The Fearless Ways of Arianna Huffington
But self-assured, poised Arianna Huffington swears in her latest book that she too has faced the fears which bedevil modern-day women: fear of being unattractive, fear of gaining weight, fear of being ridiculed for her thick Greek accent (think Zsa Zsa Gabor with a degree from Cambridge University) and fear of being ridiculed as a public figure during her 2003 run for California governor.
"If you want everybody to like you, there's a very simple solution: do nothing and say nothing, smile a lot and compliment people a lot," she told me when I interviewed her for a feature story on the one-year anniversary of her Huffington Post blog earlier this year. "That's got to be a very fearful way to live. And its a recipie for a very unfulfilling life."
Huffington takes on fear in her latest book, On Becoming Fearless...in Work, Love and Life. You can hear her talk about the book in person at the Times Festival of Reading -- and hear me introduce her -- at 12:15 p.m. tomorrow in the University of South Florida's Campus Activities Center.
So, how does Huffington reconcile her latest book's plea for women to find independence from the fear of not fitting into the roles society expects of them with her first book, 1971's The Female Woman, in which she called feminism a threat to western civilization that denigrated marriage and motherhood?
"My book in the ‘70s is more about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater," said Huffington, who developed On Becoming Fearless in part by posting exceprts of the work-in-progress on the Huffington Post. "In the ‘70s, women felt hat they had to choose between career paths and motherhood. I was only 23 at the time, and I kind of felt instinctively that we didn’t have to choose. This new book is (inspired) by my having two teenage daughters, and seeing all the fears my generation had to overcome rearing their ugly heads. As I’ve been reading the book this morning – I see how empowering it is to have dozens of other women’s fears before you -- you have this essense of how universal all those fears are.”
When I finally talked to Huffington, I was already fascinated by her story. To prepare for our intwerview, I had devoured a mountain of past profiles and discovered this woman who was tough to pin down.
A fiery intellectual, she has courted high society allies (socialite Ann Getty and Barbara Walters stood in her wedding) with such tenacity Los Angeles magazine called her "the sir Edmund Hillary of social climbers." A proudly independent woman, she developed her political reputation initially as wife and political strategist for Michael Huffington, a conservative heir to massive oil wealth who later unveiled himself as a closeted homosexual.
Once part of Newt Gingrich's political brain trust, Huffington left behind a sure success as a slick conservative pundit -- think Ann Coulter with better ideas and manners -- to forge a new identity as the well-connected voice of beseiged liberals everywhere. And now this intellectual product of England's best schooling and New York/Hollywood high society has created a lefty blog which unites the ramblings of geeks like me with the musings of Bill Maher, Al Franken and Ted Turner.
"Having a site that has an attitude in the way it presents the news -- smart, articulate, edgy responses to the news from people who are really good at presenting their views in an intimate, intense way, has been much more important," she said. "Being an aggregator of other voices online -- ever since I was growing up in Athens, I loved people and I love entertaining. Even when it meant having people in my room eating grape leaves my mother had shipped from france. And for this, I’ve drawn on people I’ve known for years...all people I’ve known and whose work I’ve loved and whose voices I wanted to make part of the online conversation. The most important conversation to have I’ve seen online, and I wanted these voices in that space.”
If you want to learn more, stop by and see us Saturday....