A 30-year-old Greek woman with a “funny accent” leaves United Kingdom to break away from her whirlwind romance with a celebrated writer. She moves to New York with an MA degree in economics and her “rock of Gibraltar” mother to iron out the flaws of her life – including inability to speak proper English!What happens next is the fascinating growth story of one of the most powerful female media moguls in the world.
We are talking about Arianna Huffington who continued to rewrite her own success story by donning several hats. Author, columnist, TV personality and an editor-in-chief of the Pulitzer Prize-winning online news website Huffington Post – she is many things in one. Born in Athens, Greece, this firebrand media person spent her formative years in the United Kingdom before eventually moving to the United States. Her journey from the first foreign President of the Cambridge University Union to the Forbes’ first-ever list of the Most Influential Women In Media, is incredible.
Politics in genes
Born as Arianna Stasinopoulos to intensely political parents, she grew up watching her father edit and underground newspaper to join the resistance to the German occupation of Greece. She moved to the United States in 1980 with her mother, who lived with Arianna until her death. With a Masters degree in economics from Cambridge University, she penned down her first book in 1973, titled The Female Woman, which critiqued the Women’s Liberation movement.
In 1983, she traced her ethnic roots with The Gods of Greece, which analyzed the importance of ancient myths, and by the end of the decade she also released a biography on Picasso. Before moving to United States in 1980, she left behind an unfulfilled romance with writer Bernard Levin, who she still considers her mentor and role model.
Huffington met her future husband Michael Huffington in 1985. She lent her complete support to him when he ran as a Republican for a seat in the US House of Representatives, which he won by a significant margin. While campaigning for her husband, Arianna rose to fame and gained intimate knowledge of both – the Right and the Left. During this time, she also supported conservative causes such as ‘Republican Revolution’ and Bob Dole’s 1996 candidacy for president. With a gifted ability to chalk out solutions for problems, from a ‘Compassionate Conservative’ she gradually turned into a ‘Progressive Populist’.
The couple divorced in 1997. Just a year after the divorce, her husband went on the record to say that he is bisexual. Today, Arianna lives in Los Angeles with her two daughters and became a naturalized American citizen in 1990. It is reported that the internet-publisher cum socialite knew of her husband’s interest in men before marriage. Her husband was quoted as saying, “in my Houston town house I sat down with her and told her that I had dated women and men so that she would be aware of it.”
Career and controversies
This perfect New Media symbol’s most prized feather in the cap is the news website The Huffington Post, that also bears her name. Along with partner Ken Lerer, Arianna launched the site in 2005 that is till today known for excellent investigative journalism. Years later, in 2011, her partner struck a buyout deal with AOL for $315 million, creating a furor amidst allegations of free labor exploitation under the pretense of political idealism and “citizen journalism.”
Till date, she has authored thirteen books and has spearheaded one of the most widely read news sites that won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting among other achievements. She serves on several boards, including EL PAÍS, PRISA, the Center for Public Integrity, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
However, her well publicized life and illustrious career is not without gray patches. She has often found herself in the centre of controversies related to plagiarism, deception, hucksterism and even treating her servants like “slaves”.
The press continues to vent ire at Huffington Post/AOL plans to profit from free content by 13-year-old unpaid bloggers and auctioning of unpaid internship. A particular listing on the site kicked up a storm where for an internship, students paid over $13,000 to bag ‘an eye-opening internship at The Huffington Post in New York or Washington.’
The humorous streak
With an ability to laugh at her own “funny accent” and an inherent sense of humor she instantly strikes a chord with her audience. When she takes to the podium either to address graduating students of a business school or the prestigious TED conferences, she uses a generous dose of smart one-liners and practical advice. In fact in one such talks, she stressed upon the importance of sleep and declared that one ‘can sleep their way to increased productivity and happiness – and smarter decision-making.’
It is evident from her interviews that there is a tender woman lurking inside her. She was once quoted as saying, “I still feel like my mother’s daughter. She had that Greek tribal sense. Whoever would come into the house, whether it was the FedEx man or the father of a play date, she would bring them into the kitchen and force food on them. I’m the same.”