SAMANTHA Barry’s Instagram feed depicts an insanely glamorous and glossy life in New York. There’s images of the Ballincollig woman, who was this year appointed Glamour magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, with Bono, Amal Clooney and Anna Wintour. They are all close friends.
There’s also red carpet appearances, pictures with Tina Fey, Chrissy Teigen, Cindy Crawford, holidays in Lake Como and the front row at New York Fashion Week. We could go on. And on.
What it doesn’t show, of course, are the early starts and the long hours required in her role overseeing all content development, production and consumer experiences for digital, social, video and print platforms of Condé Nast’s Glamour, one of the biggest fashion and beauty media brands in the world.
The 37-year-old says: “Of course I’m not going to show on Instagram the crazy, busy times! Instagram is a place of fun, where you show fun people doing things they like or love or efforts they adore.
“New York is a very Instagramable city, which is what I love about it, there’s so much going on.”
Having said that, Samantha loves nothing more than staying in on a Friday night in her Chelsea apartment, lighting her wood burning stove (‘a rarity and joy in Manhattan’), ordering food in and watching Netflix. She’s currently binging on Christmas films, and Friends is always a favourite.
On the week we chatted she had been MC for a Concern charity event which involved an on stage interview with Bono; been at the Billboard Women in Music Awards; and at a United Nations Correspondents event where she dined with Nick and Nina Clooney (yes, George’s parents) — and it was still only Thursday.
That’s all in a regular week’s work for her though. It’s hardly surprising that Anna Wintour, in appointing her last January, called her “fearless and a game changer”.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of hers,” said Samantha. “She’s very straight forward and I like that. It’s obviously always great to hear that you’re doing a good job but I think it’s more constructive to hear what you could do better. It took me until my late twenties to realise that it’s very important to listen to people that know more than you.”
The UCC arts graduate came to Glamour from CNN, and before that the BBC and RTÉ — working in around 25 countries in total.
But she insists she never set out with a deliberate career plan and says where she’s at is within anyone’s reach.
“I think it takes a magical mix of an awful lot of hard work, ambition and believing in yourself.
“I worked for RTÉ as a freelancer and worked my ass off, regularly doing 15 hour days. I was twice turned down for a staff job, and while it did upset me at the time, I didn’t see it as a wobble in terms of pursuing what I wanted to do.”
Right now, what she’s doing is taking the 79-year-old Glamour digital in 2019 — a decision which made worldwide headlines when announced and which she says she didn’t make lightly.
“I have an eye for growth in industry in general; and part of my DNA is to look to the future, and to see what is happening with audiences in the future. We are coming off a monthly print cycle and investing in areas the audience and revenue can continue to grow and that’s digital.
“I love telling the stories of women with substance and women who have something to say and you can do that on any platform.”
Under her leadership, Glamour has focused on original reporting, exclusive features, and unique perspectives to deliver quality journalism to women, and “own” the conversations impacting them today.
Since her start in January, she hired a team of political reporters, and tracked exclusive mid-term coverage. She has also strengthened Glamour’s commitment to body positivity by showcasing models of all sizes across all channels.
And she’s transformed the annual Women of the Year Awards into an inspirational three day event, with a focus on celebrating Glamour’s diverse community of women.
What female figures inspire her?
“There are so many — what I love is that in the course of my work I’m constantly finding women I can look up to.”
Not currently in a relationship but ‘doing the New York dating thing’, she’s usually up by 6am at the latest and squeezes in at least three work-outs a week, if she’s ‘being good.’
No, she doesn’t have a driver (only for exceptionally busy weeks) and she’s in the office at around 8am. When the day ends is anyone’s guess, but she says she doesn’t get phased by who she’s talking to or what’s on her agenda.
“Occasionally, I might get overwhelmed by time management but that’s it. The people I’m speaking with might be amazing stars or top executives but they’re also just people.”
It seems like a good time to ask: Is Amal Clooney really as nice as she looks?
“She is the nicest person you could ever meet,” she insists.
The two met at a dinner party years ago in London and have been firm friends since. And yes, she was at her wedding.
Given her lifestyle, Samantha is mindful of detoxing digitally from time to time — but not as often as she should.
“If I’m on holidays, I’d make a point of not checking in until 6pm and I deliberately go to the cinema so I can switch off and love it when flights don’t have wi-fi. I’ve just come off working for 24 hour news at CNN so it’s nice to be able to do that.”
She didn’t make it back to Cork for Christmas. But she did enjoy a ‘mini Christmas’ when back in Cork a few weeks ago to accept a UCC Alumni Achievement Award.
Her sister, who lives in Sweden with her three kids; her Killarney-based brother and Bantry-based parents all came together to mark the occasion.
She Instagramed a visit to Mutton Lane and Abrakabra while on her flying visit home.
Now firmly back in work-mode, she’s well into planning for 2019, where she feels the industry will see a notable resurgence in audio and smart podcasts.
“I think people will also be looking at the option of micro-payments — for example, paying small amounts for one particular piece of content.
“Or course video will also continue to evolve but I think we’ll see people moving from watching short two minute clips, to watching several hours, all on their phone.”
And her advice to anyone thinking of embarking on a career in the media is not to be defined by their job description.
“I’ve always tried to do more than what my role involved. In my last job I was a TV producer but I was also on air a lot and doing other things behind the scenes. I always wanted to stretch myself and that’s my advice.”
Straightforward is how Samantha described her boss Anna Wintour and it would also be a good word to describe her: we had arranged to speak at 2.30pm and she rang at 2.33pm, explaining very politely that we had a 30 minutes time slot.
As the clock edged towards the half hour, the sounds of Manahattan become audible and she’s making her way to her next meeting.
Forgive the cliché, but it kind of feels like I’ve had a chat with an old friend.
Fearless, as Anna said, but not scary; glamorous, just with plenty of grit.
Samantha Barry joined Glamour from CNN Worldwide, where she served as executive producer for social and emerging media. Under her leadership at CNN, the network became the most followed and fanned news organisation in the world.
She led her team and the organisation at large with compelling work for social audiences on an array of platforms, including Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Line, Kik and other emerging media.
While at CNN, Barry spearheaded CNN’s 2016 US election coverage across social platforms, which received the first ever Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in social media and a Webby Award recognising the same 2016 campaign work.
She joined CNN from BBC World News in London, where she served as a social media producer and journalist, focusing on using social media as a tool for both news gathering and audience building.
Previously, she worked as reporter and producer for RTÉ and Newstalk in Ireland.
She spent time in Papua New Guinea with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and has worked as a social media and technology trainer for the U.S. State Department, the United States Institute of Peace and Internews.
Samantha has worked in more than 25 countries, reporting and training other journalists in broadcasting, technology and social media.
She graduated from Dublin City University with a Masters in Journalism.
She is a 2016 fellow of Columbia University School’s Sulzberger executive program and is a guest lecturer at Yale.
Samantha graduated with an Arts degree (English and Psychology) from UCC in 2002.