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Gretchen Carlson Gets Real

Gretchen grew up in Minnesota.  Her brothers used to tease her by calling her Hindenburg and Blimpo because she was a chubby child.  Her mom tried to put her on diets but Gretchen succumbed to her mom’s great cooking skills.  “I used to cross off the size from the back of my jeans,” says Gretchen.  Her weight never affected her until 10th grade when she overheard a boy she liked say she was too fat to date.  “That was the time I went on a diet and lost 30 pounds,” she says.  During her first press conference as Miss America, Gretchen was intent on inspiring overweight girls by letting them know they could still pursue their dreams.  After telling her story, Gretchen arrived at the airport the next day and the headline gossips newspapers read “Blimpo Becomes Miss America.”  “I realized my life would be different as Miss America and my point got taken out of context,” she says.  “It comes as a shock at first then you develop tough skin.”  

Talent counts as half the score in the Miss America pageant.  Gretchen was the first violinist to be crowned Miss America.  She picked up the violin as a young girl.  By the time she was 10, Gretchen was playing with world renowned violinist Isaac Stern before large audiences.  She was passionate about music and practiced up to 4 hours a day.  “I loved performing but the accomplishment came with a lot of practice,” says Gretchen. She missed playing with her friends.  “I’ve never regretted that time, though sometimes I struggled and it was lonely,” she says.  “I would have never been Miss America, much less Miss Minnesota, were it not for my violin.”

It has been Gretchen’s goal to improve the image of the Miss America organization.  “There is a misconception about the entire program,” she says.  All the money won in the pageant has to be used for education.  “One of my greatest joys was to call my dad and say, I’m paying for the rest of it,” says Gretchen.  She says many of the contestants are talented and involved in their communities.  The average GPA for all the contestants is 3.7. 

GETTING REAL

Gretchen worked at a news station in Richmond, Virginia after her reign.  She covered politics at the time.  “Twenty-six ago there weren’t a lot of women covering politics.  I covered the Governor every day.  It taught me so much.  I learned how to be a reporter and pitch stories,” she says. She took a job in Cincinnati but later got fired soon after she was married.  “It was the toughest year of my life,” says Gretchen.  Her male boss who fired her said she would be okay because she had a husband now which she says was sexual harassment.  Being unemployed was difficult for Gretchen.  She was trying to come to grips with her identity and everything seemed to be falling apart.  She relied on her faith.  Gretchen ended up working for NBC in Dallas while her husband lived in Cleveland for another 9 months.  “Our second year was spent commuting,” says Gretchen. “It was a great life lesson in hindsight.  It rocked my world and I had to hold on to my foundation which was my family and faith.”

From Dallas, Gretchen got a job with CBS News in New York.  After 5 years, she landed at Fox. “People have an image of TV personalities as not having problems.  I’m just like everyone else.  I’ve had struggles and successes.  I’ve worked really hard for everything.  I just really climbed and struggled the whole way.  I hope along the way I stayed true to the values I grew up with.”

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Guest Info

Credits

Fox News Host, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson

Formerly host of Fox New’s Fox & Friends, 1996-1998

Former host with CBS Saturday Early Show

Miss America 1989 (first violinist crowned Miss America)

1990 honors graduate of Stanford University, BA, Sociology (Organizational Behavior)

Also, studied at Oxford University in England

Husband: Casey Close since 1997

2 children

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