Editor in Chief
Written by Saul Taylor
“I love The world’s Best Events because I literally try not to go to any”. We find out how the effervescent Editor in Chief of InStyle magazine navigates awards season. For Laura Brown, this calls for somewhere to sit and our new favourite expression, “liver credits”.
Congratulations on the 25th anniversary of InStyle. How did it go?
We killed it. I had a couple of glasses of wine at lunch and texted Julianne Moore to say, “Can you please do a 1990s cover for the anniversary? And she responded, “OMG, you a crazy drunk,” which was immortalised in my September editor’s letter. I interviewed 15 different female movie stars and they each did a portrait for all of their past covers. We also did a portfolio of 25 magnificent dresses, which are some of the most iconic red carpet looks from the last 25 years that we borrowed from the designers and then shot on Karen Elson, Amber Valletta, Joan Smalls and many more.
It must have been quite a party as well?
On the page, it was! But we have two very big events in the year, which is the InStyle Awards and the Golden Globes, so we save our big parties for those and do a bunch of Badass Women events.
Tell us about Badass.
Badass came about when Trump had announced his first trans ban in the military, which was turned over before sadly being enforced not long ago. I stomped into the office, so pissed off. I thought it was grotesque. I wanted to find a trans woman serving in the military. My team found a woman called Jennifer Peace who had served on three tours. She was married with three children and as I was reading about her, I thought, “Wow, what a badass”. Then I said, “Ooh! That’s something, isn’t it?”.
We ended up doing a feature in the magazine once a month and once a week on the website. It started to gain momentum and then we produced a dedicated Badass Women issue. There was a bit of caution in some parts of the company. They would say, “Badass? You want to put the word ass on the cover? What about ‘change makers’? Or what if instead of the ‘A’ in ass, there’s a star?”. I said, no!
We put “Badass” on the cover and it won a National Magazine award. We’re on to our fourth issue now and it’s spun off into dinners that are the greatest assemblage of ladies. It’s a mixture of about 30 to 35 women of all ages. We end up in a pile with wine by the end of the evening. We’ve done about five of those now and it’s just great, different women meeting each other. It could be Allison Janney and Hunter Schaefer from Euphoria, for example. It’s that little secret sauce with those kind of things. We’re going to do a Badass Summit next summer with Badass T-shirts. It’s like running a club, but a club that people are invited to.
You’re quite active on Instagram. What are your thoughts on social media in the events industry?
Yes, I am, I apologise. I think it’s great when it’s used well. It’s the magazine of your life and you’re the editor, so you have control over it. I was hired half because of my social media presence, because my old bosses knew I could put a magazine together. But also because I was very much myself on social, I was engaged and unselfconscious about it. I think they found that appealing and I guess what some people would call, ‘modern’. But I think that you can get lost in it, obviously. You shouldn’t compare yourself. I always say you shouldn’t envy famous people because they may have more money than you and a bigger house and a table in a restaurant, but they get followed around more in their life than you ever will. I have a pretty healthy attitude to it. I’m on it a lot, but I’m not blankly scrolling all day. When the September issue came out, I carpet bombed Instagram with stories, but we had a lot to put out and a lot we were proud of. I have two parts to my social — who I am, and what we make.
Tell us how you approach those InStyle events.
I have this slogan for the magazine which is, “Everybody’s in”. Obviously that doesn’t mean the entire population of United States coming to every party. But it is about being a great host, and the greatest hosts are not snobs. It is like casting, because I have a pack of ladies who I’m friendly with and who are awesome like Allison Janney or Christina Hendricks or Ellen Pompeo Sassy ladies who are fun, have a drink and show up. Then I’ll invite some younger ones and then people will bring their friends and it’s very ‘from the gut’.
I want really great ladies to meet each other and in a relatively intimate setting. I don’t want to do a dinner for 100 people. I want to do a dinner for 30 or 40 and leave it at that and have everybody leaving, having exchanged e-mails and becoming proper friends. And ideally skipping me — when they can just run off and become friends on their own.
Laura Dern and I co-hosted the first Badass Women dinner. After that it was Tracy Ellis Ross, Taraji P. Henson, Lisa Jackson from Apple, and Jodi and Megan from the New York Times. For this one however it was just me. It’s great, because you blow off steam and you feel like it’s positive, not just railing at the administration all day which is exhausting. You wake up tired and angry every day, so I’m trying to alleviate that, I guess.
How do you decide who to give InStyle awards to?
Last year we gave the Man of Style Award to Jeff Goldblum who has an incredible style, but is also nuts — like great nuts — and he gave this hysterical speech. We then gave a Style Award to Elizabeth Stewart and we asked Rebel Wilson to present to her. Rebel’s also hysterical, so we already knew within this crew that we had some spice. So that’s why, when we’re doing awards, we will make sure there are at least two funny people that we give awards to.
What about the dinner?
The dinner itself is only about 160 people, so it’s pretty small and everybody gets to know each other. People come up to me and say, “Laura, this is actually fun,” and I’m like, “no shit”.
There’s usually so much obligation as there are so many of these benefits where you sit down and feel like you’ve got to be there for whatever reason, whiling away the hours before you can get the hell out of there. I try to do the opposite of that.
You get invited to lots of events. How do you choose what you go to?
I think the good thing about having been in the industry for 26 years now is that firstly, you earn your stripes so you don’t have to go to everything. When you’re younger, it’s exciting and if you’re invited to a dinner or a cocktail, you’d be buzzing around having two drinks then a dinner at 9pm. Now I eat dinner at 6pm. Once you have the measure of everything, and you’ve been to all these shows a few times, you realise who you want to hang out with and who you don’t.
We have a saying — we call it “liver credits”. I love a drink but I don’t want to use up my liver credits on people I wouldn’t really want to hang out with. So I’ll go to an event if it’s a designer, an actor or a producer who’s a friend and it’s a film for example. But we go to two months of fashion shows a year which is kind of like going to a party because you’re in a room full of people. So you get a very condensed experience of that and I get tired because I’ve got to go and put the magazine out and I’m not a baby and I need my sleep. I let the kids go and I say, “Godspeed guys, I remember being you”.
You must entertain at home?
No, I don’t really. We had my fiancé’s friends over recently because it was his birthday and we got a pizza, that’s it. There has to be somebody bringing food to the door for me to have anyone round, because I am busy. I travel a lot for work, I’m at shoots and when I come home, I just want to stop and sit on the couch and stare. So, no, I don’t really entertain at home. It’s kind of a little refuge. I buy my nice orchids and I have my glass of rosé and I sit on the couch. My idea of a good time at home is sorting out a closet because I have to feel like my base is in order.
What makes a great event?
Openness, a lack of snobbishness, status and anxiety, a sense of welcome, lots of booze and somewhere to sit.