With Bailey now hard at work producing her first edition, the October issue, the question is: will the renowned Bailey style, imagination and tabloid-energy work in the self-important glossy-magazine world of Manhattan?
Bailey has already broken a social taboo, ringing up socialites and inviting them to lunch herself, rather than delegating the task to an assistant. This direct style has already won her converts. As one of her invitees said: "I was prepared to dislike her because there is this resistance to British women here. The way she chats on makes you think she is a bit nutty, but actually I found her very charming. "
In the Channel 4 documentary Absolutely Marie Claire, screened last year, Bailey came across as gushing, naive and given to breathless monologues, but she is obviously a savvy, canny, woman. Of course she is aware that her success will depend more on what she does with the magazine than whether socialites cleave to her.
One US magazine insider described her challenge as follows: "US Marie Claire (which is not directly related to the British title) has a very weak identity in the American market. It is the sister magazine to American Cosmopolitan, but whereas the latter is the glamorous sister invited to all the balls, Marie Claire is the Cinderella. Before, if you mentioned you were writing a piece for American Marie Claire, people would say: 'Who? What?' "
Bailey's first task will be to change the identity of the magazine, from "middle-of-the-road mundane" to something more risque. But if, as some suggest, she takes the magazine downmarket too quickly and fronts it with sensationalist sex and oddballs with 18 split personalities - the kind of characters who regularly spiced-up the British version - she may find more conservative American readers deserting in droves.
"Bailey's problem is that her "stab-em, splash-em, splat-em" style of editing, which gave British Marie Claire its identity, is too extreme for the American glossy women's magazine readership," says a US journalist. "There is a stream of journalism in America that deals with the more bizarre kind of people that populate our planet, but it is alternative and most glossy magazine readers would consider it "inappropriate". The last cover before Bailey took over, for example, featured the star of Friends, the US sitcom. Bailey would consider a cover like that too soft. But whether she will be allowed to get away with what she has become famous for is the big question. There has been no public criticism about her so far, but everyone is watching closely who she's lunching with."
Circulation is 500,000, pitiful in American glossy terms, compared to say the 2.5 million circulation of American Cosmo. Hearst, the magazine's owners, are reputedly paying Bailey pounds 170,000 a year, and giving her a pounds 6,000-a-month living allowance. As one journalist brazenly put it: "If she doesn't deliver ... they'll spit her out and forget all about her."