Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 03/05/21 Getting personal with Lee Isaac Chung. His fictional family film is, loosely based on his own experience growing up the son of South Korean immigrants living in rural Arkansas, has been honored with awards at Sundance and, just last Sunday, at the Golden […]
Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
Gretchen Carlson’s Real Story. As a one-time Miss America, popular host of a daily Fox News program, happily-married woman, hands-on mom, occasional movie actress and talented violinist, Gretchen Carlson something of a female Buckaroo Banzai — but, as the title of her new autobiography Getting Real (out today 6/16 from Viking) suggests, is much more real.
As I posted last week, Getting Real is an entertaining read about and by a woman who has worked hard for what she has achieved and, at the same time, hasn’t forgotten the virtue of gratitude. Unless you’re a real Foxphobe, chances are you’ll find yourself liking her and rooting for her.
I recently had to interview the interviewer.
JWK: First all thank you for your time. What do you hope people take from your story?
GRETCHEN CARLSON: When people watch me on TV they see part of my life. I wanted to let them know the real me behind the scenes. The child who was a concert violinist from the age of six. The young woman who took on the challenge to compete in the Miss America pageant. The television journalist for twenty-five years. The mother of two who, just like most women, struggles to balance work and family. The battles I’ve fought. How I’ve come back from failure and disappointment. Thanks to my upbringing, I always believed in myself and worked as hard as I could to get where I wanted to be. Nothing was ever handed to me. My hope is that when people read my story, it will inspire them to reach for their goals and not give up. The real story is this: if I can do it, you can too.
JWK: You’re a very busy woman – between taking care of your family and your career at Fox News. How did you find time to write the book?
GC: The first time I was asked whether women can “have it all” was at the Miss America pageant. I said no. I didn’t mean that women shouldn’t fully pursue their dreams, only that we need to be honest with ourselves. I’m a person who likes to give 100 percent to everything I do. I want to be the best at my job and as a mother. But I’m not superwoman. It’s impossible to do everything 100 percent all of the time. And suggesting that women should be able to do it only puts more pressure on them. But I’m the ultimate organizer! My major at Stanford was “Organizational Behavior” so I love to multi-task and stay extra busy. Writing the book was cathartic as I went through 35 scrapbooks my mom had made for me and recaptured so many great memories!
JWK: You first gained fame as Miss America. Can that be something of a double-edged sword – particularly for a journalist? You get recognition – yet some people have some preconceived notions about the intelligence of a so-called “beauty contest” winner.
GC: Yes. It was as if my entire resume evaporated! My violin skills, being valedictorian and a student at Stanford University. I learned that I had to work triply hard every time I started a new job in a newsroom to prove my value and worth. Miss America gets a lot of flak, but the reality is that it is uplifting and aspirational – 50% percent of my points were based on talent. The money I won helped pay for the rest of my education at Stanford. I’ve never understood why it’s a negative to showcase a talented, smart woman who also happens to be attractive. The discipline learned from putting in time and effort as a child is a skill and a talent you carry with you for the rest of your life in trying to achieve goals.
JWK: You’ve worked at CBS News and Fox News. How would you compare the two cultures?
GC: Cable News is completely different in the sense that we are on 24/7 and its all about breaking news and being in the moment exactly at that time. It’s also more relaxed and there is more ad-libbing. It’s a totally different talent to be able to talk about a one line breaking news story without very much information at all, than to only read a teleprompter. I love the fact that I’ve added it to my career path because I’m a big believer in always challenging yourself and learning new skills. Plus at Fox, we cover stories that may not be covered at the network. We do a lot on patriotism and spirituality.
JWK: What is the biggest misconception you think people may have about you – and also about Fox News?
GC: I joke that I reached the bimbo trifecta when I came to Fox News! In being a former Miss America, being blonde and then Fox. If you Google me, you’ll find plenty of “dumb blonde” references–even though I graduated with honors from Stanford and studied at Oxford University. I don’t let it bother me. I’ve learned that sometimes when people don’t like what you have to say, and don’t want to debate you on ideas, it’s just easier to call you a dumb blonde from Fox News.
JWK: The word “Real” is in the title of your show and your book. How important is being “real” to success and happiness?
GC: Growing up in Minnesota there was something called “Minnesota Nice” and it still exists today! I hope that I am still the same little chubby girl from Anoka, Minnesota who happened to play a mean violin and became Miss America and worked so hard to get to my own national news show. And I always say, if I can do it – you can too! Being REAL means showing people who you are underneath all the TV make up too. That’s why I did part of my show – the first cable news anchor to do so – with(out) any make up on to honor the International Day of the Girl a year and a half ago. Self esteem is built from the inside out and that is my inspiring message to all people.
JWK: A lot of people think the media in general is anything but real. Why do you think that mistrust exists?
GC: I feel people don’t feel all stories are being covered. There can be bias just by story selection more than anything else. Trust is the most important aspect of being a journalist. If people don’t trust or find you relatable – you will not have success.
JWK: You’ve interviewed a lot of people over the years. Do you have a favorite and why?
GC: After the Tucson shootings where Congresswoman Giffords was shot, and eight-year-old little girl Christina Taylor Green was killed. Her mom Roxanna wanted to speak to me the day after. We did the interview when I was on Fox and Friends over the phone LIVE and it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. My daughter was also eight at the time and I couldn’t imagine her pain.
JWK: You thank a lot of people in the acknowledgments portion of your book and seem to put a lot of value in the virtue of gratitude. How important is gratitude?
GC: So important! The last chapter of “Getting Real” is ‘To Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Expected”. I believe giving back is one of the greatest life lessons we can teach our children; that the world isn’t all about them, and that through our actions people will really discover what kind of a person we truly are. Gratitude needs to come back in a big way and I hope to encourage people to get involved.
JWK: What’s ahead? What’s on your bucket list?
GC: The future is wide open. I may actually go back and get that law degree someday. Maybe I’ll be in the pulpit. Who knows? I might even pursue a career in politics. If I do, I will have had great practice dealing with the avalanche of daily criticism from working at Fox News and being a former Miss America. I’m ready for anything!
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11