“There are only two great magazines,” said the legendary American fashion editor Andre Leon Talley, who used to work at one of them, in a recent interview with Page Six, “Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.”
The latter, where Talley once worked, made headlines this week when its longtime editor-in-chief, “colonial dame” Anna Wintour, admitted to having failed, over the course of her 32-year tenure at the magazine, “to elevate and give space to black editors, writers, photographers and designers.”
The former made headlines for a seemingly opposite reason: Harper’s Bazaar just named Samira Nasr its first black editor-in-chief—and she’s Canadian.
Montreal-born Nasr will be replacing fashion veteran Glenda Bailey, whose playful, whimsical editorship at the magazine pushed boundaries in publishing and, per the New York Times, “changed glossy magazines as we knew them.” And, it seems she’ll be quite the successor: Nasr seems to already have a vision of the direction she wants to take the magazine in.
Below, a roundup of fast facts to know about Nasr.
She’s the first Black woman to helm the magazine
The most obvious thing to know about Nasr, in the context of this appointment, is that she is the first. She’s not just the first Black woman to be the magazine’s editor-in-chief, but the first non-white woman ever, since the magazine began publishing in 1867.
Harper’s Bazaar is the oldest continuously published fashion magazine in the United States. Its history is often periodized by the careers of the famous white editors who contributed to its pages — “the Carmel Snow years,” “the Vreeland years,” “the Avedon years.”
The fact that, 153 years since the first issue was published, the magazine has only now hired a Black woman as its editor-in-chief, brings into sharp focus its overwhelmingly white history of editors, at a time when the publishing world is seeing a number of employees — from Vogue, Bon Appetit, Refinery29, Who What Wear, and Man Repeller, among others — take to social media to share experiences of discrimination in the workplace.
Her vision for the magazine is about representation
Over the last couple of weeks especially, glossy magazines have come under intense scrutiny for their neglect on the matter of representation.
The #VogueChallenge, for example, reimagines what the magazine might look like if its covers were shot by and featured Black people. (Recall that Tyler Mitchell became the first black photographer to shoot the cover of American Vogue in 2018, and that, since then, the magazine has yet to hire another Black photographer to shoot its cover.)
Nasr hopes to correct this historical neglect, which exists in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, too.
“As the proud daughter of a Lebanese father and Trinidadian mother, my worldview is expansive and is anchored in the belief that representation matters,” she announced in a video, published to the Harper’s Bazaar Instagram account.
“My lens by nature is colourful, and so it is important to me to begin a new chapter in Bazaar’s history by shining a light on all individuals who I believe are the inspiring voices of our time. I will work to give all voices a platform to tell stories that would never have been told.”
She grew up in Montreal
Nasr grew up in Montreal and moved to New York City in the mid-1990s in order to complete a master’s degree in journalism at NYU.
In a 2014 interview with Chatelaine, she explained that she grew up reading fashion magazines and dressing herself up. “I feel like as a Canadian I should be an awesome skier, and I’m not,” she said.
And though she now lives in New York City, she still feels homesick sometimes—mostly for Kit Kat chocolate bars. “They’re way better than the American version,” she said in that Chatelaine interview. What else does she get homesick for? “Smoked meat sandwiches and Montreal bagels.”
She’s had an illustrious career in the fashion world
When she moved to New York City for her master’s degree, she began with an internship at Mirabella, but quickly found she wasn’t a very good writer. She began assisting stylists, and became an assistant to the legendary Grace Coddington, at Vogue Magazine.
Eventually, she went on to work various roles in styling at InStyle, Elle, and Vanity Fair.
She’s a single mother to an adopted son
In 2013, Nasr adopted her now six-year-old son, Lex. “Becoming a mom, and holding my son, Lex, for the first time [was my proudest moment],” she said in that interview with Chatelaine.
She told The Glow that she decided to make the leap into single parenthood at a point where she “felt ready but was still waiting to find my partner. Was I supposed to give up on being a mom because I couldn’t find that person? I decided to build the life I have always wanted.”
“Adoption now is very different from what you see in the movies,” she wrote at Into The Gloss. “I was there for his birth. It was a beautiful, involved, and loving process.”
In that interview, she stressed that it really does take a village to raise a child, and that although she’s a single mother, she’s had an incredible support system that’s helped her get the job done.
And she gets help from her little one too: When he was three, Lex was already helping his mom make her coffee in the morning before she took him to school.
“The most surprising of all [about motherhood] would just be the amount of love I feel for my son,” she told The Glow. “It reminds me that every decision I ever made that felt wrong at the time was actually worth it because it kept me on a path that lead me to Lex. There is nothing greater than being his mom.”
Also on HuffPost: See Harper’s Bazaar’s profile on fellow Canadian, musician Jessie Reyez.