Smash hit: Vogue editors' secret battle to court Emma Raducanu

Emma Raducanu

When teenage tennis star Emma Raducanu arrived back in the UK on Thursday morning, she was accompanied by security guards, a police escort – and a very high profile fan.

According to eyewitnesses, the US Open women’s champion was travelling on the same British Airways flight from New York’s JFK to London Heathrow as Anna Wintour, American Vogue editor-in-chief and Vogue global editorial director.

The two women will have already met. It’s no secret that Wintour is a huge tennis fan, and after the Saturday evening match she invited Raducanu to Monday evening’s star-studded Met Gala.

“Anna invited both Emma and Leylah [Fernandez],” a source close to the event said. “It was Emma who was dressed in Chanel, though [the label Wintour herself usually wears] and seated at the Chanel table – and Anna signs off on every look and every detail.”

Wintour would have been en route to the UK for London Fashion Week, which begins on Friday, but it’s believed that she had another motive for ensuring that she and Raducanu were sharing the same first-class cabin: the chance to sell her the idea of doing an exclusive American Vogue cover shoot and interview.

Of course, most people don’t take much persuading to do a Vogue cover. Those who have been granted the opportunity consider it a privilege and a career highlight. But it’s understood that Raducanu is in the rare position of having also been asked to do another Vogue cover; the British edition, by Edward Enninful, its editor-in-chief.

National treasure

As Britain’s newest national treasure who this week charmed America and is predicted to earn a billion dollars in global marketing deals, it’s no surprise that both Wintour and Enninful are courting Raducanu for a cover.

Her looks, talent and maturity have helped generate a tremendous appetite for her on both sides of the Atlantic.

Already, she has a deal with Nike, has worked with Tiffany & Co, and has been represented by global talent management company IMG since she was on the juniors circuit. It’s no surprise that when she was reunited with her father at their home in Bromley, south west London on Thursday, he simply said: “I am so happy. I am very proud of her,” as the pair hugged.

With her half-Chinese, half-Romanian heritage, Raducanu also has the potential to be a valuable asset to brands eager to tap into the lucrative Far-East market.

She has an official account on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, and on Thursday, she issued a statement in fluent Mandarin: “When I knew you guys were watching my games, I felt so happy and didn’t want to let you down,” she said. “I am very sorry that I can’t visit China this year, but I’m sure I can come to play next year.”

There is no question that a Raducanu Vogue cover would sell very well and go viral online, and ultimately, that is the metric by which Enninful and Wintour are both judged.

Wintour would have been instrumental in ensuring Enninful’s appointment as editor-in-chief at British Vogue (indeed, they ran in the same New York circles when Enninful was style director at W magazine between 2011 and 2017), and we know how competitive the titles can get over cover stars from the BBC’s 2016 Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue documentary, in which we saw Alexandra Shulman, Enninful’s predecessor, publish her Rihanna cover early when she discovered Wintour was planning to run her own cover of the star a month later.

The friction between Enninful and Wintour runs deeper than just a professional competitiveness for the best cover stars, though.

Battle lines were reportedly drawn in February 2018, when the Queen attended London Fashion Week for the first time. She was pictured, below, at the Richard Quinn show, side-by-side with Wintour, a powerful image of Her Majesty the Queen and the unofficial Queen of Fashion that was published across the globe.

The Queen and Anna Wintour – Getty

Wintour had reportedly planned the appearance with Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, deliberately keeping Enninful in the dark.

As Quinn’s show was on the final day of London Fashion Week, and not a particularly well-known designer, Enninful took an earlier flight for the next round of shows in Milan. “Edward was in tears when he found out,” a source told the Daily Mail at the time. “He had no idea that it was happening.”

Although Wintour is the more established and experienced name, the competition for Raducanu’s Vogue cover moment is pretty even.

In the red (carpet) corner …

In one corner, we have Enninful, 49, Vogue’s first Black editor and a celebrated fashion stylist credited with revamping the image of the British edition to make it more diverse and inclusive.

He successfully convinced the Duchess of Sussex to guest-edit an issue during her first pregnancy, with other covers during his four-year tenure including Dame Judi Dench (the title’s oldest cover star at 85) and football player Marcus Rashford.

He also has a pre-existing relationship with Raducanu, as she was photographed and interviewed for British Vogue’s October issue – he might now be wishing he’d put her straight on the cover.

In the other, we have Wintour, 71, arguably the most important figure in the US fashion industry who has been at the helm of American Vogue since 1988. Wintour’s Vogue is perhaps more commercial than Enninful’s, but with a circulation of eight million (compared with the British edition’s 796,000) her influence is unrivalled.

Wintour is also tennis-obsessed. She counts Roger Federer and Serena Williams among her close friends, and is usually spotted in prime seats at Grand Slam finals. She also wakes up at 5am most mornings to play before work.

Could Enninful be Wintour’s successor?

Wintour is a powerful figure at Condé Nast HQ, too. For years, she has dismissed rumours of retirement with her role at the publishing house only broadening. Now, as the global editorial director of Vogue, as well as Condé Nast’s global chief content officer and artistic director, she is essentially Enninful’s boss.

The Raducanu opportunity comes at a time when Condé Nast is streamlining creative control of its biggest titles by appointing global editors based in the US.

Enninful, who was recently appointed European editorial director, is benefiting from this strategy and it’s unlikely that this would be the case without Wintour’s support. However, it also positions him as her likely successor.

Vogue declined to comment on future editorial, so we’ll have to wait for an outcome. Ultimately though, the decision is Raducanu’s to make, and she doesn’t seem the type to bow to this kind of pressure.

The sporting world’s new Billion Dollar Girl will make the best decision for herself – not Wintour, not Enninful, nor anybody else.

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