Vogue's editor recalls her "gentle suggestion" before a photo shoot to make Oprah "comfortable"

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated May 19, 2009 10:05 AM
Peter Kramer/AP, Margo Miller/Landov

Anyone questioning the power of Vogue need look no further than what happened when the publication’s high priestess of fashion, Anna Wintour, met in 1998 with the high priestess of television, Oprah Winfrey.

Questioned by Morley Safer during a 60 Minutes interview, Wintour, 59, was asked if the stories were true that she demanded Winfrey lose 20 pounds before she would appear in Vogue.

“It was a very gentle suggestion,” replied Wintour, 59, according to an outtake from her sit-down with Safer that ran Sunday.

Barely containing his laughter, the TV journalist then asked for a definition of “a ‘gentle’ suggestion from Anna Wintour” – who, after all, is best known as the not-so-loose inspiration for the Miranda Priestly character in The Devil Wears Prada.

“I went to Chicago to visit Oprah, and I suggested that it might be an idea that she lose a little bit of weight before she appeared in the magazine,” said Wintour.

As for O.W.’s reaction to A.W.’s gentle suggestion, Wintour recalls, “She was a trooper. She totally welcomed the idea. She went on a very stringent diet. It was one of our most successful covers ever.”

So far, there has been no recent remarks from Winfrey, 55, on Wintour’s comments, but on Sept. 24, 1998’s The Oprah Winfrey Show, devoted to Vogue makeovers, Winfrey said of “giving myself over to the Vogue experience” meant that Wintour told her, ‘You had to release all control to me.’ ”

But, Winfrey said, she also knew that “meant losing the 20 pounds I put on during my trial in Texas [with cattle breeders over remarks she made about beef]. Now I worked my behind off, literally. People say, ‘Where’s the beef?’ It was on my behind. Over the summer I was working out, working out, to get in shape. And it paid off I was transformed into Vogue‘s October cover girl.”