Caitlyn Jenner's powerful Vanity Fair photoshoot was not just an emotional moment for the 65-year-old Olympian, but for everyone involved, the magazine's contributing editor Buzz Bissinger tells ET in an exclusive new interview.
ET recently sat down with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author about his much talked-about profile on Jenner, and candidly talked about the intense feelings during the top-secret photoshoot.
"The mood in the room was quiet," Bissinger recalled. "There was a feeling something very powerful and awesome was going on. Annie Leibovitz has taken some of the greatest photos ever taken in the modern era, and as she's looking through the lens, she started tearing up. She told me, 'I felt I was seeing the rebirth -- the making of Caitlyn, the making of a woman, the making of a soul -- the making of an identity."
The Friday Night Lights author shared an especially poignant moment, when Jenner thanked everyone in the room.
"Caitlyn was on a couch, looked like a starlet, the only thing missing was a cigarette holder -- beautiful patrician face, almost Katharine Hepburn-ish -- and she gave a little speech thanking people, and got teary," Bissinger recalled. "And I said, 'Come on, this can't be better than winning the gold medal.' And she said, 'You know what, that was a good day. But these past couple of days doing the shoot have been the best of my life.'"
Bissinger says Jenner's transformation into a woman was startlingly immediate after undergoing 10 hours of plastic surgery on March 15th.
"I saw Bruce for about two, two and a half months. Bruce is over here, and then bing -- literally, overnight on March 15th -- he goes in for 10 hours of plastic surgery, and Bruce is gone," Bissinger explained. "Now, Bruce will be in him somewhere, but now it's Caitlyn Jenner, and it was spooky."
"It's a weird story," he acknowledged. "We can be as PC as we want, and this is great, but it's weird. It's hard to get your hands around it."
But there is no minimizing the impact Jenner's powerful story has had on people around the world.
"We've all witnessed a very powerful rebirth, a very powerful story about tolerance. Let people be themselves, whatever the hell it is," Bissinger reflected. "Caitlyn Jenner is not hurting anyone, and Caitlyn Jenner could really empower the world to be tolerant, which is an amazing thing."