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Gretchen Carlson: From Miss America to Bombshell Journalist

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Today Gretchen. Carlson joins us on skimmed from the couch as a career journalist. She's also become an advocate for equality and dignity in the workplace. Carlson sued the former Fox News Chairman and CEO. Roger Ailes in two thousand sixteen. Her bombshell lawsuit ignited national conversations about sexual harassment and has inspired her advocacy work. We are very excited for this conversation Gretchen. Welcome to skin from the couch. Thanks for having me. I feel like I've known you guys for so long in. It's like so great to be able to have this discussion. So thanks for having me. So we're GONNA start our all interviews with just skim your resume for us. Oh my gosh well. I'll start with the latest editions which were never expected to be on my resume. Which are you know being one of the poster women for sexual harassment in the workplace? That's not necessarily something you aspire to when you're putting together your first resume and talking about goals and challenges in a life of head of you but I would say that what else has been on my resume over. My life has been series of accomplishments where challenges were in front of me and I really went for them and so the same thing is true for this latest endeavor that I've been doing for the last three years which is to really try and tackle this problem of workplace harassment. So that would be at the top of my resume. Now the very short version following that would be Fox News for eleven years before that five years at CBS news before that a lot of local markets including Dallas Cleveland Cincinnati and Richmond before that being the first classical violinist to be Miss America and before that studying at Oxford University getting my degree from Stanford University. Being High School Valedictorian and being a concert violinist as a child. See your super relaxed. I I know after. I've had some milestone birthdays. I become trying to become my new goal to be more chill and it's actually really liberating to be more relaxed and just let things sort of ebb and flow. Women are reared to be perfectionists and socialized to not color outside the lines. And I'm really really really trying to do more of that and advocating that for younger women as well. We've seen and heard a lot about you recently. Obviously we saw you on TV for years. And then we've seen movies depicting your story. What's one thing that you can't Google? You can't watch that people don't know about you. Oh my gosh all things I cannot do so I cannot whistle her. I think it's actually is genetic I can't do. You can't do that either. That is genetic okay so those two things. I can't parallel park. Oh Oh my gosh yeah. I only have done it once in my life to pass my driver's sixteen years old. Just got a card. That is supposed to be able to do that for me. But I haven't had time to set it up. Tesla I did. I've tried to it works. Oh my Gosh my relationship with driving. Oh my gosh okay so sometime this weekend or whenever I have time I need to really actually read the manual and figure that out I grew up a Chubby kid. I struggled with my weight for all of my teenage years and I actually feel that. That is really inspirational for young women especially today. Because they're so much more emphasis on exterior which. I always try to advocate for for young people and older women to that really. It's you know it's about what's inside. We should build our self esteem from the inside out. People look at television personalities. And you probably get the same thing with what you do that. They think that there haven't been any struggles or that they're just perfect and that certainly hasn't been the case with my life at all. I mean I really feel like successes truly appreciated when you've gone through struggles and failures and overcome those those hurdles. I totally agree one at just sort of take a step back. What was your family situation? What was your childhood like? Just Kinda give us who you were before you became a person on TV. Well I look at my family. Life is idyllic said small town in Minnesota with parents who believed in me and told me every day. I could be anything I wanted to be in this world and that was just incredibly important to hear that every single day they of course said with the caveat is GonNa take a lot of work and so I grew up with the Protestant Work Ethic. You know of incredible hard work. I also grew up with huge philanthropic spirit. My grandfather was a minister. My parents truly believed in giving back to the community and I think that that's the greatest gift that I can pass along to my two teenage children to understand that to truly be a whole individual. It's about giving to others. That was a huge part of my upbringing and a huge part of the work. I'm doing now and where that came from. How quickly did you realize did other people realize you were a violin prodigy that came about as a total fluke? I actually apparently? According to my parents I would hear commercial sort of songs on TV. And I would go in. Plunk them out on the piano. And my mom's like I think we need to get her piano lessons and then we went up the street to piano teacher. Who's our neighbor and she said. Oh she'll never be any good at piano. Hands are way too small and so why don't you go up to the local school and you know talk to them about a different instrument and I've got my first violin and it was just tiny you know it was like a foot long and I started playing it and it just clicked. It just became who I was. What's it like to be really good at something that young? I loved it. It taught me discipline. Where even if you put in ten minutes or thirty minutes a day got better at something and for kids at so important. Because that's something carried with me for the rest of my life that discipline I think about every single day release shaped however approached everything else in my life. It's something nobody can take away for me. It's a talent. It's something that I have made by myself and nobody can ever take that away and I think that's so crucial especially for young people today to be able to hone skills that they own. You went on to go to some of the most prestigious schools in the world and then became Miss America lightly. We talk us. They're like WHOA. Is that light Unexpected never on my radar screen. What's my mother? When I was seventeen I burned out on the violin and I quit and my parents were devastated and so I went off to concentrate academics and when I was doing some time over at Oxford University in England and got a phone call from my mom. She had gotten a brochure in the mail. On the Miss America Organization. She called me and she said I found something for you to do. I said what and she described to me. She said it's fifty percent talent. You have that it's thirty percent interview. You're smart you can do this and I'm like yeah mom but I'm also short I'm also from Minnesota which is not pageant state. I also played classical violin. And that's never one and I've never been patches ever before and nor have ever watched them and she was like well. I think you can do this. And my mom's an incredibly influential person in my life and is my sharp critic but also my biggest cheerleader was her motivation and wanting she wanted me to play the violin again. I mean that one hundred percent. This was to try and get me back onto my music career and so you know she and I became a team. I stopped out a Stanford my senior year because I realized if I was going to actually do this to do it. One hundred fifty percent had to give it one hundred and fifty percent and I couldn't be doing my studies at Stanford and tried to prepare fascinating and I want to just pause for a second because I would say you doing that. It's probably going against the popular decision or assumption Which is going against the grain. A little bit too. Like you know what? Actually I'm going to prioritize this. A lot of people would say stay in school. And obviously we're going to talk about how you went against the grain and other parts of your life talk just like what your personality was at that time what. Your confidence level was at a time. Well it was pretty high because I had done tremendous amount of violent competitions which by the way I never faced any gender discrimination or sexism with regard to that all they picked to play the best. They didn't care if you're a girl or boy and the same thing with my academics. I never any kind of discrimination early on in my life and so I was used to setting high standards and high goals and this was something that I knew nothing about but my mom and I really researched it from afar. Instead of participating. In a lot of competitions we researched it and we realize that for me if I was going to try and really try and achieve this that I couldn't be doing these two things at the same time when I went to tell the Dean at Stanford who happened to be a woman and I told nobody what I was doing by the way when I went to tell her though because I had to. She told me she thought it was the stupidest thing she'd ever heard of. And I said well okay. Let's see how it let's see how it turns out. Listen there's a tremendous amount of subjectivity in these kinds of competitions and lock and all of that but I needed to be truly prepared in order to have a chance. Say You win. You go on to become a journalist and you ultimately make the jump to Fox News where you become the Co host of the number one cable news morning show. You were there at a time at the network when it was just skyrocketing when you started there. Did you understand the impact? The network would have and the direction it would take. As kind of the cultural force that it became. Never I went there because it was an opportunity to a morning show five days a week. I was at CBS. When I originally went CBS. I was a correspondent. I was traveling the world. My goal and television was always to do a morning show. The goal was always to be able to do a show that incorporated hard news. Where he could showcase your your smarts but also showcase your sense of humor and lighter things and so I got the opportunity finally at CBS to do their weekend morning show and then when the Fox opportunity came about to do five days a week I mean that was just really what I had worked so hard to achieve and so I went over there you know as a as a total novice and Fox was just sort of starting out. At the time I learned a tremendous amount from cable because cable was totally different than network news in the sense that it was almost all ad Lib on their forget one of the first days I was there and I was doing a different show than the morning show and one line came over the AP wire that said something about that. The person that had assassinated leader in the Middle East been caught and the producers said to me in my ear. Just go with this for like three minutes. I was like what I don't even know who they're talking about. I don't even know if I can pronounce this name and I just had to dig deep and luckily my life. I had a lot of experience at doing that. Not exactly in this realm but I just started talking and it made me realized from that day. Forward that wow this whole different craft when you're at living and not reading teleprompter and so cable news is just a completely different talent than what I had been doing before. So we'll say that that was extremely beneficial to me to grow as a person and to get better at my