Charity, April 30, 2012 at7:04 PM

Nicolle Wallace: The Comforter in a Suitcase Years

Photo by Amy Vitale

I’m fascinated by people’s career stories. In particular, the early years of careers. No one, except, like, Prince William and maybe Drew Barrymore, started out as a bigwig. For everyone else, first there are the years (or even decades) of figuring it out. There’s this whole span of time when you have to believe you can do great things even though pretty much everyone else believes your abilities are limited to making copies and coffee. It can be hard. Also funny. In large part, that’s what my novel, Ten Girls to Watch, is all about. That’s what today’s interview is all about too.

Nicolle Wallace is the author of the best selling novel Eighteen Acres and the recently published sequel It’s Classified. She’s also a political commentator who served as communications chief for George W. Bush’s White House and re-election campaign and senior advisor for the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008. Pretty bigwig! But before all that, she worked the graveyard shift and lived off canned soup. Here, her answers to all my “how did you get started?” questions.

What did you think you wanted to be when you graduated from college?

I desperately wanted to be a broadcast journalist.

What kind of job did you actually end up getting? 

My first job was working the overnight shift (3 am – noon) at KPIX as a production assistant. I rolled the teleprompter and wrote some scripts–it was awesome in that I was living my dream of working in television news, but it was awful because I slept when the rest of the world was awake, and I was awake when the rest of the world slept.

What was your first real apartment like?

My first apartment was fabulous – it was in Pacific Heights in San Francisco. But my roommate was a little nutty. She became my last roommate ever!

Are there any experiences that capture the essence of your early twenties?

I remember living on canned soup, slimfast shakes (for protein) and Ben and Jerry’s frozen yogurt as a grad student at Northwestern. Its amazing that I didn’t develop scurvy. I also used to fly the super cheap discount airlines (think ValueJet). Looking back, it’s a miracle that all of the shady planes I flew on made it without incident.

Is there a job or a moment you think of as your first “big break”?

My first big break in politics was getting hired as governor Jeb Bush’s press secretary. I was 25 and I moved to Tallahassee with my down comforter in my suitcase. The job was incredible, but I was so homesick, I didn’t last six months.

Was there a moment when you finally felt like you’d “made it”?

I felt like I’d really “made it” when, as a White House staffer, I had a pass that let me into the White House complex 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I would swipe it through the high tech entry system and hold my breath until my name came up in the system. I couldn’t believe that they let me just walk in every day.

Is there anyone who has been a real role model or mentor for you?

My mom and dad are the reason I was able to march off to Tallahassee, FL, and Washington DC, and all of the other places I traveled for professional opportunities. They were adventurous themselves and they never doubted my ability to pull off whatever I set my mind to.

Thanks, Nicolle!

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