Mika's Do-Over

Brzezinski told her agent to find her any TV job, even if it was low on the ladder: "Assistant to the assistant. Cleaning toilets."

By Amanda Robb
Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough (right) and MSNBC s senior political analyst Lawrence O Donnell (left)
Photograph: Peter Ross

“Joe is extraordinary, but Mika makes him even better,” says Rick Kaplan, the current executive producer of CBS Evening News. “She gets under his skin. She is a catalyst for some of the show’s most interesting conversations.” And viewers feel a connection with her. As Dan Rather puts it, “Mika gets through the glass.”

MY DAY with Brzezinski winds down. When the red TV studio light goes off at nine AM, the cohosts—after three hours of banter and bickering—depart without a word to each other. Brzezinski clicks down the hall in her four-inch heels to her closet-size office, where she wiggles out of her skirt and into size 4 peg-leg jeans. Then she clicks back down the hall and onto an elevator, which she takes to a radio studio. There she eats two bowls of cornflakes. The two-hour Joe Scarborough Show with Mika Brzezinski starts at 10:00 sharp. She is back reading her BlackBerry.

I could not do this, I tell her—this being “on” for five hours straight, five days a week—all on less than five hours of sleep a night (she says that’s all she needs), cornflakes and BlackBerry drags. It wouldn’t matter if I had a fleet of nannies, housekeepers, assistants and stylists. I am two thirds of the way through just one of her mornings, and I feel skinned alive. “If I were trying to do it the way I used to, without enough support, I couldn’t either,” she answers. “I’d rather spend one good hour with my kids a day than eight bad ones. It’s called restraint, transfer-ring pow-er and control, and admitting what I’m not good at doing. I probably still couldn’t do this unless I loved it. But I really love my job. And I didn’t think this could happen again.”  

In her forthcoming motivational book, All Things at Once, Brzezinski writes that there is no magic formula for latter-day success. She believes, however, there are two keys to hers: her willingness to take a huge step back-ward, professionally, and her brutal honesty about her priorities.

“Sometimes things suffer,” admits her husband. “Like when Mika covers an election: the kids suffer or our relationship suffers. But then we come back together and appreciate each other more than ever. And I think Mika is a great role model for the girls. Find something you love. Work really hard. Be the best at it.”  

But she doesn’t meld family and work the way she used to. She allows her girls to come to MSNBC’s studio at 30 Rockefeller Center “maybe once in the summer.” If she loses this position, she doesn’t want her kids to get upset again. “All these TV jobs are very bad boyfriends,” she says; the net-work could decide any day that they are not that into her. At the same time, she takes comfort in the fact that some of the most visible high-level anchors are women over 40: Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira, Ann Curry, Barbara Walters, Campbell Brown, Diane Sawyer and, yes, Mika Brzezinski. She knows that no penny can shine forever, but she’s too busy reading her BlackBerry to worry about that now.  

AMANDA ROBB won a Planned Parenthood Maggie Award for her 2008 More profile of abstinence activist Leslee Unruh.

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