I read two very different articles about two very different women today, and yet was really struck by the similarities in their stories.
First up was New York magazine’s cover story on 52-year old Zoe Cruz, entitled, They fired the most powerful woman on Wall Street.
Both women were hugely successful in their fields – Cruz brought in billions for Morgan Stanley, she was the ultimate leap-frogging alpha female; Cyrus has made Disney billions through her kids TV show Hannah Montana, and has two multi-platinum records and a sold out 70 date tour, the ultimate teen sensation.
But now, they’re both in the spotlight having been stripped of their crowns. Cruz was tipped as the next CEO of Morgan Stanley, but was fired last November; Miley has done serious damage to her sweetly innocent Disney image thanks to some candid bra-flashing photos and that sultry Vanity Fair shoot.
They have both been described as having made the same mistake: play the game too well and the game eventually plays you.
These women (can I really call a 15-year old a ‘woman’, even if she is a mega star?) were hugely successful and brought in buckets of money but were under constant scrutiny, with people waiting eagerly for them to mess up.
To quote New York magazine’s Joe Hagan:
“If women across Wall Street viewed Cruz’s firing as a blow, there were men at Morgan Stanley who seemed almost gleeful about it. The woman they had nicknamed the “Czarina,” the “Wicked Witch,” and, most famously, “Cruz Missile” was out of the picture. They joked that it was worth the $9 billion loss to have her gone.”
While Bruce Handy at Vanity Fair notes:
“With Lindsay Lohan rehabbed and Britney Spears under psychiatric care, the tabs are looking to Cyrus to flame out, or at least do something mildly outrageous”. (Ironically, it was that very article – in which she says Sex And The City is her favourite show – and its images that has caused the outrage.)
So now they’re both at the centre of scandal, both played by the game, both feeling hurt and double-crossed; Cruz “feels the way the company laid the blame at her feet—the way Mack [her boss] betrayed her—was unjust” while Cyrus told People: “I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed.”
I guess what interests me most is not the individual stories themselves, but our appetite for and reaction to them. How do women relate to these women? Do we cheer them on, are we indifferent, do we begrudge the success or feel no identification with this breed of super performers?
They both seemed on top of it, hitting their mark, having it all. And now the industry has chewed them up and spat them out. Is it a reflection on how successful women are seen and treated? How they have to behave if they want to win? We know the stereotypes – teen stars are urged to start sexing it up at a younger age if they want to make the transition to adult stardom; female traders know they need need to be ruthless, blunt, ballsy.
Or are these simply sad stories showing the uglier sides of two cut-throat money-grabbing industries? If so, do similar stories involving men grab our attention quite as well?
I’m all questions now, so I think I’ll go and ponder this one for a while.