From Shy Ex-Model To Trump’s Top PR – Meet Hope Hicks

With Spicer and Scaramucci gone, the job of communicating the President’s message to the world has fallen to an unlikely and elusive 28-year-old staffer. Olivia Nuzzi reports

Hope Hicks

by Olivia Nuzzi |
Published on

America’s capital city is one populated by my least-favourite type of personality: the striver. They come here with five-year plans, grand ambitions and carefully written resumés. They are strategic and savvy, masters of the firm handshake and the follow-up email. They’d love to do coffee sometime and, don’t worry, they’ll see you at the next embassy cocktail party! It’s a uniquely Trumpian departure, then, that the most powerful woman in US politics in 2017 never intended to work in the White House, or on a presidential campaign, or even in Washington. She was a child actor and model who, just a few years ago, was still auditioning for movies. Yet at 28, Hope Hicks now finds herself perched outside the Oval Office with the title ‘communications director’. Entirely by accident, she is the barrier between the President and the world.

I first met Hicks in 2016, when I was assigned to write about her for GQ. I spent months visiting her hometown, thumbing through her school yearbooks and getting to know her through her colleagues. But she declined to participate on the record, arranging instead for Trump himself to talk to me about her in his office at Trump Tower – all while she sat largely silently beside me in one of the $9,000 lounge chairs across from his desk. She was nervous around her boss, who she dutifully called ‘sir’ or ‘Mr Trump’ in her syrupy voice. The Donald was effusive in his praise for her. ‘I thought Hope was outstanding,’ he said, describing how he poached her to work for him from New York PR maven Matthew Hiltzik in 2014. It was weird, but then, what isn’t weird when it comes to Trump?

Hicks is the daughter of a PR guru and joined the family business after giving up on movie stardom. She became part of Trump’s inner circle through his daughter Ivanka, whose PR she handled. In winter 2015, Hicks was summoned to Trump’s suite, where a few advisers she’d never met before were crowded around him. He told her they’d all be travelling to Iowa, a state would-be presidential candidates must visit often if they plan on mounting a serious campaign, since the first caucuses are held there. From that day on, Hicks has remained by Trump’s side, acting as his confidante, babysitter, yes-woman, life coach, whatever-he-needs-her-to-be. The campaign was her first job in politics, and now she’s the longest-serving staffer in the White House. ‘Only in America’ is a phrase people use to refer to rags-to-riches stories; the rise of Hicks is different: only in Trump’s America.

Hope Hicks Tweets

Hicks was named director of strategic communications in January – the role was invented specifically for her by Trump. At the time, the press secretary was Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was his deputy and the communications director was Mike Dubke. Within seven months, all that changed. After Dubke resigned in May, Anthony Scaramucci was installed in his place, which led Spicer to quit. Huckabee Sanders took Spicer’s job, then Scaramucci was fired, which is how Hicks ended up as communications director.

Historically, the communications director has a clear-cut job spec. But as with most things in current US politics, the job is something else under Trump, who is his own spokesman. Day to day, Hicks’s job is largely staying the same as it always was. The difference now is the level of interest from the public in who she is and what she does. This is a danger for her, since an increased profile means a greater chance she’ll find herself a target of infighting. But Hicks, smiley and agreeable and beautiful in a way that’s uncommon for Washington, so far seems as committed as ever to flying under the radar and away from petty conflict. It’s her careful nature that’s got her this far and, although there’s little to be certain of when it comes to Trump, it seems likely that will continue.

Olivia Nuzzi is the Washington Correspondent for New York Magazine

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