Wintour still seems committed to Vogue and her unofficial role as the leader of the fashion industry, who knows how far her professional ambitions go? We can't help but recall the scene in The September Issue when, in a rare moment of vulnerability, she discusses her siblings (a brother who finds low-income housing in London, a sister who's involved with farmers'-rights issues in Latin America and the Guardian's Patrick): "I think they're very amused by what I do...They...They're...amused." Maybe she's still seeking their approval? Or has doubts about choosing a more frivolous career path? Only time will tell.