Amy DuBois Barnett, deputy editor in chief at Harper's Bazaar, is the first person to admit that she's not a particular fan of the self-help...
NEW YORK — Amy DuBois Barnett, deputy editor in chief at Harper’s Bazaar, is the first person to admit that she’s not a particular fan of the self-help book genre.
“They are not a staple of my library,” says Barnett. “As a matter of fact, when someone tells me how to live, I’m really stubborn and I say, ‘Well, I’m going to do it the opposite way!’ “
Yet Barnett has written a self-help book of her own: “Get Yours! The Girlfriend’s Guide To Having Everything You Ever Dreamed of and More,” released last fall. She doesn’t see herself as a self-help guru, but more of a guide for women to find their own path in life, by sharing the troubles and triumphs of her own.
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“I believe I am here in the universe for a specific reason. I really feel I am here to empower women,” she says. “I feel like I have an ability to share my life and my lessons in a way that people can hear and they understand and it changes them … that’s my mission.”
It’s a mission that Barnett started several years ago when she was editor in chief at Honey, a magazine geared toward black women. Like most editors, she had a message at the front of the magazine each month — but hers usually were very personal. Readers learned about her mother, who died when Barnett was in her early 20s, or about painful relationship lessons, and other life experiences that Barnett was able to grow from.
Barnett says the response was overwhelming, with thousands of letters expressing readers’ gratitude for her insight. It also made her realize that perhaps she needed to do something more than a one-page monthly column.
It was then that Barnett planted the seeds of “Get Yours!” She would later leave Honey to become the editor in chief for Teen People. It was a milestone — she was the first black woman to head a major mainstream magazine.
But along the way, she also dealt with setbacks, including the breakup of her first marriage. Though she describes herself has happily remarried, and the mother of a young son, it was, as Barnett calls it, “one of the most challenging times in my life.”
But it also helped spark a rebirth of sorts for Barnett. Instead of feeling sad and alone, she learned to relish being a single woman in her thirties. She cut her hair short, dated guys that she may have overlooked before, and became more confident — which she believes eventually led her to find her true love, her husband.
She stresses, however, that finding her partner didn’t make her complete: She learned to be happy and fulfilled on her own, and that’s one of her main points of the book.
“One of the deepest and most resonant lessons I have learned in my life is that life is this three-dimensional thing, and it doesn’t just start when you’re happy,” says Barnett. “Everybody thinks that life just starts when you’re happy — ‘It’s going to start when I get the job when I want, when I find the guy that I want, when I buy the apartment I want, that’s when I’m really going to be living.’ But that’s not actually the case — life is right now.”
The book, which touches on everything from getting your finances right to getting that dream job to finding your inner travel bug, not only uses Barnett’s personal path to help guide readers, it also includes her interviews with Venus Williams, actress Sanaa Lathan, comedian Mo’Nique and others as they share their own stories.
Barnett calls the book a “love letter” to her mother, a college professor and world traveler from whom Barnett learned many of the mantras that would help shape her book, including “faking” a happy persona from time to time to help you achieve that eventual goal.
“It’s such a funny thing, act happy and you’ll be happy … it sounds so funny but it’s so true,” she says. “Just try walking around one day with your head up … it will be reflected back at you, people will start treating you as a confident person. If you project that you know your value and you project that you expect the best from people, then that’s what you get back.