Radhika Jones just wrapped up her first Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit as editor-in-chief of the storied magazine.
Jones, started in the role in December 2017, took the helm from legendary editor Graydon Carter, who ran the magazine for a 25 years. The 45-year-old wasted no time making her mark on the magazine, putting new faces, such as Lena Waithe, on the cover and bringing a particularly diverse assortment of executives and creators to this year’s summit stage.
“It’s such an interesting time to take the role, just because there is so much change outside of Vanity Fair in the worlds that we cover. It feels like we have all this opportunity to tell new stories with new faces and new voices,” says Jones. “It’s true I am of a different generation than Graydon Carter, but I’m also very conscious that the editor before him, Tina Brown, was younger than I am now when she took the job and infused the magazine with her own energy and with the kind of prevalent stories of her own time.”
Jones says the vision for Vanity Fair is bigger than any single editor. While Carter sparred with President Trump for decades before he was elected and frequently criticized him in the magazine’s Editor’s Letter, Jones hasn’t made such explicit political statements. But she is engaging in the larger political conversation, particularly as it relates to diversity and inclusion.
“I have been really fired up by all of the conversations that we are having in our culture since the election, with the rise of #MeToo, it feels like there is a huge range of conversation about workplace culture, about women’s anger, about being heard, about power,” says Jones. “There’s a lot of energy around those conversations and we’re trying to tap into them.”
One example? Putting Waithe on the cover. Jones says she’s representative of an emerging new guard.
Now Jones is navigating her own leadership style, and how it differs from her predecessor’s: “For me it was a question of becoming comfortable with my own ability to lead, not trying to imitate someone else leading but becoming comfortable with my own style of communication and conversation and decision-making.”
She notes that because there haven’t been as many women in leadership roles, women simply don’t have the range of go-to examples. She feels lucky to have Tina Brown’s to look to.
Jones says encouraging the next generation of leaders is always on her mind. She recalls the lessons she learned from a single-gender education.
“I went to an all-girls school. There’s a whole conversation about same-sex education, but for me, one of the real benefits was you saw women in every role. Women were jocks, women were artists, women were class president, women are, you know, singing solo in chorus, and so you just get used to it. So I try to bring that expectation to my world, which is just to say, of course a woman can do any of the jobs.”
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