As I write this, it’s been just over a week since we lost our brilliant friend Sally. Sally was one of my ultimate Editor heroines and until I finally got to meet her in the mid 00s, I’d always admired her from afar. In 1985, I’d just got my first job as a Beauty Editor on Looks, one of the young magazines of the day. That year, Sally was blazing a trail with her spirited British version of Elle magazine. I still remember the impact of the first issue. Yasmin Le Bon was on the cover, smiling with hair naturally blowing, skin glowing – positively shining through the overly made-up, big haired Dallas style looks of the day. The glossy pages were full of healthy, strong model images – not only that, the features were inspiring, witty and challenging, written by grown up writers and journalists. This mix of bold new glam along with an intelligent, inclusive voice made you feel like you were one of the stylish, fearless career girls of the day. Way before blogs and vlogs, Sally and her team were communicating with and linking like-minded women together through that magazine.
It wasn’t until a couple of decades later that I finally got to meet her. We were both invited to go to the skincare brand, Dermalogica’s conference in Istanbul. It was a great adventure – three of us – myself, Sally and the lovely Abi (PR for the brand) had never met before, but we hit it off. After the ‘work bit’ of lectures and interviews, we escaped off to the bazaar to buy cashmere shawls, took taxis to hidden harbour restaurants to eat freshly grilled fish. What I remember most from that trip was discovering that Sally embodied everything she conveyed through her work. She epitomised that timeless Elle-style pared down, cool glamour – always dressed stylishly, accessorised with rock n roll smudgy black liner. Also, her sharp intellect, huge emotional intelligence and most of all, a wicked sense of humour lit up the conversation and made her lots of fun to be with.
Back in London, we went our separate ways, but stayed in touch meeting for girly evenings out when we could, and I was thrilled I got the chance to work with Sally too. She began to write some great features for Easy Living magazine, the title I was then Beauty & Health Director for. At that time, digital media was taking hold, speeding things up and everything began to be about soundbites, but Sally stuck to proper journalistic principles. She spent time researching and writing thoughtful, in-depth articles and took a subject – whether it was the science behind the latest face creams, emotional or health issues such as thyroid imbalance – and made an inspiring must-read. To me, her writing had a rhythm and space which allowed you to breathe in, learn and think.
No wonder there have been so many amazing tributes to her in the past week. I was struck by what Nilgin Yusuf, Creative Director of the media school at the London College of Fashion who began her career at Elle in 1988 was quoted in The Guardian as saying:
“Sally was a brilliant editor, an incredible mentor and so generous with her knowledge, talent and intuition that if she’d asked me to go and scrub the toilets, I would have said ‘Yes, Sally!’ I loved her and she inspired incredible devotion in all her staff. Professionally and editorially she was never a follower – she led with her heart, with intelligence and courage”.
That she led with her heart says it all. In the glamorous, fashion-y fickle world of glossy magazines, Sally remained true to herself. She shared with honesty her own experiences and through this was able to inspire and support many of us in so many ways – whether we were lucky enough to spend time with her in person, or via her writing. Sally’s light will shine on through her family and all those of us she inspired. And I want to think of her as forever happy by the sea as she wrote recently:
“Local folklore has it that nobody can leave St Leonards unless they find a pebble with a hole in it and chuck it into the sea. The other day, I found one, right next to the Banksy painted on the sea wall, and dropped it safely back on the beach. Somebody else might want it but I am forever happy by the sea.”