How Glamour Shapes Our Lives: Q&A with Author and Former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel

"If you acknowledge that you find something glamorous it makes you vulnerable because it says something about who you are," says Virginia Postrel, author of the new book, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion. "But I want people to think about what they find glamorous and learn from that."

Postrel, who served as the editor in chief of Reason Magazine from 1989 to 2000, is an internationally acclaimed writer, a regular columnist for Bloomberg View, and the author of two previous books, The Future and its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress (1999) and The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness (2004).

She sat down with Reason TV's Nick Gillespie for an hour-long conversation about her new book, which is a meditation on how our perception of glamour shapes our culture, determines the choices we make, and reveals our inner-selves. The book is an entertaining romp, analyzing the deeper significance of the glamorous people and places that have shaped the last century of American culture.|||

Gillespie and Postrel discuss the glamour of the Tuskegee airmen (6:45); the glamour of California (9:30); the distinction between glamour and charisma (14:45); Obama's glamour vs. Bill Clinton's charisma (16:45); Marxist art critic John Berger's "desiccated" take on glamour (20:30); Joan Crawford role in "defining the modern woman to the general public" (25:20); how a "ridiculously glamorous" image inspired dancer Michaela DePrince (27:30); how Naomi Wolfe's projected her "single mother chic" image on Angelina Jolie (30:45); Oprah Winfrey's infatuation with the Mary Tyler Moore Show (32:15); David Bowie's ever-changing personas (36:30); how glamour "tells the truth about desire" (38:45); the democratization of glamour (40:45); the proliferation of glamour in a capitalist society (45:20); how Postrel's libertarianism informs her work (48:30); the "intense glamour" of planning in the early twentieth century (51:20); how understanding glamour provides insights into human behavior (56:15); and how the breast cancer drug Herceptin saved Postrel's life (57:30).

For more on Postrel's tenure at Reason, watch a recent discussion she participated in celebrating the 45th anniversary of the magazine, and read Brian Doherty's oral history of the magazine, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary.

Approximately 1 hour.

Camera by Jim Epstein and Anthony Fisher, and edited by Epstein.

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Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    She doesn't own a dress, her hair is always a mess
    If you catch her stealin', she won't confess
    She's beautiful, she smokes a pack a day, wait that's me, but anyway
    She doesn't care a thing about that, hey
    She thinks I'm beautiful. Meet Virginia

  • Tim||

    This was already posted last week and, she's the Fromer editor, not the former editor.

  • Heroic Mulatto||


  • ||

    Yay, things are better now that Postrel is here!

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Her stint at Reason pre-dates "Ice, Ice, Baby." Let that soak in.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Videos were shorter when Postrel wasn't being interviewed.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    I hadn't realized she had a slight drawl. I'm attracted to her, guys.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    That's the glamour speaking. or tequlia. One or the other. You'll get over it.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Gillespie: "Hey Virginia, I'll be there in about 15 minutes."

    Postrel: "Cool. Hey, Nick. How long is this video going to be?"

    Gillespie: "Oh, I'd say an hour or so."

    Postrel: [reaches for Tequila bottle] "Okay, I'll be ready."

  • Broseph of Invention||

    It's the grey hair. This freewheelin' dame doesn't give a damn about her hair, and right now I don't give a damn about anything BUT her hair.

    *pours tequila shot*

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Brett L||

    Is that the real pitch-line? Awesome.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I don't always drink mezcal, but when I do, I get fucking shitfaced and wake up in a field next to a goat and then I notice I have no pants on.

  • Brett L||

    In my part of the world, sometimes its a cow in the field.

  • Hawk Spitui||

    This one's for you.

    Yes, I know I'm going straight to hell...

  • From the Tundra||

    y si no hay remedio, litro y medio

  • Broseph of Invention||

    Virginia, I just saw your tweet to Caleb, and I wasn't saying you had bad hair, only that you weren't one of those people who thinks getting older is a negative and changes hair color! Your hair looks great!

  • Marianna||

    Dude, know when to stop digging....

  • Broseph of Invention||

    Done. I will never comment here again.

  • Tonio||

    Still looking good, Ms. Postrel.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Reason was much more glamorous when Virginia Lobster Girl Steigerwald Dondero Postrel was the editor.

    I agree with Postrel on the distinction between "glamour" and "charisma" and how you can have one or the other, but it's great if you have both.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Interesting. Think I'll buy it. I like the distinction she makes between glamour and charisma - seems very relevant with O as president.

    As to the comments above - TIWTANLW - or, this is why there are no libertarian women.

  • ||

    This video does much to explain my obsession with Oz the Great and Powerful, which appeared in theaters at just the right time to help me through my midlife crisis, as it were. Do I make myself vulnerable by telling what I find glamorous? Oh, well. I'll risk it.

  • 80sman||

    Didn't watch the whole thing--was the mens leather jacket discussed, particularly vis-as-vis diminishing returns of irony quotient

  • hotsy totsy||

    Am I the only one who thinks the Mafia is glamorous?

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