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2012 November 5

Storied Editor Felicia Milewicz Bids Adieu to Condé Nast

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Felicia Milewicz in 2012. Felicia Milewicz in 2012.
Mark Leibowitz
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(NEW YORK) Felicia Milewicz, a beloved beauty editor who spent nearly 41 years at Condé Nast, is leaving the publishing giant and her post as Glamour's beauty director in December. "I grew up [at Condé Nast]; it's my home," Milewicz told The Daily. "I worked very hard, but I was very lucky. I worked for geniuses, and I learned everything from the best and from the worst--including the English language." But don't consider this a retirement. "I hate that word. Forget about it! I'm not retiring or going home and sitting on the couch watching television. This is just a different chapter for me." 

Milewicz began her career in 1971 at Mademoiselle as Andrea Robinson's assistant, who was then senior fashion editor at the magazine. "At that time, an assistant was not just an assistant," she recalled. "We did everything to make our bosses look good, even if that meant taking their dog to the veterinarian, or burning a wool sweater and smelling it to make sure it was actually wool."

Shortly after, she was promoted to model editor, working with up-and-comers like Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (whom she fondly remembers as a "fun travel companion and great storyteller"), and Paulina Porizkova. "I brought Paulina to America after I found a little picture of her in a magazine," she said. "Patrick Demarchelier and I waited in St. Barths for her to step off the plane. I thought, 'What if she's a dog? What am I going to do with her?' But she was to die for."

It wasn't long before Eileen Ford and Wilhelmina Cooper showed Milewicz the ropes. "Wilhelmina taught me about the politics of the industry when her competitor, John Casablancas, came to town. She wanted to make sure I continued to use her models," said Milewicz. "I never like the politics, though. I always tell people who I am. Maybe that's why I've survived in this business so long. I'm not a 'yes' person." That's a trait Ford can relate to. "Eileen's a tough cookie, but a strong and dignified woman. She was not a politician. She told you the truth. You'd be at a party, and she's come up to you to tell you what she liked and didn't like about a particular shoot. I'd say, 'Please, not here!' But I loved working with her."

When Mary Randolph Carter, former beauty director at Mademoiselle, decamped to New York magazine, Milewicz's career received a major boost. "Mary pushed me to become the beauty director. I think I was the only one in publishing that refused a promotion! I asked HR, 'Why do you want to hire me for this position? I don't know anything about beauty!' She said, 'Felicia, when someone gives you a position like that you have to try it.'"

Beauty quickly became Milewicz's forté, combined with a hearty dose of health news. An early result? The discovery of a little known doctor named Dr. Deepak Chopra. "Fusing beauty with health was a revelation. I did a story with Dr. Chopra for Mademoiselle that was six pages long. I didn't realize how big he would be. When I proposed the story to my boss, Amy Levin Cooper, she said, 'What are you talking about? Translator! I need a translator.' She gave me freedom, and said if I didn't do it well, I would be fired. I said, 'Okay, that's fair.' It was a great story, and I'm very proud of discovering him."

After 30 years at Mademoiselle,  Milewicz made a lateral jump to Glamour in 2001, just four months before Mademoiselle folded. Throughout her extensive career, she's worked with a long list of collaborators from a "funny" Bruce Weber and "the queen of skin" Laura Mercier to a young makeup assistant named Bobbi Brown. "Back then, the industry was like a little family. We all knew each other really well, and we knew every product. Today, we're oversaturated with product and celebrity. It's overwhelming for the customer. We have to simply and start editing. We don't need 20 creams. People don't even have enough face for that!" she said. "We can't forget that we work in a romantic business based on emotion. That's what I miss." When asked if she'll return to publishing, Milewicz said she didn't want to be attached to a company, but would consider a consulting role.

So what will the beauty editrix do with more time on her hands? Take a few months off and write a book, for starters. "I never thought I'd work in publishing. I always thought I'd be an actress. But for me, working in beauty was like working on a movie set. I traveled around the world for photoshoots, creating stories around eye shadows and lipstick. Now I want to write my story about the experiences I've had in the industry. It's been an amazing ride, and it's not over yet!"

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