Since The Rachel Maddow show premiered on MSNBC in 2008, Rachel Maddow has been the face of the network. Beloved by newsies, Maddow isn’t afraid to be honest with her audience about her emotions and motivations. Trusted as a master storyteller, the first openly gay primetime news host has always been unconventional. From an early age, she hit the gun range. In her teens, she loved punk rock, especially the band The Dead Kennedy’s. The story of Rachel Maddow off the air is one that needs to be known. How many jobs do you think she had before her big break? The number will surprise you.
She Met Her Partner In A Very Desperate Housewives Way
In 2010, Rachel Maddow told People that when she met her partner of nearly 20 years, “it was very Desperate Housewives.” They weren’t set-up on a date, and they didn’t meet at a bar or online. Maddow had just moved to Massachusetts at the time and was hired by Susan Mikula to do yard work.
Maddow has never been shy about her feelings and said it was “love at first sight” when she and her partner Mikula met in 1999. They’re still going strong today. Next, find out where Mikula took Maddow for their first date.
Maddow And Mikula Went To A Gun Range On Their First Date
When Rachel Maddow and Susan Mikula went on their first date, they chose to avoid the classic “dinner and movie” scenario. Instead, they went to a gun range, where Mikula got to show off her skills to Maddow. Surprisingly, the date didn’t turn Maddow away, even though she’s a noted liberal.
“I think shooting ranges are an excellent place to both learn about guns and to freak your friends out,” Maddow explained to CBS Sunday Morning in 2016. She also admitted that shooting is fun, before reiterating her strong beliefs about gun safety and gun control.
Maddow Loved The Dead Kennedy’s As A Teen
Maddow has always had a knack for getting people’s attention. As a teenager, she fell in love with punk rock music. In particular, she loved The Dead Kennedys and Husker Du. Her parents hated it, and even grounded her once after discovering an album with a risque cover.
Looking back on her life, Maddow says her love of bands like Meat Puppets and Black Flag was the “apex of my coolness.” Not everyone would agree with that statement, as she has a large following of a vast audience. Coming up, the after-work activity that Maddow says keeps her sane.
Fishing Is Her Favorite Down Time Activity
If Rachel Maddow ever went missing, she wouldn’t be hard to find. She’s obsessed with fishing, even admitting to fishing in the Hudson River after midnight when her show finishes taping. According to her, there’s no better smell than a clean river on a spring day.
So, what’s the biggest fish she’s ever caught? Maddow claims the largest fish she’s ever caught was “a striper that was two inches shorter than the one my mom caught ten minutes earlier.” For the record, striped bass (striper) can grow to just under six feet, although that’s rare.
Her College Newspaper Outed Her
Photo Credit: D Dipasupil/Getty Images for AWXII
Maddow’s parents found out their daughter was gay when her college newspaper outed her. Someone at the college sent the clipping to Maddow’s parents, who took the news poorly. Eventually, they learned to accept and support their daughter, who was fighting a bigger battle at the time.
While attending Stanford, Maddow was one of two openly gay freshmen. She said, “the choice was; I’m not going to be a hypocrite. I’m going to have courage.” This one decision helped drive the direction of Maddow’s views, giving her a voice and a reason to use it when so many others feel they can’t. Up next, Maddow gets a Grammy nomination!
The Grammy’s Came Calling Her Name In 2013
In 2012, Rachel Maddow released the spoken word album Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. A few months later she was nominated for a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album. Fellow nominees included Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, Ellen DeGeneres, and Janis Ian.
Can you guess who won? It wasn’t Maddow. Janis Ian was awarded the Grammy for narrating her book Society’s Child: My Autobiography. Considering the talent she was nominated with; she’s probably pretty happy to have been invited to the party.
She Auditioned For Her First Radio Show On A Dare
Before entering the television world, Maddow was a fixture on the radio. Her start in radio would never have happened if a friend hadn’t dared her to try, though. Maddow wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life when a “sidekick spot” opened up on a local radio show.
According to her friend, “we thought it might pay more than the minimum wage.” Maddow won the job and fell in love with talk radio right away. At the time, she had no idea her tiny radio gig would lead to much larger things. That story, next!
The Co-Creator Of The Daily Show Gave Maddow Her Big Break
In 2004, a tape of Rachel Maddow on air was given to producer Shelley Lewis. Lewis knew there was something special and put her on-air with Lizz Winstead, the co-creator of The Daily Show. Lewis remembers, “she had this incredible brightness of being. This sort of joy.”
In a matter of months, Maddow was hosting, The Rachel Maddow Show, a nationally syndicated radio show. Every day, she was given three hours to tell stories and analyze politics. She became so popular that television appearances on CNN and MSNBC followed. Next, just how many jobs did Maddow work before her big break?
Odd Jobs Were Her Calling Card Before Radio
People will work a lot of jobs to support themselves through school and early career struggles. Rachel Maddow was no different: “I was a waitress, bike messenger, bucket washer at a coffee-bean factory, yard help, landscaping laborer, handyman.” She estimates she held down what felt like 200 jobs before radio came calling.
Her worst gig was at a recycling center. For the job, she drove around in a flatbed truck and picked up recycling from office buildings. It was a negative experience for her and has made Maddow suspicious about the benefits of recycling ever since.
She Suffers From Cyclical Depression
Rachel Maddow dropped a bombshell in 2012 when she told Rolling Stone she suffers from cyclical depression. She explained the condition sometimes affects her on-air performance. There are times when she loses her focus and has trouble thinking through hard situations.
In the same interview, she called herself a failure, “I see my job as making a TV show. I fail at it. Constantly. And that’s all I can think about.” Luckily, in times of darkness, there is a light to guide her to safety. Learn who that light is on the next slide.
Susan Mikula Is Maddow’s Guiding Light
Whenever Rachel Maddow begins to view herself as a failure, Susan Mikula pulls her out of her darkness. For Maddow, the hardest part about depression is not realizing she’s depressed. When she loses focus, Mikula tells her, “you are depressed.”
The simple act of reminding Maddow that she has depression is enough to give her hope. In her own words: “just being able to identify it, and then knowing that it’s not gonna be forever and that it will pass and that it will ease at some point helps.”
She Made a Terrible First Impression at MSNBC
For her first televised edition of The Rachel Maddow Show, the hostess chose to address the show’s crew at a launch party. Maddow attempted to rally the troops with a motivational speech about new beginnings and rambled on, telling the crew to forget everything they had learned.
The speech backfired. Maddow said everyone at the party went silent and their faces turned pale. It was not an ideal start. According to Bill Wolf, the show’s producer, it took the crew about a year to warm up to Maddow and fully “get on board” with her vision. Her crew may have had fixed feelings about her in the beginning, but did audiences? The next slide will reveal the answer.
The Rachel Maddow Show Doubled Its Audience In One Month
Taking over the time slot of The Verdict, the televised version of The Rachel Maddow Show debuted in 2008 and was an instant hit. A little more than one month into its run, the show doubled the audience from its premiere.
Sometimes called, “America’s wonkiest anchor,” Maddow hit another career milestone in 2017. For the week of May 15th, her show was the highest rated non-sports program on cable. Sometimes it pays to be different.
She Only Dresses From The Waist Up Behind The Desk
Rachel Maddow isn’t big on fashion and dressing up. When she’s on-air sitting behind the desk, what you don’t see are the comfy jeans and Converse shoes she’s wearing. She once described her on-screen look like a mullet, “it’s business upstairs, party downstairs.”
We’re sure she’s not the only television personality to pull this trick. Sean Hannity told GQ in 2011 that he also wears jeans behind the desk, proving comfortable clothes is one thing liberals and conservatives can agree on. Still ahead, the answer to how much makeup is too much makeup.
Makeup And Lipstick Are Reluctantly Worn By Maddow
On television, Maddow wears lipstick and makeup but says she does it reluctantly. If you asked her to describe herself, she would tell you, “I’m not a TV anchor babe. I’m a big lesbian who looks like a man.” She also defends her blazer as “lady clothes.”
Maddow has been offered expensive wardrobes with high heels and has repeatedly turned them down. When she enters the studio every day, her clothes are comfy and baggy. She wishes she could stay like that, but professionalism demands compromise, and “lady clothes” along with makeup are her big ones.
She Once Had Laser Eye Surgery On Air
During her time in Radio, Rachel Maddow did some crazy things. One of those things was to get laser eye surgery while hosting the program. The radio station knew they made a mistake when she said, “I can smell my eyes burning.” Without hesitation, they cut to commercial.
Thank goodness her more experimental programming didn’t go very far. Could you imagine The Rachel Maddow Show the way it is today, but with more of a Howard Stern feel? It definitely wouldn’t be on MSNBC. Next, the story of Maddow’s unlikely relationship with Batwoman.
When Batwoman Came Out Of The Closet, Maddow Wrote The Introduction
In 2010, Batwoman: Elegy was released. The comic was a drastic re-imagining of the character as a gay woman discharged from the military for having an affair with another woman. Rachel Maddow wrote the introduction for the hardcover version of the story, a favor for her friend, Dan Choi.
The origin story is based on Choi’s own life experience, who was discharged from the Army after coming out on The Rachel Maddow Show. Choi makes a cameo in the comic, and Maddow couldn’t resist writing the introduction after finding out.
Her “Pump Up” Music Is Really Depressing
When most people work out, they need loud and high-energy music to get in the mood and really get their blood pumping. Not Rachel Maddow. She says her workout playlist is full of “tear-in-your-beer country music.”
It sounds like she’s come a long way from her punk rock roots. She’s traded in the leather jacket for a pair of spurs and isn’t looking back. These days she saves the harder music to help her get through elections. During the 2014 midterm elections, she revealed a playlist including Bad Brains, Fugazi, and Black Flag.
Some Of Her Best Friends Are Conservatives
In 2016, Rachel Maddow revealed to Us Weekly that some of her best friends work for Fox News. She then joked, “don’t tell anyone!” Her ties to Fox News run deeper than you might expect, though.
In college, she formed a relationship with Roger Ailes, a Fox News correspondent. She went to Ailes to seek out technical advice to help her get a step up on her competition. She refuses to reveal what the advice was, however, only saying, ” It was a nice thing that he did for me, and it’s been valuable for me.”
History Was Made When She Accepted The Rhodes Scholarship
Afer graduating from Stanford, Maddow was offered two scholarships to continue her studies and pursue a doctorate. She was offered the Marshall Scholarship and the Rhodes Scholarship. When she accepted the Rhodes Scholarship, she made history, becoming the first openly gay person to do so.
In 2001, Maddow graduated from the University of Oxford with her doctorate. As you know, it would take 200 jobs and three years for the MSNBC star to get her first break in radio. We’d say it was worth the struggle.
She Co-Hosted A Short-Live Gay Love Songs Show
While Rachel Maddow has become a voice for liberals and the liberal media in general, she had to fight her way to the top. Before her own show became a reality she had a pretty interesting part-time job.
“I once had a very short-lived moonlighting job hosting a gay love songs call-in show with a co-host named Martini,” she told US Weekly in November 2015. Now, she is able to use her popular political-based show to fight for LGBTQ rights, we guess it has come full circle in a way.
She Wears Grey And Black Suits For A Reason
As we already mentioned, Maddow is no fan of wearing suits but she does it for her show, at least from the waist up. You might notice that she’s almost always wearing a grey suit or a black suit with touches of grey. There’s a reason for her wardrobe choice.
“If I’m wearing a gray suit, people aren’t going to talk about what I’m wearing,” she told NY Mag. “Therefore, I will wear a gray suit every time I go on television. That was sort of the plan.” Her partner, Mikula, adds this fun bit of information, “At some point, we figured out that you could wear suits and they could be gray, or gray, or brown or black or gray.”
Maddow Doesn’t Watch Cable New Shows – Ever
She might be one of the hottest names in cable news but that doesn’t mean Rachel Maddow is a huge fan of the format. When asked about her TV viewing experiences, she admits to never watching the very type of show’s she is tasked with hosting.
Maddow told NY Mag that she has never watched a single episode of “Hannity & Colmes, or Larry King, or The O’Reilly Factor.” If her show feels like something completely different it’s because she paves her own way and isn’t trying to follow in anyone else’s footsteps. By not watching her competition Maddow says she can take her own risks.
One Guest At A Time And For A Reason
Have you ever noticed how Maddow will bring on one guest at a time for interviews and political insights? Her one guest at a time policy was started so she’s wouldn’t have to play “referee” to a bunch of squabbling pundits.
“You’re essentially watching for the kinetic activity of the fight rather than listening to what anybody says about the issue,” she says of the multi-guest format that dominates so much of cable TV news. Maddow, instead, focuses in on genuine conversations with her guests, allowing for a more insightful approach that really resonates with her fans.
Only Maddow Gets To Decide What She Covers – Not MSNBC
When you watch The Rachel Maddow Show you are experiencing whatever she’s interested in covering at that moment in time. Maddow picks her own topics of interest and chooses how she wants to cover those topics without network interference.
“I get to decide what we cover. From the very beginning, I’ve had a deal with MSNBC that they don’t tell me what to cover, what not to cover or how to cover what I cover,” she told Rolling Stone. Maddow says her job isn’t to pick stories that make people happy but rather to choose topics that matter.
Her Viewership Went Up After Trump
Once Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016, people tuned into cable news shows more than ever. Unlike previous presidents, when news media would have to wait until the president made an appearance or announcement, Trump’s Twitter habit offered something to talk about around the clock. And no show benefited from this more than Rachel Maddow’s.
In 2014, her show had 849,000 nightly viewers. Since Trump took office, her viewership launched to 2.3 million each night, and it’s still growing.
So what does Trump think of Maddow?
Trump Says Rachel Maddow And NBC News Are “Bad People”
Trump has a reputation for ripping on news media and even calling them “fake news.” He’s targeting many journalists, including Maddow. After her program revealed Trump’s 2005 tax documents, he took an interview with Fox News, where he called Maddow and her team “Bad People.”
“They leaked them,” he said. “It’s illegal to do what they did, I think.” After the segment aired, people criticized Maddow for hyping up the tax document reveal for 20 minutes before telling her viewers what it showed. People who agree with her opinions blasted Maddow for actually making Trump look good, as the tax documents proved he made a hefty tax contribution for his high income.
Chris Hayes Calls Her a Master of the Medium
Although Maddow may have stumbled upon her career, colleagues are quick to point out that she has a natural talent for hosting a news show that doesn’t come easily to others.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes told Rolling Stone, “No one can do what she does. She is a master of the medium in a way that is just unparalleled. And she does that every night. To produce what she produces every day is really incomprehensible to me, really.”
Maddow Has Won Some Impressive Awards
Rachel Maddow’s work as a news anchor and media personality has earned her a ton of impressive awards that any TV personality would be happy to call their own. Among her biggest accolades are Emmy and Gracie wins and the Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award.
Maddow has also claimed the prestigious John Steinbeck Award from San Jose State University and the GLAAD Award for outstanding journalism. Given her impressive ratings and devout following, we have a feeling Maddow has many more accolades on the way in the future.
Maddow Comes From A ‘Very Catholic’ Family In An ‘Ultra-Conservative’ Town
Rachel Maddow has said on numerous occasions that she is an obviously very liberal individual. The MSNBC star, however, was not raised with liberal viewpoints in the home. On the contrary, she says her family is “very very Catholic.”
Maddow’s own mom has noted that their community is “very conservative.” In high school Maddow focused less on politics and more on sports which included volleyball, basketball, and swimming. Perhaps it was her Standford and Oxford schooling that brought out the ultra-liberal in Maddow.
Maddow Has Picked Fights With Fact-Checking Websites
Before you start thinking Maddow has taken the Trump “fake news” stance, her fight is much different. Maddow, on several occasions, has gone after fact-checking website PoliFact for their attempts to discredit her comments using Whataboutisms.
In 2013, Maddow issued the following statement about PolitiFact: “They fact-checked a statement about state law, found it to be true, decided it didn’t seem seemly or whatever to actually just call it true, then they searched other unrelated information about how there are other kind of things, besides states, like some companies, they don’t want to discriminate, and doesn’t that count for something?”
Her First Date With Her Girlfriend Was An NRA Event
Maddow has spent plenty of time on her MSNBC show attacking the National Rifle Association (NRA) but she actually has one positive memory from one of the organization’s gatherings. It turns out her first date with Mikula was at an NRA event.
“My first date with Susan was at an NRA ‘Ladies Day On The Range’ event, and that is as close as I have ever gotten to the NRA” she told The Huffington Post.
Three Meals A Day: Always Eaten In The Same Location
Rachel Maddow needs every second of the day to produce her popular cable TV news program. That means she rarely leaves her desk while meeting with producers and other members of her staff.
Maddow is so busy throughout the day that she eats every single one of her meals at her desk Monday through Friday. “I eat three meals a day at my desk, if I eat three meals a day. If I eat two meals a day, they’re both at my desk. All of my meals are at my desk,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
She Quietly Tackles New Projects At MSNBC
While The Rachel Maddow Show is her main focus, the news personality also likes to tackle new projects in her very limited spare time. In October 2018 she quietly launched her Podcast series “Bag Man.” The podcast ranked #1 on iTunes and focuses on the story of former U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew, who stepped down after pleading no contest to tax evasion. Maddow also launched the documentary special “Betrayal” which took a look at the darker side of the 1968 election, focusing on how then-candidate Richard Nixon seemed willing to collude with a foreign government to win the Presidency.
Maddow Desperately Wants To Interview Dick Cheney
Maddow dedicated her book “Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power” to former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. At the start of her book, she writes to Cheney: “To former vice president Dick Cheney. Oh please let me interview you.”
A spokeswoman for Maddow told the NY Daily News that Maddow dedicated her book to Cheney because “he’s right at the center of what I write about.” On numerous occasions, Maddow has said Cheney is her dream guest.
She Sacrifices Sleep
Both Maddow and her partner, Susan Mikula, admit that it’s hard for Maddow to call it a night and get the sleep she needs. She’s just too passionate about everything she’s working on to put it down. “Rachel has always worked really, really hard. She works constantly.” Mikula told NY Mag.
“I have been a suicidal, stretched-too-thin, overcommitted, frenetic, sleepless mess for the entire time she has known me.” Maddow replied. She’s said in other interviews that it’s incredibly hard for her to find time to sleep, and jokingly puts it off. “I am a husk of my former self. I’m planning to sleep for all of 2019. Or maybe 2020. As soon as I’m caught up with everything, I’ll sleep!”
She Aims to be Androgynous
Maddow is the first openly gay woman to host a primetime news show, but she doesn’t want to wear it like a badge of honor. She told NY Mag, “I’ve been out most of my life. I don’t feel like I have a choice about it. I look gay.”
When she started her career, Maddow kept her wardrobe androgynous. Her partner Mikula said, “At some point, we figured out that you could wear suits and they could be gray, or gray, or brown or black or gray.”
She Doesn’t Want Her Appearance to be a Distraction
While many other female primetime news hosts meticulously select their wardrobe, makeup, and hair for each segment, Maddow recognized that it also took away from the news and ideas that were being presented. So she wanted to go a different route.
“If I’m wearing a gray suit, people aren’t going to be talking about what I’m wearing. Therefore, I will wear a gray suit every time I go on television,” she told NY Mag. “That was sort of the plan.”
Maddow Enjoys Living in Massachusetts
Maddow returned to the US after working in London on the AIDS Treatment Projects. When she came back, she decided to move to Massachusetts this time. “I wanted to live somewhere where I would be forced to do what I had to do,” she told NY Mag.
She also likes the area because she and her partner can feel comfortable being themselves. Maddow said, “We live in western Mass and New York and it’s very accommodating. Every once and a while I’ll say, ‘Oh my God, we’re gay.’”
“Unlikely” is Her Life’s Theme
Maddow realizes that she has plenty of “firsts” under her belt and that many people often saw her as an unlikely individual for the path she’s chosen. But after hearing herself described as “unlikely” time and time again, Maddow chose to own it.
She told NY Mag, “Yeah, I’m the unlikely cable news host. But before that I was the unlikely Rhodes scholar. And before that I was the unlikely kid who got into Stanford. And then I was the unlikely lifeguard. You can always cast yourself as unlikely when you’re fundamentally alienated in your worldview. It’s a healthy approach for a commentator.”