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Shame, Status and Self-invention

Amol Rajan with former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown, French sociologist Didier Eribon, author Miranda France and director Timothy Sheader.

Tina Brown was an Englishwoman barely out of her twenties when she arrived in New York. She transformed herself into a star magazine editor, at the helm of Vanity Fair and later the New Yorker. She tells Amol Rajan how the backstabbing and status-driven world of American politics allows figures like Donald Trump to triumph.

Didier Eribon is one of France's leading philosophers and the biographer of Foucault. But he has only just "come out" as working class. In his memoir Returning to Reims he asks why social status is still toxic in Europe today. And he gives a damning account of how the French working class shifted their loyalty from the Communist Party to Marine Le Pen's National Front.

Frida Kahlo is a communist icon. As one of the world's most marketable faces she has even appeared on Theresa May's bracelet. Kahlo had a keen sense of her own image from an early age, and painted endless self-portraits. But she was also ashamed of her body and the accident that had left her unable to bear a child. As a blockbuster exhibition opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum, author Miranda France unpicks Kahlo's slippery reputation.

A governess arrives at a grand country house and is terrified by the sexual freedom she encounters, in Benjamin Britten's opera The Turn of the Screw. Timothy Sheader directs a new production for Regent's Park Theatre and the English National Opera. He explains how a ghost story about a boy seduced by a powerful working man enabled Britten to address the shame and criminality of homosexuality in 1950s Britain.

Producer: Hannah Sander.

Available now

43 minutes

Tina Brown

Tina Brown CBE is an award-winning writer and editor and founder of the Women in the World Summit. Between 1979 and 2001 she was the editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker.

The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983–1992 is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and is out in paperback on 28th Jun 2018.

Didier Eribon

Didier Eribon is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Amiens and is the author of numerous books of critical theory. 

Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon (translated by Michael Lucey) is published by Allen Lane.

Miranda France

Miranda France is a linguist, translator and journalist and has been a freelance correspondent based in Buenos Aires.  

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up is open now at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and continues until November.

Timothy Sheader

Timothy Sheader is Artistic Director of Regents Park Open Air Theatre. He has won three consecutive Olivier awards for Best Musical Revival (Crazy For You, Into the Woods and Hello Dolly). 

The Turn of the Screw, directed by Timothy Sheader, is a co-production between Regent’s Park Theatre and English National Opera. It runs until 30th June.


Role Contributor
Presenter Amol Rajan
Interviewed Guest Tina Brown
Interviewed Guest Didier Eribon
Interviewed Guest Miranda France
Interviewed Guest Timothy Sheader
Producer Hannah Sander