This Newspaper Publisher Became the Most Powerful Woman in Media
Who: Katharine “Kay” Graham, publisher and owner of the Washington Post and CEO of the Washington Post Company; catapulted the newspaper to global success; June 16, 1917–July 17, 2001
Why She Dazzles: Kay is the epitome of courage under fire. Her father, Eugene Meyer, bought the Washington Post in 1933, and her husband, Phil Graham, succeeded as its publisher in 1946 and transformed it into a national publication. Phil's mental illness culminated in suicide in 1963, and Kay discovered her own strength to take charge and made the Post everything you know about it today (minus the Jeff Bezos purchase). Read her Pulitzer Prize–winning autobiography, Personal History, for gripping details of how she overcame grief and insecurity to become one of the most powerful women in the world.
Why You Need to Know Her Today: Meryl Streep was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Kay in Steven Spielberg’s The Post, a revealing film about Kay’s experience during one of the most crucial moments of her career. Kay’s character never appeared in the popular Watergate film All the President’s Men, so she’s finally getting the Hollywood attention she deserves.
What She Would Say—Because She Wrote It Then: “The thing women must do to rise to power is to redefine their femininity. Once, power was considered a masculine attribute. In fact, power has no sex.”
What the Ladies Rocked Then: Truman Capote wrote the iconic novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1958, and it became a film in 1961. The Tiffany flagship store instantly became popular in cinema and continues to be the place for an engagement ring. In 1956 Tiffany’s hired jewelry designer Jean Schlumberger, who created some of the fantastical pieces worn by Jackie O, Elizabeth Taylor, and Audrey Hepburn. He used lots of gold and colorful gemstones in his pieces, usually influenced by nature. In 1957, he set the famous Tiffany yellow diamond, weighing 128.51 carats, which was the largest yellow diamond at the time. Only three women have worn the yellow diamond, including Lady Gaga most recently.
How You Can Rock It Now: Kay wore a lot of classic pieces, notably chain necklaces. She wore designers like Halston and Balmain and accented her outfits with long necklaces. Whether wearing Tiffany, Cartier, or any other jeweler, Kay stood out as a powerful, classy woman in her own right—and you can too.
Where She Would Instagram: The Plaza Hotel. Fun fact: Kay and Truman Capote were such good friends that he threw his glamorous Black and White Ball in her honor in New York City in 1966. “Though I obviously appreciated it and loved the role, I was terribly nervous. I felt like an ancient debutante!” Kay said. “Once I forgot all the excitement outside and the party really started, it became great fun." The Black and White Ball became the event that, according to Vanity Fair, “heralded the emergence of another, more raucous one, devoted to publicity, celebrity, and big money.”
Shop the Sparkle: Black and White Ball
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