At the age of 29, author Lauren Weisberger has already made the best-seller lists thanks to her first book The Devil Wears Prada. Published in 2003, the book tells the cautionary tale of small-town Jewish girl Andrea Sachs, just out of college and looking for that big break in magazine writing.
However she gets more than she bargained for when she takes on the job of assistant to Miranda Priestly, editor of the prestigious fashion magazine Runway - and the very definition of the boss from hell. Soon, her ambitions of a glittering career in writing have been superseded by her editor's constant demands and a world of high fashion where wearing less than a three inch heel is a crime.
The book not only touches on Andrea's Jewish background, but also that of Miranda Priestly who, we discover, started life as plain old Miriam Princhek, one of eleven children from an Orthodox Jewish family in London's East End who transforms herself from "Jewish peasant to secular socialite" in order to become one of the hottest names in fashion journalism.
Weisberger, who now lives in New York City, had her own experience of the publishing world after graduating from Cornell University in 1999, when she worked for Anna Wintour at Vogue Magazine - however, she says that the inspiration from the book came from "a combination of places: my friends' stories of their own jobs from hell, time I spent working at magazines, and of course, my own imagination."
Is there much of your own personality in Andrea, the main character in The Devil Wears Prada?
Andrea and I have very similar backgrounds but not quite so much in common personality-wise.
How has having a best-seller changed things for you, professionally and personally?
It's absolutely changed things professionally, in a major and wonderful way. I now have opportunities to write for so many fantastic magazines, and I'm working on another book right now. In that way it's been amazing. Personally, however, nothing's shifted that drastically. Friends, family, apartment, social life: it's all pretty much the same.
What can we expect from your next book?
The next book will take a peek at the weird world of New York City nightlife for the twenty- and thirty something crowd of New Yorkers with a lot of time and even more money.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book for me was the way in which Miranda had shrugged off her orthodox Jewish upbringing to transform herself into the person she became. How important is it to you to include Jewish characters and themes in your work?
It's important to me less out of a need to make a statement and more just because it's a way of life I know, one with which I'm comfortable. When you're looking to create new characters or flesh them out with more detail, you naturally turn to what's around you, and in my case, I see a whole lot of Jewish friends and family.
What is your own Jewish background and how important is your Jewish culture to you?
I was raised in a combination of Conservative and Reform synagogues and it's tremendously important to me on a number of different levels. Probably the most immediate impact Judaism has on my life is a love of Israel - I studied there in high school and in college and visit every chance I have. It's one of the defining points of my own identity.
Where did your family originate from and is Weisberger the original family name?
As far as I know, Weisberger is the original family name. My mother's side (Roth) is from Czechoslovakia, and my father's side is from Hungary. Both of my grandfathers fought for the Allies in WWII.
When was the last time you set foot inside a synagogue, and do you belong to one in New York?
There is a wonderful synagogue in New York that appeals to the young, single crowd and I go there sometimes. (Otherwise, it's uncommon for individuals in their twenties to actually belong to a synagogue until they start a family). Mostly, I go with my mom and sister over holidays when we go back to Pennsylvania.
Courtesy of Something Jewish