Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

Lauren Zalaznick

I first met Lauren Zalaznick at FORTUNE's Most Powerful Women Summit. I love Top Chef, one of Lauren's hit shows on Bravo, and had heard a lot about her, so it was nice to have the opportunity to meet face to face. It didn't take much time for me to recognize qualities that I admire. Here was a businesswoman with a keen sense of how to build a brand, a woman with a sharp sense of humor, who's as tall as I am and as strong as I am and very, very cool. We bonded.

When you're building a brand, you have to know exactly what that brand stands for. I know the terrain around Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart. Lauren has that same kind of intuitive knowledge when it comes to the meaning of her brands. Her programs are filled with creative, talented and real people. Her shows, and those on them, don't make any apologies for being themselves. Lauren, 46, has transformed that network so that you can now recognize a Bravo show at a distance. To do that kind of work in a very crowded field takes more than a producer — it takes a visionary.

I have a saying: Women in business don't cry. I've never told Lauren that, but I can't see Lauren crying. She's tough and very funny, but most of all, she has undeniably excellent taste, and that's an extension of her personality. She's natural. She doesn't wear a lot of makeup, yet she looks really good. She's completely committed to her family. She's never contrived. She's always optimistic. I like so much that she sees the best in people and that, like millions of others, I get to watch her vision.

Stewart is a TV host, an author and the founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia