‘Glamour’ Editor Cindi Leive Speaks Out on Caitlyn Jenner Controversy, 25 Years of Honoring Women

“I don’t consider [Caitlyn] to be a shocking or scandalous choice,” magazine head says of transgender star’s Woman of Year honor in latest edition of TheWrap’s “Office With a View”

Come Monday night, Glamour magazine celebrates the 25th anniversary of its Women of the Year Awards franchise — recognizing bold and brave females who drive progress and innovations across the board.

This year’s crop of honorees include Reese Witherspoon, Victoria Beckham, Misty Copeland, Caitlyn Jenner, Cecile Richards, Elizabeth Holmes and the champions of both the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the United States women’s soccer team.

Cindi Leive, who has served as editor-in-chief of Glamour since 2001, will mark the occasion with an event at Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall. TheWrap spoke with Leive about the backlash over Jenner’s selection, the double standard for ambitious women and the woman who’s proved elusive to a Glamour award so far.

The Glamour Women of The Year franchise turns 25 this year, and it’s sort of stunning that this ceremony is going down at Carnegie Hall.
We’ll be at Carnegie hall Monday night but we’re doing dinner at the Rainbow Room, after which is sort of fun and nostalgic because the Glamour Women of the Year Awards started at the Rainbow Room. It’s a great iconic spot.

There was no awards ceremony dedicated to honoring women. It was sort of a novel thing. It was a big era for feminism, and it was an era when women in top positions would shy away from being honored as women. That wasn’t always seen as a good thing. While there’s certainly work to do, the world has changed very much for the better. There’s a great sense of honor for being among other women achievers.

There seems to be such a conversation in the past year, maybe longer, about women and achievement. It was recently suggested that 20 years ago, for a woman to be ambitious was really derogatory.
Women are not only much more willing to say they’re ambitious, as ambitious as the man next to them, but there’s an awareness of the double standard that damns women for being ambitious. There’s an increase in willingness to calling out that double standard. This group of women are particularly smart cookies when it comes to saying that ways women are boxed in.

What’s the criteria for this honor?
We look at who are the women who pushed everything forward this year. That’s one of the reasons we came to Reese for the cover. We’re at this moment where we’re questioning why there aren’t great roles for women in Hollywood. And how do we create them? She sort of stands for that, and I loved the whole “Ask Her More” thing. She single-handedly forced all these entertainment reporters to ask questions that went beyond “What are you wearing?” She also rolled up her sleeves and started this production company that in its first year had three female Oscar nominees. That’s pretty extraordinary. It feels like the right statement for this year.

It’s interesting to see the evolution of Victoria Beckham. I think there’s a big lesson there not to underestimate her.
It’s very easy to think, “Oh, you’re a celebrity, start a fashion line.” When actually many have tried. Many superstar, pop star, marquee names have tried and failed. Fashion can be unwelcoming to people who come in with a lot of fame.

Victoria was incredibly humble when she would hold her first shows. She would assemble a small group of us and walk us through each individual look and why she chose them. She was very knowledgeable and humble. And now she has the booming empire and some incredible accomplishments in the philanthropic world.

Were you surprised about the backlash over naming Caitlyn Jenner as an honoree?
I don’t consider this to be a shocking or scandalous choice for most of our readers. If you look at the beliefs of most young women in this country, they tend to believe almost overwhelmingly in LGBT rights. They believe transgender people have the same right to dignity and privacy as the rest of us. They know or work with someone who is transgender.

That said, I understand not all of America agrees. But Glamour, like an increasing number of Americans, believe in transgender rights. The statistics are quite depressing, as 41 percent of transgender or gender-non-conforming people in this country have attempted suicide. Those are numbers none of us should be comfortable with. So for people like Caitlyn Jenner or Laverne Cox to come forward and say, “This is OK, to be who you are,” that’s a powerful message.

Did criticism from feminists especially sting?
We took the criticism from a feminist — Germaine Greer. I believe it’s feminist to advocate for the rights of everyone. I don’t subscribe to the idea that if you honor one type of woman, then no other woman is worth it. Women are diverse and varied, and that’s great. Caitlyn, by the way, is not the first trans woman Glamour has honored as Woman of the Year. We honored Laverne Cox last year.

Any woman you’re desperate to honor but can’t get your hands on?
The Queen of England. Hashtag goals. I think she’s extraordinary! We’re fascinated with one-of-a-kind women.

Visit Glamour.com on Tuesday for complete coverage of Women of The Year.