@realDonaldTrump… in the flesh

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FIRST: I’ll leave out my political commentary since this is simply a story about the time I met the next President of the United States.


Phone rings at 8:30 Tuesday morning.

If you can get to Colorado Springs within the next two hours,
you can have an interview with Donald J. Trump.

I had just walked into work and was sitting at my desk clicking through the emails that had trickled in since 5 o’clock the night before. I heard my boss take the call and was already packing the gear by the time he hung up. We work in the suburbs, two hours north of the rally happening that day in Colorado Springs. We had been in communication with both campaign communicaiton offices for the past year trying to work out a time to do an interview.

In the 350+ interviews with heads of state, Presidents of foreign countries and celebrities I’ve produced in the last 4 years, this one was a shock to even me. Meeting a presidential candidate is really exciting. The pomp and circumstance, the anticpation, the posse of support staff is a spectacle in and of itself.

Whenever you have interactions with someone of notoriety I find that they’ll either be very warm and convesational, or very distracted and anxious to get to their next appointment. Famous people tend to be very busy people whose schedules barely allow time to eat and sleep. I always view guests’ time allottment to be on show as a generous donation of their most precious resource.

I assumed that Mr. Trump would be in the latter, more distracted, category. He’s about to give a speech at the first of three rallys of the day, after he finishes our interview and the two interviews after us.

Leading up to the interview I arrived at the venue, kind of a horse arena in Colorado Springs with my 4 bags of camera gear. Secret service went through all the bags and then released me to the media stands in the mid-back of the arena. The ground had been packed down and covered in faux grass for the event, but was still a little uneven from being trod upon daily by horses. I found the Trump campaign Colorado communications contact and asked to see the interview area.  I was led with my crew to the area behind the black stage curtain.  Instead of a well lit, quiet room I found that the interview area was merely a black curtained off 20’x20′ cube on the same unever dirt directly behind the stage. My disappointment at this was great. Keeping audio clean would be virtually impossible and adequately lighting the interview almost impossible.  We spent the next hour working with the Trump communications team at the arena about the cameras we’d be allowed to use, the time we’d have to set up, and the status of Mr. Trump’s flight. We were to be granted the first interview, meaning we could set up our cameras a few minutes before he arrived. This welcome news to me. I prefer to have hours of time to set up the chairs, adjust the lighting and fine tune the background. Here, for our most important interview of the year, I would have a few minutes to get everything perfect. We were shown the tape line where Mr. Trump would stand and where Aaron would stand. Set our cameras up, focused the shot, got the mics ready and then were given the 15 minute warning.

“Where is your mic?” – staffer
“Here.” I replied and showed my wireless lav.
“No. You have to use a stick.” – staffer

I had less than 15 minutes to run out of the secured area (that hopefully I could re-enter) through the parking lot, rumage though the gear I left in the trunk to find the stick mic and run back in.

I tapped the shoulder of the cop at the back-stage entrance, “Hey, I have to go get some gear. Will you let me back through in a minute?”

“Sure thing! I’ll remember you.” He tapped my back and smiled.

Needless to say, I made it back with the correct mic with a minute to spare.

“Okay, he’s here.” someone said.

All heads turned to the door (gap in the curtains) in anticipation. I made one last double check-glance around the room at the gear making sure everything was ready to go.

He was wearing a bright red and white stripped tie. He looked different in person than I expected. Much more normal skin tone, very normal hair and an absolutely KILLER smile. He was ushered in by his staff to his spot in front of our cameras as he warmly greeted all of our crew members.

I’ll let you judge for yourself how well the interview went…

Once we wrapped I started picking up the cameras. We had to clear the area quickly so that the next crew could get in and set up their shot. One of our crew members asked to get a photo and before I could get out of the room Mr. Trump looked to me  and asked, “Wouldn’t you like to have a picture?” He additionally offered a photo to our intern and then we were out.

I was so surprised! No one else on that level that we’ve interviewed has offered photos to anyone. Usually you have to ask, and then you’re given a sigh, “Okay.” Or told that they have to get to their next appointment and don’t have time. So, as you can see up top, I met the next president (which we didn’t know at the time) and got a picture with him (to prove it!)

I actually found out that he won at 4 am the day after the election by seeing multiple texts on my phone from late the night before saying, “You have a picture with the President!”

 

striking stars and learning lessons

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 5.37.30 PMIn my work I’ve been blessed to meet more than a handful of famous people. Some are names that everyone knows like Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and NFL legend John Elway. Some of my most favorite star encounters are with the less well known like Ambassador Husain Haqqani or CEO Keryn James.

On the first week of my internship I was thrown into a world of famous people. We were in Colorado at the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival. Speakers gather from around the world to discuss their ideas about current social and economic issues and debate the merits of solutions they conceive.

Before we got there my boss opened the conference schedule online started listing the names of who we wanted to interview. I grabbed a pen and started putting notes by each name he mentioned.
“Okay,” he said, “start making some phone calls now.”

What? I must have missed something. He didn’t give me any of their phone numbers. Who has the CEO of Starbucks or the President of Pakistan’s phone number anyways?

What I’ve learned is that not only can these untouchable people be found and contacted, but most of them will say ‘hi’ to you if you pass them on the sidewalk.

My boss’s gregarious demeanor, his vast knowledge and his resume of former show guests encourage people to listen and respond when we invite them to be on the show. He taught me what number to call first and what to say to the gatekeepers to quickly show your competence and get their interest. Mostly what I’ve learned from Aaron is the importance of being nice to everyone. Whether he is greeting a member of the President’s cabinet on the sidewalk or thanking the girl filling the fruit tray at the buffet table, he treats everyone with respect.

At first I was so afraid and intimidated by the people we were interviewing. I think it took me a few trips of being ‘star struck’ before I became more comfortable.

When you walk into a situation feeling less than someone else, it doesn’t matter if that’s true or not. Your impression is what you will act upon.

There were a few factors that helped me to be more comfortable. My knowledge of my work and the show helped a lot. Also, the more I was in intimidating situations the more confident I became. But as usual, Aaron made the biggest impression on me.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 5.36.44 PMWe walked down the path in Aspen one day and spotted a couple people chatting in the shade. I didn’t know either of them but assumed that Aaron did, he knew everyone there. We shook hands, exchanged business cards and Aaron talked with them about some humanitarian project. As we walked away, Aaron said, “Do you know who that was?”
No, I replied.
“It was actor Stanley Tucci and his fiancée Felicity Blunt.“

 

They didn’t know either Aaron or I at all. By being friendly we were able to have a nice conversation with them. I learned later that not only did Aaron not know them, but he didn’t know half of the people he had been talking to the entire trip.

Famous people stand around in regular pants and shoes and talk to people about the news while drinking their coffee. If you’re well informed, confident and friendly you can have intelligent conversations with anyone.

 

 

musings of a young girl with a career.

I’ve been searching for my writer’s voice for a long time now. I’ve been a wedding blogger, a faith blogger, a motivational blogger, a movie review blogger. Anything that captivates my thoughts and interests I have written about.

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The only significant thing in my life that I’ve never said anything about is my career. This struck me as especially peculiar. I spend all day, all week doing my job. Some days it challenges me to learn new things, and from it I generate enough money to provide for myself and have quite a bit of fun.

It’s really satisfying to talk to people at parties or when I’m getting my hair done at the salon, because when they ask where I work I get to say, “I’m a TV producer.“

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I’m very proud of what I do. I work hard at it and take a lot of responsibility for the product that I produce. Even so, there are days I feel like my job sounds a thousand times better than it is. I even occasionally feel a pang of envy when I log into Facebook and see old college classmates anchoring evening newscasts.

In Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” she talks about how the work force is no longer a ladder but a jungle gym. Sometimes I see myself swinging along with my peers on the monkey bars. Other times I’m afraid I’ve been laying around in the sandbox by myself for too long.

I’m never sure how to describe what it is that I do. Its odd, after a couple years of answering the “what do you do” question you would think that I would have narrowed it down to the most fascinating power-punch answer. Every time I reply I find myself racking my brain for the coolest possible thing to say.

Why do I feel the need to impress? I guess we all want to be accepted. Impressing people is a part of that acceptance process. If we have something interesting that people want then they’re more likely to include us in their lives. So for now, my job is the thing that I use to try to impress people and be accepted.

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I’ve made some pretty hairy mistakes and I’ve met some pretty cool people so far. Its been an incredible learning experience to stand by and listen to my boss converse with leaders in every imaginable industry for the last three years. Even more powerful has been my more recent experience of gaining confidence in my voice and ability to have conversations of my own. The morning I got to chat with a female lawyer at a breakfast event was so encouraging.  She is the only female partner in her office. “People say you have to choose family or career, as if its a one time choice. But for me I choose each day. One day I choose to spend time with my children after school and the next day I decide to take an extra meeting and work a little late. Each day. That’s how I find balance.” she explained to me.

The hours I spend sitting at my desk hammering away at my keyboard all run together. If you look at one particular day or keystroke, it seems insignificant. Once you compile all of those days and all of those keystrokes, they become the story of a girl finding her voice and finding her dreams. Yes, finding dreams. Not just chasing them, because…

Dreams are not stationary things that we can set our eyes upon.
Rather they are evolving impressions of the things we want.