The written word captured Aimee Bell, and, as a Jesuit might say, she “was ruined for life.”
The daughter and granddaughter of Holy Cross sons Jim Bell, class of 1963, and Nicholas J. Healy, class of 1931, Bell walked up Linden Lane the same year Rolling Stone began serializing Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities . . . the year Mary Oliver won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry . . . and the year countless commentaries appeared on what George Orwell got right -- and got wrong -- about 1984.
With that literary and journalistic background, Bell dove into the study of literature at the College of the Holy Cross and built a community of dear, lifelong friends. She says her involvement with Student Programs for Urban Development – SPUD – and Worcester children and families changed her life. Her teachers included Professor Bill Morse, who invited her to invent a seminar, an enterprise that she says “opened up my mind, and taught me to read, write, and think at a higher level.”
After graduation, she moved to New York, received a master’s in English from New York University, and began her stellar career in magazine publishing.
Her first job was at Spy, the breakthrough, irreverent monthly magazine that smartly elbowed American media, entertainment and society. She moved on to become an editor at the New York Observer, and then Vanity Fair. There, she quickly advanced to edit the magazine’s popular “Vanities” section, became senior articles editor, and ultimately deputy editor. In her two decades at Vanity Fair, she has edited special issues covering Hollywood, Africa, music, the environment, fashion, and British theatre. She edits world-renowned and award-winning writers, including the late Christopher Hitchens (whom she cites as the writer who changed her life), James Wolcott, dance critic Laura Jacobs, humorist Fran Lebowitz, and art and social critic Bob Colacello.
She has convinced Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Bill and Melinda Gates, among other luminaries and opinion leaders, to contribute to her magazine’s pages.
Bell attributes her professional success to the unparalleled education she received at Holy Cross. “Holy Cross engenders a generosity of spirit—the students are living examples of the motto ‘men and women for others.’ This became part of my DNA.”
Vanity Fair reaches 1.1 million subscribers and newsstand buyers each month. During Bell’s tenure, the magazine has won 14 National Magazine Awards -- many of which are ensconced in her office. The magazine has recently won the prestigious Fashion Media award for September Issue of the Year, a special edition that she oversees.
Meanwhile, Bell provides professional counsel to Holy Cross through her work with the College’s Alumni Marketing Advisory Group, and returns to campus regularly to participate in discussions with alumni, faculty, and students to talk about the magazine industry.
Bell knows the value of her liberal arts, Jesuit education, and says “a strong work ethic, writing and reasoning skills and an absence of a sense of entitlement” are what sets Holy Cross students apart.