Lady in Black

“What’s better than being in a room full of women?” declared the auburn-haired blue-eyed woman in the front of the room. No, this was not “The Vagina Monologues,” and the woman was not Eve Ensler, nor was it Hugh Hefner. It was First Lady of American Magazines, Cathie Black.

I had met Cathie a few years back at one of the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women in Business Conferences, a list she has been on each on every year since its 1998 debut. This time around the venue was much more intimate, a salon gathering in an apartment overlooking the East River. I have occasionally found such senior women to be aloof and unapproachable, but not Cathie. She was funny, warm and real.

She was there to talk about her book and share war stories about 30 something years in the industry. In Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life), readers are offered candid personal stories, teachable moments, and straight-up advice from a woman who has seen it all. Hired as the advertising manager at Ms. magazine in its early days, Cathie was charged with winning over skeptical advertisers. Her sales team often showed up with promotional materials printed on hot pink paper. It was a heady time. Because a feminist magazine seemed a risky—and controversial—venture, potential advertisers sometimes pushed them straight out the door. As Cathie notes, “Adversity is a great teacher.”

Cathie went on to become publisher of New York in 1979—and the first woman publisher of a weekly consumer magazine. Currently, she heads up Hearst Magazines and manages the financial performance and development of publications from Cosmo to Esquire to O, the Oprah Magazine.

In Basic Black, Cathie asks readers to ponder what “having it all” really means, to them, today. She explores the idea of creating what she calls a “360-degree Life” for oneself, encompassing work, relationships, home life, and family. ….Though the book is a great read for any professional woman it is especially good for those just starting out. Imagine having a career coach like Cathie to tell you how to handle job interviews, which rules to follow and which ones to break, and why you should make your life a “grudge- free zone”.

When, in an effort to defend Hillary Clinton, Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey declared “Bitch is the New Black!”, clearly she had not yet met Cathie. Cathie is the legendary Black – just like your perfect little black dress she had advice for every occasion.

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