Getting Real: An Interview with Gretchen Carlson

If you watch cable news, you’re no doubt familiar with Gretchen Carlson.

Gretchen has just released a new book called Getting Real which contains her life story.

I caught up with Gretchen recently to discuss her new book.

Enjoy and grab a copy!

In your book, you give people an inside peek behind the TV personality. What motivated you to give people this inside look at your life?

Gretchen Carlson: When people watch me on TV they see part of my life. I wanted to let them know the real me behind the scenes. The child who was a concert violinist from the age of six. The young woman who took on the challenge to compete in the Miss America pageant. The television journalist for twenty-five years.

The mother of two who, just like most women, struggles to balance work and family. The battles I’ve fought. How I’ve come back from failure and disappointment. Thanks to my upbringing, I always believed in myself and worked as hard as I could to get where I wanted to be. Nothing was ever handed to me. My hope is that when people read my story, it will inspire them to reach for their goals and not give up. The real story is this: if I can do it, you can too.

Critical people tend to put every person who works for a news organization into the same camp, saying things like “Fox news believes this” or “CNN does that” or “MSNBC promotes this” … when in fact, each news network features different programs with different people who have their own opinions. Seeing that you’re a well known figure on one of these news networks, how do you respond to this kind of pigeon-holing?

Gretchen Carlson: I joke that I reached the bimbo trifecta when I came to Fox News. In being a former Miss America, being blonde and then Fox. If you Google me, you’ll find plenty of “dumb blonde” references–even though I graduated with honors from Stanford and studied at Oxford University. I don’t let it bother me. I’ve learned that sometimes when people don’t like what you have to say, and don’t want to debate you on ideas, it’s just easier to call you a dumb blonde from Fox News.

What lessons did you learn from being Miss America that would be of practical help to Christian teens and tweens?

Gretchen Carlson: I grew up a fat kid in a small town in Minnesota who was a tomboy and happened to play a mean violin.  My goal was to be a famous concert artist some day.  I never had becoming Miss America on my radar screen.  But when I was 17, I decided to quit the violin and my parents were devastated.

They wanted me to find another goal to achieve using my talent.  In the Miss America system talent is worth 50 percent of a contestant’s points so my mom encouraged me to give it a try.  And once I decided to do it, like anything else, I gave it 110 percent.  I believe every child is born with a gift from God — big or small — and that we should all make the most of our talents.

Miss America gets a lot of flak, but the reality is that it is incredibly uplifting and aspirational. I’ve never understood why it’s a negative to showcase a talented, smart woman who also happens to be attractive. The discipline learned from putting in time and effort as a child is a skill and a talent you carry with you for the rest of your life in trying to achieve goals. Pageants should be for young women able to make their own decisions about whether or not they want to take part in a program that advocates for young women and achievement.

In your book you talk a bit about the subject of sex before marriage. What would you say to Christian teens who are taught by their peers and bombarded by media that you come from Planet 10 if you don’t have sex before marriage?

Gretchen Carlson: The first line of my book is … “Have you ever had sex or are you waiting for marriage?” The question came from a New York City reporter at my very first press conference after becoming Miss America. She rudely asked me if I’d ever had sex and whether or not there was anything about me that wasn’t “real.”

She also quizzed me on current events to test whether I was “smart.” I realized she was trying to embarrass me, and it was a really mean thing to do to a twenty-two-year-old girl meeting the press for the first time. There’s something about winning Miss America that brings out the snark. Many years later, when I was a national news correspondent, I saw her at an event and decided to approach her and tell her how demoralizing her comments were—but how I’d made it to the national scene anyway.

I felt vindicated that I decided to speak up for not only myself but women all across the nation who’ve been put down. I am raising my children with the Christian faith and life lessons I was taught. I am equipping them with all of the information and guidance as a parent and hope they will make sound decisions. The most important thing is to teach kids to stand firm in what they believe and not be swayed by detractors no matter what the subject matter.

What can you tell both women and men about the lessons you’ve learned about balancing work, family, and your spiritual life?

Gretchen Carlson: The first time I was asked whether women can “have it all” was at the Miss America pageant. I said no. I didn’t mean that women shouldn’t fully pursue their dreams, only that we need to be honest with ourselves. I’m a person who likes to give 100 percent to everything I do. I want to be the best at my job and as a mother. But I’m not superwoman. It’s impossible to do everything 100 percent all of the time. And suggesting that women (or men) should be able to do it only puts more pressure on them.

For me, part of my balance is finding time for faith in my life as well. Everyone is busy, but I believe it depends on what you prioritize. My husband and I teach Sunday School together at our church and are very involved.  One of my Miss America judges called me a “God-clutcher” way back when because I spoke about my faith being an important part of my life during my interview.

Our faith is what inspires us to reach out and volunteer to help others. As a child my parents taught me the biblical charge, “To whom much is given, much is expected,” and faith guides me that way. And I believe, especially in this day and age, it’s vital that we provide our children with a foundation from which to build their lives—one that gives them a sense of purpose.

Anyone who is speaking to the public and has a substantive message is going to draw fire from level-headed critics as well as from trolls who sling dishonest personal attacks. What lessons have you learned about handling both kinds of people?

Gretchen Carlson: Social media has allowed people to ramp up their personal attacks on people in the public eye – because there is a sense they can do it anonymously.  Trust me, I don’t read all the junk.  I joke if I did, I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. But, Sometimes the comments over the top—really ugly. Many of them are critical of my looks, like the one that criticized my “thunder thighs.” I get that a lot. Some of the tweets are too vulgar to repeat.

At my age I can handle people writing junk about me on social media, but I sometimes air “mean tweets” on my show to highlight how destructive this meanness and bullying is to young people. I know how devastating it is for a young person to be the victim of such ugliness. I shine a light on it because if people feel comfortable saying it to me, then they must feel doubly comfortable saying it to one of their friends. I can only imagine how it affects kids who are so vulnerable.

In a paragraph, what is your best advice for Christian parents who have teens?

Gretchen Carlson: We’ve all heard from our kids, “That isn’t fair” … or “None of my friends have to do it that way.”  Well, part of parenting is making the difficult choices and sticking to them.  Its a lot easier to parent by just giving in to what everyone else is doing. The challenging part of parenting is to stick to your ideals and not give in.  Our 12 year old daughter was the last in her class to get a cell phone and she had to earn it.  She still doesn’t have Instagram although she asks me for it every day.

We have rules in the house and a sticker chart for my kids to earn technology time. Maybe its because of the world I live in and work, that I don’t see much of anything beneficial that comes out of social media for kids. Even though its how they communicate now, so you have to find the fine balance. I hear parents at church say, “well my kids don’t want to come to Sunday School so I don’t make them.”

Well, in our family, at this point, its not a choice for my kids. It’s a duty for us as parents to give them faith as a foundation and hope that when they bemuse older teens and young adults they will choose the same thing for themselves.

In a paragraph, what is your best advice for Christians who are experiencing discouragement, feeling that God hasn’t come through for them like they expected?

Gretchen Carlson: There are no guarantees in life, but I believe faith provides all of us with a foundation to live the best lives possible — knowing that there is a higher being who loves us and will never leave us.  Through the many struggles in my life, my faith is sometimes the only thing I have to hold onto.  God was my only friend.

Unfortunately life isn’t fair and some things that happen don’t make any sense.  To me, faith is being thankful when things in life are going well and also being thankful when they are not.  Its often through our most difficult times when faith lifts us up and gives us the courage and the strength to work even harder to accomplish a new goal or do something we never thought we could.  That is my message in “Getting Real”. 

For more information about “Getting Real” please visit GretchenCarlson.com and watch “The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson on the Fox News channel at 2ET Monday-Friday.

Get a copy of Getting Real on discount

Frank Viola, who conducted this interview, is the bestselling author of the new book The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women form the Gospels written with popular Christian novelist Mary DeMuth.

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