The Art of Being Arianna Huffington

Interview with socialite turned candidate turned online empress Arianna Huffington.

By Melinda Henneberger
Arianna Huffington (Photo: Francois Dischinger)
What have you learned about yourself lately? A. This is incredibly boring but important: I need to get seven hours of sleep. I spent so many years thinking the most important thing was to be productive, and now I think it’s to be joyful. So I leave parties and events earlier now. Our whole culture needs to learn to unplug and recharge, and women have a role to play in that. Men — Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney — have shown us one model for success and for winding up with heart disease. The best concept I took from my economics courses was opportunity cost. Stop doing what you don’t want to do! Saying no gives you more opportunity to say yes.Q. But you’re no less hard-charging than you ever were. A. There are better ways to be hard-charging. Sleep is a metaphor for all the other ways we should take care of ourselves. And I want to age naturally; I believe in maintenance, but not surgery.Q. Never? A. I don’t see myself having surgery, no. There’s so much you can do without it. Q. So when you leave those parties early…are you seeing anyone right now? A. I’m not, no.Q. Do you see yourself getting married again some day? A. No. I don’t rule out being in love, but I have no desire to be married again.Q. You have all these old boyfriends, and you still hang out with them. A. You got married too young, or you would too.Q. I remember that, soon after your divorce, you said that — like a lot of mothers — you got important intimacy from hugging your two daughters. Now that Christina’s off to college, what’s the half-empty nest like? A. The first month she was there, I found reasons to visit her twice!Q. You don’t want us to name the college — is that for security reasons? A. There are crazy people, people who don’t like me. But more than that, this is Christina’s chapter, her time, her life. I told her I was going to be [near her school] and said, "If you have time, I’ll meet you at Starbucks….’‘ I was so excited, I felt like I was meeting a lover. Q. You’ve said that, growing up in Greece, your own mother helped you to find yourself. A. I was incredibly blessed to have the mother I had. It’s a treasure I keep drawing from. We were living in a one-bedroom apartment in Athens, with absolutely no money, when I saw a picture of Cambridge and said, "I want to go there!" Everyone said I was crazy except my mother. She said, "We can get cheap tickets — let’s go to Cambridge.’‘ People sometimes ask me who I met while we were there, who I talked to. But we didn’t talk to anybody; it was pouring rain the whole time and all we did was walk in the rain. But it’s what we would now call visualization; it felt real after I had seen it. That was the big step that changed my life.Q. Did you imagine then any of these lives you’ve led? A. Of course, what I do now didn’t even exist when I was growing up, so I didn’t say, "I want to be a blogger." But my life growing up was about books more than about friends. I knew I would do something with words. Moving people with words is Greek. It’s very much a part of life there. And even then I would get obsessed watching election results in countries I knew nothing about.Q. And now you have everyone throwing rose petals at your feet. Is that fun, or a big pain? A. I feel grateful for it, grateful that people would respond that way because something on the site just resonated. They just want to express it, and you just let them know you’re grateful and move on.Q. You’ve got new competition from your old friend Tina Brown, thedailybeast.com [an online magazine run by the former New Yorker editor]. In one story about the launch, writer Kurt Andersen was quoted as saying sure, there was room for both Godzilla and King Kong. True? A. Oh, absolutely. That space — for great content — is still so underpopulated compared with what it will be five years from now.Q. And you’re setting up HuffPost sites to do local coverage, starting with Chicago. Then what? A. Chicago is the guinea pig. The goal is to set up from 12 to 24 local sites by the end of 2009. I want to spend the rest of my life reinventing the Huffington Post. We try something, it doesn’t work, we try something else. There’s no limit.

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