Vanessa Grigoriadis on Her Work, Book, and Heritage

Journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis. (Photo by Craig Maldonado)

Journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis has built an impressive career with her articles for such respected publications as Vanity Fair and The New York Times magazine which recently featured her article “The ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment,” on its cover. Grigoriadis spoke to The National Herald about the article and her first book, Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus which was published in September 2017.

Currently a contributing editor at The New York Times magazine and Vanity Fair, she won a National Magazine Award, the magazine equivalent of a Pulitzer, in profile writing for her article on Karl Lagerfeld. “Gawker and the Rise of the Creative Underclass,” a New York magazine cover story, was a finalist for the feature writing award. A profile of Arianna Huffington was also nominated for a Mirror Award.

As noted on her website, Grigoriadis is “also what used to be called a ‘magazine feature writer,’ but now that we live in the digital age, let’s settle on ‘long-form writer.’”

She writes about pop culture, youth movements, and various topics. Her article in the Times magazine, The ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment, featured interviews with Keith Raniere, the leader of Nxivm, a self-improvement company, and some of its members.

Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus by Vanessa Grigoriadis is available online and in bookstores. Photo: Amazon

Nxivm, pronounced “Nexium,” as Grigoriadis pointed out in her article, was the subject of a New York Times article in October 2017 which reported “alarming practices” including the branding of new female members of the group. “The media,” Grigoriadis wrote in her article, “declared that Nxivm was not a self-improvement company at all but rather a ‘sex-slave cult,’” adding that “a federal investigation was opened” which led to Raniere’s arrest in Mexico as well as the arrest of actress Allison Mack, best known for her role in the TV series Smallville. Both “were charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and forced labor,” Grigoriadis noted.

“Nxivm had not granted access to a journalist for an article for 14 years before it gave me a tightly stage-managed tour of its leadership and operations this winter, ahead of potential indictments,” Grigoriadis wrote. “It remains highly secretive and exquisitely paranoid. Members not only tape-recorded my interviews with them but had a practice of extensively taping or video recording within the group, including documenting many of Raniere’s statements.”

When asked how long the process took from setting up the interviews for the Nxivm article to its publication in the Times magazine, Grigoriadis told TNH, “The process was about five months long, from setting up the interviews to publication.”

The article, available online, is impressive, offering insights into the secretive group which attracted about 17,000 members including female members in search of empowerment who happened to be from especially wealthy families.

When asked about her first book, Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus, and if we are making any progress on the issues it explores, Grigoriadis told TNH, “My book about college consent predated the Me Too movement. I think many of the issues that we are talking about as a country today — what constitutes sexual assault; what is appropriate behavior for coworkers in the workplace — are still in debate. We’ll have to see where we end up, as a nation.”

Although Grigoriadis is not currently working on another book, she told TNH that she hopes to write another soon.

Of her family background, she said that her Greek-American mother grew up in New Jersey and her Greek father, “lived in Istanbul before he immigrated to the United States.”

When asked if her Greek heritage informs her work, Grigoriadis said, “I am proud to be Greek and I carry the sense of pride in our heritage into my work. I believe in the value of hard work and independent thinking.”

Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus by Vanessa Grigoriadis is available online and in bookstores.