'I actually said no the first time:' Why Marie Claire's editor-in-chief almost turned down the job

Fulenwider had just started as editor-in-chief of Brides magazine at the time.

Byby TAYLOR DUNN
July 25, 2017, 4:40 AM
PHOTO: Anne Fulenwider attends the 2017 Fragrance Foundation Awards Presented By Hearst Magazines at Alice Tully Hall in New York City, June 14, 2017.
Anne Fulenwider attends the 2017 Fragrance Foundation Awards Presented By Hearst Magazines at Alice Tully Hall in New York City, June 14, 2017.
Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

— -- It was 2011, and Anne Fulenwider was at a crossroads. After spending years editing glossy periodicals, she had landed a dream job. It was something she had wanted since running her high school newspaper: to be a top magazine editor.

“I got this call from Conde Nast saying, ‘We have an editor-in-chief job open. We’re not telling you what it is, but come and talk to us,” Fulenwider reminisces on an episode of ABC Radio’s “No Limits With Rebecca Jarvis.”

Her moment had arrived, after years climbing the publishing ladder in editorial roles. That job was to be editor-in-chief of Brides magazine — which was an unexpected topic, she says, but also a great place to learn and gain experience.

“When they finally let me know what it was, I thought, ‘Huh. Well, that’s not what I thought it was going to be, but this is certainly a subject matter that ... I’m not intimidated by ... and it might be a really great way to learn how to be an editor-in-chief,’” Fulenwider tells ABC’s chief business, technology and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis on “No Limits With Rebecca Jarvis.”

Fulenwider accepted the position and soon began to learn the skills that went into running a magazine outside of the editorial while utilizing her experience as an executive editor of Marie Claire and as a senior articles editor at Vanity Fair.

But it wasn’t long before a different window of opportunity opened, and about nine months into her new editor-in-chief gig, the phone rang again.

“It was a really, really intense nine months, and I felt like I was just getting the hang of it. And I got this call from Hearst, and they said, ‘Listen, there’s going to be opening at the top of Marie Claire,’” she says.

It’s not exactly a terrible predicament to be in, but for Fulenwider, it was one of those career-defining decisions that would affect the trajectory of her professional future. This was not a choice to be made lightly, she says, and she describes this moment as the “toughest career decision” she’s had to make.

“The timing was terrible. I had been editor-in-chief of Brides for nine months — not even ... And I had put in huge changes. We hired a whole bunch of people ... In fact, I actually said no the first time that they asked me ... I said that there’s no way I can leave this job. I just got here. I’ve just engaged all these people to come on board for this mission, and I certainly didn’t want to leave the company in the lurch,” she recalls.

Fulenwider turned down the Marie Claire offer the first time around, she says, but after doing some soul searching and consulting those closest to her, she began to reconsider the opportunity.

“I thought to myself, ‘How am I going to feel when they announce the person who got the job?’... My heart would sink ... I just thought, ‘I can’t sit there on that day of that announcement and not have it be me,’” Fulenwider said on “No Limits With Rebecca Jarvis.”

She called back Hearst and told the team members there that if they still wanted her, then she really wanted the job.

“I think they said, ‘Well, come on, and we’ll have another conversation.’ I think there was one more person for me to meet, because I hadn’t gotten that far in the interview process when I declined … But generally I was sort of like, close your eyes and jump,” she said.

About nine months after accepting the job at Brides, she listened to her gut and took a leap, accepting the job as editor-in-chief of Marie Claire. Since taking over, she has taken the magazine to new heights, with initiatives like the Image Makers Awards, Fresh Faces, Power Trip and, most recently, the magazine’s first sustainability issue, which is on stands now, featuring Jessica Biel on the cover.

After reflecting on the toughest career decision she’s made, Fulenwider recognized an important lesson that she learned on her way.

“The timing is almost always wrong,” she said. “To have kids, to go on vacation, to make a huge change in your life ... so sometimes you just have to leap. And so [taking the job] was definitely the hardest decision and the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Hear Anne Fulenwider’s full interview on ABC Radio’s top business podcast, “No Limits With Rebecca Jarvis” available on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music, Spotify and your ABC News app.

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