"You private life must be ring-feued
By Tina Brown
One of the great things about writing a diary is that it gives you a chance to reflect and understand what you’ve seen, which also helps you to process it. Writing a diary made me see that, often, I was too impulsive. I said things I now regret. In fact, there are a lot of things I regret – later on I made a crazy move when I left The New Yorker to do a magazine partnership with Harvey Weinstein. That was a dumb mistake but he was immensely persuasive at the time.
I wish I’d known at 20 that while some experiences wouldn’t work out, they would lead to other paths that would hugely enhance my life. I would never have written The Diana Chronicles, or founded The Daily Beast or started Women in the World if I had stayed for decades at The New Yorker. To be a successful risk taker, you have to have imagination. You have to look at a dispiriting situation and think, ‘I can reinvent this’.
Although in my 20s I had a total lack of confidence when it came to speaking in public, I got used to it on the book tour for The Diana Chronicles because I had to make so many TV appearances. In the end, I just thought, ‘To hell with it, I’m not going to be nervous any more.’ And from that moment, I haven’t been.
When it comes to long-term love, I’ve learnt that it’s important to encourage each other to pursue ambitions. Harry [Evans, Brown’s journalist husband] is, I think, unique. What husband would say, ‘Okay, you can go and live in New York, I’ll figure out what to do, I’ll go home and pack up the house’? He was amazing like that – and I wanted the same for him.
We’re very supportive of each other’s risks. Some have worked and some haven’t, but however they pan out we always know that we are there for each other. That’s a great gift in a relationship. Not many people have that kind of secure love that will just always be there. We recently celebrated Harry’s 90th birthday; we’ve lived together for 39 years and it’s been nothing but a rollercoaster of tremendous creative bonding, fun, laughter, joy and support.
The key is that it’s important to protect the sacred times. I always preserve weekends for our family (I go out on a weekend about four times a year!) and made sure I got home for 6pm to be with my son
(he has Asperger syndrome and needed me to be there) and, later, my daughter. I lived my life according to those rules, so I could be there for my family, because private life must be ring-fenced.
Sometimes, of course, the balance is very difficult. Like every working woman, I’ve always juggled and it’s been completely crazy backstage. I’ve had to improvise madly when the house of cards collapses and one of the kids has an ear infection the same day as a killer meeting. A lot of us have been there in our lives. You kind of crash on and muddle through and keep your priorities. And you have to know where you’re not negotiable. In my case, that’s giving my family what they need, and there’s no work assignment that would make me think differently. At the same time, my family has had to be flexible because I am a very driven working mother and that passion distracted me. Even today, I don’t have any magic formulas. There is no glib magic bullet. You make it up as you go along.
Today, my concept of success is much more full-bodied than it was in my 20s. When I started Vanity Fair,
I didn’t have kids, I had just arrived in America, it was all about winning that race. And now I see that success is a much more layered experience; it is about how you integrate the other elements of your life – your kids, your husband, your love for your friends and that excitement at work. There will be trade-offs, but the real success is if you can pull off all of those things together. It’s not simply being at the top of the tree. You want to make sure that all of your life goes with you.
A risk worth taking: Vanity Fair’s iconic 1991 cover