I had the pleasure of interviewing Lucy Kaylin, the editor in chief of O, The Oprah Magazine. Ms. Kaylin broke into the magazine industry as a fact-checker at Vogue. After Vogue, she became a writer at GQ, where she wrote more than a hundred pieces over two decades and was promoted to features editor. Ms. Kaylin joined Marie Claire as executive editor and wrote popular articles and cover stories including an interview with Barack Obama. Ms. Kaylin was a finalist for the MPA Mentor of the Year award and helped spearhead Marie Claire’s reality show on the Style network, Running in Heels. Ms. Kaylin was named O, The Oprah Magazine’s deputy editor in 2009 and became editor in chief in 2013. Ms. Kaylin has written two books, For the Love of God and The Perfect Stranger and contributed an essay to the anthology The Secret Currency of Love. Ms. Kaylin has an MA in English Literature from Columbia University and a BA from William Smith College, and lives in New York City with her husband, daughter, and son.
Lucy Kaylin, Editor and Chief of O, The Oprah Magazine
How did you end up as editor in chief of O The Oprah Magazine, what was your career path?
I started in magazines as a fact-checker at Vogue, then moved on to GQ where I worked for 19 years; it was a perfect place to learn rigorous writing and editing. Curious about what it would be like to write and edit for a female audience, I took the job as Joanna Coles’ number two at Marie Claire, then Susan Casey’s number two at O. When she left to write a book, I became editor in chief.
What are your responsibilities as editor in chief?
To have a vision for the magazine and execute it — explore themes that go to our mission of helping women live their best lives; hire, nurture and guide the kind of people who understand all that — who can help us be the unique, literary, occasionally quirky source of inspiration our readers expect us to be.
What is a workday like for you? Please walk me through a day!
Pitch meetings with editors of various departments, interspersed with reading manuscripts and working on copy; meetings with the ad team, lots and lots of brainstorming sessions — about future issues, digital extensions, partnerships, brand-building events, etc.
What is your favorite thing about working at O, The Oprah Magazine?
Working with really fun, talented people who care about the written word as much as I do; putting out a product that genuinely lifts people up, that so many value so highly.
What is the most important skill to have as editor in chief?
Confidence, vision, focus, the ability to communicate and delegate.
What is your advice for someone who wants to work at O, The Oprah Magazine or a similar publication?
Know the publication inside and out; pursue it from a place of genuine passion.
What is the most important quality you look for in a new hire?
The ability to think, write, and edit in cliché-free ways.
What is your best advice for fellow writers?
Work tirelessly on your craft. Think hard about what you want to say, and weigh and choose your words carefully. Don’t be lazy!
What is on your desk right now?
A megalodon tooth that was a gift from my former boss Susan Casey; a dragonfly paperweight from the desk of the late Art Cooper, my boss at GQ; and about 25 or 30 notes-to-self on little yellow post-its.
What is your morning routine?
Get my son off to school; read The New York Times; if it’s a nice day, walk the 22 blocks to work, clear my head and gird myself for the day.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t just let life happen to you. Be able to visualize what you want.