If you think hard work is a chore, meet Vanessa Kingori, Publisher of the British GQ Portfolio, who relishes the challenge of a large remit.
The first female Publisher of British GQ and the first black Publisher at Condé Nast UK recently took time out of her busy schedule to share the story of her journey with WeAreTheCity.
As Publisher she is responsible for British GQ’s commercial success. Kingori has been in the role for a year having spent seven years at GQ in total. She was Publisher of GQ Style Magazine, an offshoot of the main brand for six years prior to her promotion: “I was initially tasked with turning one of the company’s smaller businesses to a larger more profitable brand. I worked hard to achieve that and sustain the success. I’m extremely proud of the fast growth we achieved. That success led me here.”
Kingori studied management and sociology at Royal Holloway University of London. After which it took some years and some experimental career choices before she found her career niche.
“I wasn’t aware of the vast amount of roles in Publishing that exist outside of the editorial side. While working in events a friend saw how I connected with clients and suggested I consider the commercial side of media,” she explained.
Before joining Condé Nast, she was fashion manager of Esquire magazine in the UK, and prior to that she worked on the Evening Standard’s ES magazine.
Kingori said it was not a conscious decision to work for men’s magazines, but that she has always been very comfortable with being different on many counts: “My path to celebrating my points of difference is best defined by my height. I’m very tall, so I’ve always had to come to terms with sticking out a bit. I realise now that it wasn’t an issue but an asset, as people always remember you. People who feel they’re not going to fit in can discount themselves early and unnecessarily.
“When I was at school I was head and shoulders taller than my friends. I used to hunch over to feel more comfortable interacting socially. My height had always seemed like such a burden, but was transformed in my mind to a huge positive when I was scouted to model.”
Steaming ahead in the fashion industry Kingori continued with her mantra of not letting differences define her. “For some it may seem like a more natural fit to have a male Publisher on GQ. I think my perspective and management style works well for the brand.”
The Publishing and Fashion industry are currently changing rapidly. On this Kingori says:
“I’m working with an incredibly strong brand that’s continuing to grow and prosper. The way the industry is developing is only enhancing that.” She adds “When facing challenges try to keep a positive perspective, there is always opportunity within it. It’s important not to look at problems in the short term, as when you take a long-term view you gain more perspective and the potential for a positive gain is clear. Short-termism is a distraction. All of my professional and personal challenges, bar none, have led me to this point.”
She credits much of her success to having an incredible support system and network: “I am so lucky to have some incredible people to support me. Mutual cheerleaders inside and outside of the industry. I am fortunate to have retained and built my friendship groups and networks from school, through University and every job I’ve had since.”
“You spend more time at work than you do with your loved ones. Those relationships are as important to me as my family. It’s also a more fulfilling way to work to stay in touch with people, to see how they grow and change over the years can inspire. My networks and connections have given me lots of confidence and lots of direct opportunities.”
Typical day for the Publisher of British GQ?
Despite having a schedule that would cause many to run for the hills, Kingori seems to thrive on it. Her day typically starts at 5am with 40 minutes of yoga: “I do different yoga depending on what my day looks like, sometimes to energise, sometimes to find calm others to detox.”
Her day usually consists of several meetings and events, so she needs to always think ahead and dress for the occasion: “After yoga I look at my calendar and decide what I need to wear for the day. Then I usually work on a ‘things to do’ list and catch up on media. I’m usually in the office by 8:15am to get some things out of the way before my team comes in by 9:30am. I normally have a breakfast meeting with a brand or a client and most days I have a lunch meeting also with brands, clients or other departments. I then have evening events to attend such as cocktail parties and dinners. In between all of this are the meetings.”
“You have to be willing to work hard and so it’s important to love what you do. There are no shortcuts but this way the work seems easier and more fulfilling.”
Born in Kenya, Kingori later grew up in the Caribbean before moving to London: “I didn’t realise at first what an asset that was. Needing to adapt so much at an early age has helped me not fear change, it’s exhilarating.”
Recipe for a good leader
From past experience of leaders and her own personal leadership journey, Kingori believes “a good leader is both empathetic and strong.”
She added: “Everybody works differently on a team, with different approaches. The media industry is currently at it’s most dynamic, this is exciting but the rate of evolution can be hard for some to manage. Providing assurance and opportunity during that change can be transformative. For me it’s also important to be approachable and to use gut instincts coupled with real intel.”
“I’ve learnt that you can’t do it all. When you’ve got the right team you have to empower the right people. I like for my team to know I am putting in the work and hours too. I never ask them to do anything I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.”
To stand out within a company and to raise your profile she advised: “Be willing to do the task that others might not want to do. Your boss will always think highly of you for picking up the slack on the less glamorous jobs. There will always be the ‘sexy’ projects everyone wants to get involved with; it’s hard to stand out doing these. If you can prove yourself first the desirable projects will come to you.”
“Try not to think solely about your own objectives, but about the business objectives too, the things that might keep your boss up at night. If you can help them conquer these the path to meeting your own goals will be smoother. I mentor students and young business people and this is one of the points that seems to get their attention most.”
She also noted: “People often project back to you what you present to them.”
“If you are not feeling at your most confident try to push through for initial encounters and the room will usually responds positively. If you highlight your nervousness it will show and undermine your credible input.”
Kingori plans to build within her current role and said she is excited to be “working with an excellent brand in an industry where the zeitgeist shift is creating an abundance of opportunity.”
You can find Vanessa Kingori on social media at: