Why We're Embarrassed for ‘Elle,’ Anne Slowey, and ‘Stylista’


Last night we went to the CW upfront party, which was super fun and exciting, not only because we saw the Gossip Girl cast, but also because we got a sneak preview of the sure-to-be awesomely-bad new iteration of 90210. It's going to be a great year for the network in '08–'09. But one thing that didn't look so hot was their much-hyped new show Stylista, a clip from which we've shared above. As you may know, the show follows a group of desperate young fashionistas as they vie for the coveted position of assistant to Anne Slowey, fashion news director of Elle magazine. The concept isn't a great one for the cast members, and it just might be even worse for Slowey herself.

In the few clips we saw (you can watch more here and here), it became immediately apparent that Stylista will be carefully constructed to mimic The Devil Wears Prada. Slowey's office vaguely looks like Meryl Streep's from the film, and when Slowey enters it, she carelessly flops her coats onto one of two assistant desks outside, just like in the movie. Her icy demeanor is blatantly imitative of Streep's in the film, and even the cruel intonation and (less entertaining) phrasing is similar. Which makes sense for producers who may want to cash in on the excitement people had for the movie. But the problem is, Meryl's character was based on Anna Wintour, the most powerful woman at the most powerful magazine in fashion. And Anne Slowey, for all her talents, is not the most powerful woman at a magazine that is not the most powerful one in fashion. For her to imitate Meryl-imitating-Anna feels embarrassing. It highlights in a painfully obvious way how desperately Elle wants to be Vogue. And it's uncomfortable.

The thing is, Elle is better when it doesn't try to be Vogue! It's more fun, more honest, and more accessible. It's much better represented by Nina Garcia on Project Runway, who is funny, a little awkward, and real. You feel like you would want to know Nina and have her tell you how to dress up. That's exactly the kind of feeling a fashion magazine that isn't Vogue should try to instill in readers. Not this haughty, holier-than-thou thing that Slowey is doing on Stylista. The last thing this world needs is more people trying to be like Anna Wintour. One is enough, thank you.

Of course, we'll probably relish every painful second of this series anyway. —Chris Rovzar