Aya Kanai’s Plan for Marie Claire

by Eddie Roche

Today marks the release of the May issue of Marie Claire, which is also the first cover select for new EIC Aya Kanai. The cover features rapper Megan Thee Stallion, an intriguing and bold choice for the Hearst title. As Kanai settles into her new role, we sent her a few questions to find out what a Marie Claire in the year 2020 will look like and how she’s handling motherhood and working from home in our current climate. 

Congrats on your first issue! You’ve been in the industry a long time. How does that feel?
“Surreal” and “full tilt” are the only words I can use to describe it. Part of it is the first issue stress, jitters and part is just the truly extreme world we live in right now.

What were some of the first things you wanted to change when you took on the role?
I always see our editorial vision through the lens of photography and fashion! I know any reader will see our cover and respond to the image and the fashion before they read a word. I wanted to make a bold non-traditional cover choice with the image selection. I am over the moon proud of our cover images of Meg, and since it’s also our Global Beauty Issue, there are two covers!

How do you envision Marie Claire today? For a long time we looked at is a s magazine that was luxury for women who make their own money. How would you define it now?
Marie Claire has been about empowering women’s since it was founded in 1937. Our current mission is to document and support the rise in power of the next generation of women through our magazine, digital outlets and experiential platform Power Trip. The entrepreneurial values of today’s most exciting female business and creative leaders are precisely in line with our original and current mission.

Why did you decide to put Megan Thee Stallion on the cover?
I wanted to work with one of the most talked about artists right now, but what I love even more about Megan is that she is also getting her degree in health administration. The Marie Claire reader is an educated, culturally informed woman and Megan embodies all of that and then some.

Marie Claire

What stories will be in the new issue? What kind of stories are important for you to tell?
You must, must read our story “The Hollywood Vigilante,” edited by our deputy editor, Danielle McNally. This story is about a well-known TV actress who spends her “free time” working with the FBI to use her acting skills to catch child predators. It’s absolutely riveting and reminds us all that our creative talents can also be used in the service of others.

Who would you love to have on the cover in the future?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. RBG, are you reading this? We’ll send a crew whenever you’re available!

You are so new into this role and between fashion month and self-isolation, how hard has it been to be out of the office for so long?
Yes! I get so much creative energy from collaboration in person. That said, our Marie Claire team is such a dynamic group that self-isolation can’t bring us down. We are on Slack video calls all day, it’s been fun to see colleagues’ homes, pets, partners, and house plants while chatting through story edits. The experience has made us closer to each other in an unexpected way.

How are you dealing with a full-time job and being a working mom at home right now? What are the challenges? Joys?  
My apartment is fully a playground at this point. I have craft paper taped to the floor so we can draw and large cardboard boxes litter the room to be used as a castle to read in or a boat to sail across the living room. I remember Sheryl Sandberg said that one of the most important career decisions you make is your choice of a partner. This has proved absolutely true for me. My husband is an incredible support, doing far more than his share of the childcare so that I can be available most of the day and for that I am so grateful. Our daughter is loving all the quality time with her dad. That said, today I got the stink eye from my daughter because she and my husband were playing in their fort under a rainbow parachute!

Self-isolation has come with a lot of surprises for people. What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned in the past few weeks?
I have learned that my subway commute to work is my daily alone time. Since that subway time is no longer, for now I have found myself missing that quiet time and have recreated it by getting up early, before my husband and daughter wake up. I do yoga, meditate, read books and tidy up the kitchen. It’s been the most relaxing way for me to start the day.

Will the next issue of Marie Claire include coronavirus content?
Yes! As the information and learnings change day to day, our digital coverage ranges from the Asian American experience to doctors on the front lines to America’s heart throb, governor Andrew Cuomo. In the magazine, we will be covering how COVID-19 will shape the future of our healthcare system and pandemic policies going forward. We are working with doctors at Johns Hopkins to focus on how future crisis management will evolve from this.

We don’t know when we’re going to be back in the swing of things. Have you come up with a contingency plan yet if you aren’t able to shoot a future cover soon or will you cross that bridge when it comes?
We do have a contingency plan for our next cover! I’m so excited about it that I am almost tempted to just do the contingency plan rather than the original plan. I am grateful for my health and to be creating this content right now. That’s the key to dealing with all of this: The creative solutions often present a window into a new world we would have never seen otherwise.

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