Power Punk: Lauren Weisberger

Free-swinging ingenue bashes Wintour in best-selling novel, favorite of subway-riding assistants everywhere; movie deal; seven figures for next novel?

Before The Devil Wears Prada made her the poster girl for the revenge-seeking “exploited” underclass of froufrou employers everywhere, 26-year-old Lauren Weisberger sported a bio that screamed “good girl.” She seemed a safe bet to keep her blond head down and her mouth shut, suggesting a librarian more than a best-selling roman-à-clef-wielding literary ninja. But that’s how it always is. Raised in Pennsylvania, Ms. Weisberger went to Cornell, graduated in English, made her way to the city, landed an editorial-assistant job at Vogue and worked for the most powerful woman in fashion, Anna Wintour. Her wardrobe: Gap and Banana Republic “basics.”

Then Ms. Weisberger fled Vogue and, with the mercilessness of the reformed innocent, took a knife to Ms. Wintour-then twisted, with lime. Ms. Wintour became Miranda Priestly, “an empty, shallow, bitter woman who has tons and tons of gorgeous clothes and not much else.” Lauren Weisberger, girl of the cotton skirts and the twinsets spun in Taiwan, had transformed an abortive stint at Vogue into blazing best-sellerdom.

Fetching coffee for Anna Wintour was certainly fantastic material for a girl who was already a wannabe littérateuse. During a “Writer’s Voice” workshop, she pecked the first scabrous paragraphs of what would become The Devil Wears Prada. It ballooned to 100 pages of her catharsis. Ms. Weisberger found an agent, Deborah Schneider, who sold it for more than $200,000 in May 2002.

Jacobean revenge tragedy, no-but The Devil Wears Prada has found its audience. Ms. Weisberger’s frothy smackdown of Ms. Wintour has flushed her bank account well beyond her six-figure advance. Screwing over one’s former employer between the covers of a book by no means guarantees big millions: See Toby Young, relative master of the form, who has yet to see such a massive payday. But Ms. Weisberger has scored a movie deal with Fox. The author declined to be interviewed, but Ms. Schneider, her agent, said that she’s working on a second novel, about a gossip columnist. None other than Mr. Young said that Ms. Weisberger could expect “a seven-figure advance.”

Ms. Weisberger has rather expertly played dumb, denying Ms. Wintour was the inspiration for Miranda Priestly, admitting only to copping “the impossibly tall thin people and the ambiance at Vogue.” Ms. Schneider reiterated that Ms. Weisberger “wasn’t trying to blast Anna Wintour.” The book, she said, “grew out of late-night gab sessions with girlfriends. They all talked about their bosses. Any person who comes to New York at one point or another has a monster boss.” Ms. Schneider said no dis was intended: “She actually has a lot of respect for Anna Wintour.”

-Elon R. Green