Arianna Huffington's About Face

Arianna Huffington is shown November 2, 2003 at the "Express Yourself 2003" held in Venice, Ca. AP

Arianna Huffington grew up in Greece, calling her childhood a "little, incredibly awkward, overweight, far too tall girl with terrible skin and glasses and very curly hair." She hoped to become either an actress or journalist.

Today she is an author, blogger, one-time conservative and now liberal commentator and political gadfly. Huffington's ability to transform herself is the key to her character and to her career. She calls it becoming fearless, and now at age 56 she's written a book about it.

"I write in the book we're always going to have fears," she told Sunday Morning correspondent Rita Braver. "Fearlessness is not literally a state without fear. It's the mastery of fear."

Huffington has definitely mastered her own fears and her own life. After stints in New York and Washington, she now lives in Los Angeles. Last year she created a Web site and blog called "The Huffington Post" to dispense news and views from herself, celebrity pals like writer Nora Ephron, actor Alec Baldwin, and everyday people, too.

The operation is run out of Huffington's Brentwood home with a handful of employees. And the fact that business is going well lets her chortle over some of the early critiques that came in, like the one by the critic from LA Weekly.

"She said 'The Madonna of the political world has re-invented herself one time too many. This is a failure that is simply unsurvivabable,'" Huffington read.

That critic now sends items to the "Huffington Post."

Huffington honed her skills as president of the debate society at Cambridge University, then came to the United States in 1980.

Along with her writing career — 11 books in all — and her Web site, Huffington is also a well-known political pundit. She co-hosts a weekly public radio show, "Left, Right and Center," where she is on the left.

But 10 years ago, she had a remarkable political conversion. She started out as a conservative, even a confidante of Republican theorist Newt Gingrich. In 1994, she was considered a key force when her husband Michael Huffington, a Republican congressman, spent $28 million of his own money in an unsuccessful run for the Senate.

During the 1996 conventions, she was the conservative half of a comedy sketch with Al Franken. She says in those days she believed the private sector could handle social problems.

"And then I saw this wasn't working so I realized that we needed an active government," she said.

So she jumped ship and is now known as a liberal Democrat, which has raised more than a few eyebrows.

"I write about the importance of not being afraid of changing our minds, not being afraid of losing friends because we change our minds," she said. "I definitely lost friends."
  • Caitlin Johnson

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