Office Space: Jane Sarkin’s Hollywood by Way of Vanity Fair’s New York
If there’s one thing Jane Sarkin has learned from the high-flying world of Hollywood, it’s humility.
This is not a joke.
Spend a few minutes with the Vanity Fair Features Editor in her 22nd floor Times Square office, and you’ll hear no less than three self-deprecating remarks—always punctuated by peals of laugher: “My children are so much better at products and makeup than I am.” “I do my own hair, and it often doesn’t look good.” “Listen, if there’s a trick to going from day to night, someone should tell it to me.” To hear her explain it, Sarkin’s low-key, low-stakes approach to style and cosmetics comes from her hours on set producingVanity Fair’s celebrity cover shoots. “When you see how much time is spent on hair and makeup, you want to do the opposite on yourself. I do the quickest routine possible, and maybe I shouldn’t, because I would probably look a lot better if I spent a little more time.”
More laughter ensues.
To say Sarkin downplays her assets would be an understatement. Petite in frame (she fits in pre-work cycling sessions to stay fit) and wearing an infectious smile and bright hazel eyes, Sarkin exudes the kind of charm and calm that convinces even the steeliest of publicists to lay down their guard. “The [magazine] covers don’t come easily, and we put a lot of thought into them,” Sarkin says, settling into her low-slung couch with sweeping skyline views of midtown. “We’re logistical engineers. We’re troubleshooters. I’m always in the hot seat.”
How, then, does Sarkin juggle the relentless demands of her 24/7 role with those of motherhood? “For 21 years, it was very, very difficult to balance the kids. But this is the first year where both children are in college, so now I finally get to enjoy the nightlife!” she confesses, laughing. A typical evening finds Sarkin sailing from office to screening after a quick-change—and then back home again, where she and her husband of 25 years, Martin O’Connor, are just getting used to the benefits of the empty nest. “We’re only two weeks into it. You caught us very early on,” she smiles. “I miss them, but it’s opened up a lot [of time] for us.”
Sarkin, however, manages to keep her children at arm’s length. Framed black and white photos of her daughters dot her desk, where her calendar abuts a vase of white roses set atop the Vanity Fair’s coffee table tome of Hollywood portraits. Leather-bound back issues line the shelves, and framed grids of every cover she has produced in her 30-year career line the walls. She’s been at the magazine ever since she left Andy Warhol’s Interview, where she studied the ins and outs of celebrity interviews and cover shoot coordination from the master himself. “I learned from Andy that you can really develop a celebrity,” Sarkin says. “You can find someone before they’re famous, photograph them, and make them famous. Now fame has a whole different meaning.” Though times are changing, Sarkin is, as always, in it for the long haul. “I love my job, and I love what I do. I’m very fortunate—it’s been a great life.”
Written and photographed by Jeremy Allen
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“I have a uniform for work—unfortunately, it’s white or black or beige or navy,” Sarkin laughs. “If I wear a color, I kind of have to go home and change, because I feel very uncomfortable."
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Ever the expert organizer, Sarkin has archived all her important letters, an ever-growing catalog of her career days reaching back to Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine.
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Bound copies of all the Vanity Fair issues that Sarkin has worked on (an impressive 30-year inventory).
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“I don’t try to go out of the box,” Sarkin says about her sartorial philosophy. “Once I’m out of the box, I’m completely confused! I try to keep it very simple.”
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A handwritten birthday letter from VF’s Fashion and Style Director Jessica Diehl. “I love my job, and I love what I do, and I love the people here. I’m very fortunate,” Sarkin says.
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Sarkin’s ceiling-scaling grid of covers she has produced over her 30-year tenure at Vanity Fair. “The cover is the the icing on the cake of the magazine. It has to be beautiful, it has to be relevant,
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“I learned from Andy Warhol that you can really develop a celebrity. You can find someone before they’re famous, photograph them, and make them famous. Now fame has a whole different meaning.”
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Sarkin’s two daughters, now 18 and 21.
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A vase of white roses atop the coffee table tome Vanity Fair Hollywood provides a decorative focal point for Sarkin’s desktop.