Lance Avery Morgan, the founder of Brilliant magazine, is working to redefine the image of Texas.
After six years of Brilliant, Morgan has definitely made his mark.
By Jenn Zwillenberg
Cowboys, southern drawls, the Wild West are just some of the things Texas evokes. Since the beginning of its statehood in 1845, the Lone Star State has always had an identity of its own. At one time, it was its own country, so that helped shaped its personality, too. Everything is bigger in this country-sized state, from football to barbeque; Texas has a special style of doing things. While this is all “well and good” for some, others find this reputation and image inaccurate and a tad outdated. With more than 24 million residents, Texas is a place of great diversity and variety. With thriving cities like Dallas, Houston and Austin becoming more metropolitan than ever, it may be time to reconsider the Wranglers and cowboy boots scenario.
Enter Brilliant magazine and Lance Avery Morgan, who are working hard to redraw this image. “Our state is legendary in size and reputation,” boasts the magazine’s mission statement, “Brilliant profiles its magnificence like no other magazine. Dynamic in scope and editorially eclectic, it reflects the people, culture and lifestyle of Texans on a grand scale.”
“The Texas I know and love just wasn’t represented well in the media because it perpetuated the old stereotypes,” says Morgan, the magazine’s founding publisher and editorial director. He created Brilliant to highlight the lives and lifestyles of high-performing Texans, as he calls them. “We focus on the very best Texas has to offer from the world of tastemakers, trendsetters and creative innovators, covering celebrities, cuisine, interiors, architecture, culture, entertainment and fashion,” states the magazine’s mission statement.
Morgan is a sixth generation Texan and grew up in Austin, attending Austin High School and then the University of Texas. During school he worked on films and television and after UT, Morgan moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams of working in the entertainment industry. His first job was at a public relations agency where he represented television and film stars, as well as comedians. He then worked for media conglomerate Western International Media, now a part of InterPublic Group. Morgan also gained editorial experience by working at various publications such as Cigar Lifestyles and Verve magazines, while as a television executive
writing and producing shows at a senior level for networks such as CNBC, FOX Sports, MTV and PBS, to name a few. He also worked for Niehaus Ryan Wong public relations after that, working with such brands as Yahoo!, Motley Fool, Pixar and NetFlix before returning to Texas to open their Austin office in 2000, just before creating Brilliant.
Morgan, like Brilliant, has a style all of his own. His Mad Men-inspired suits always have a coordinating handkerchief and his shirt is never without cufflinks. “Lance Avery Morgan is outgoing, witty, and accessible,” said Samantha Adams, Brilliant’s managing editor. “Perhaps most importantly, he is the most positive person I know. If there is a perceived problem, he’ll simply refer to it as “a challenge” and he will remain innovative and upbeat about creating a real solution,” says Adams. Morgan is also famous for his “celebratory high kicks,” she enthuses, “Whenever a challenge is solved, or we land a really cool cover story, or even if its just overall an amazing day, Lance will enter the room and immediately spring into his triumphant high kick mode.”
Morgan has always been a “magazine guy” since he was a child. He loves the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and various publications by Conde Nast. “Growing up, magazines gave me the world beyond my scope and if I can give back to the world with Brilliant in some way like that, I will have done my job,” admits Morgan.
In his six years with Brilliant, Morgan and the magazine has definitely made an impact on the world. He has interviewed documentarian Albert Maysles, Plum Sykes, Mariska Hargitay, Carol Burnett and Jerry Hall, to name a few. In the past year, his cover stories have included Emily Procter, Molly Sims and Diana Ross. His Rolodex overflows with major names from coast to coast.
“It is all about people and relationships. We help people become the people they want to be. It’s that simple,” confides Morgan. Each page of a magazine takes four to five people to make; so in theory, each issue takes 400 people to make it, he calculates. This fascination with people and how they are related gives Morgan a different perspective. “Morgan has a great sense of what Texans want and need to see,” said Adams. According to his staff members, Morgan’s most noteworthy trait is his accessibility. “He is the busiest person I know but he always makes time
for everyone,” says Adams, “It is amazing and inspiring and I’ll never know his secret. But, I guess that’s what makes Lance, well, Lance.”