For her work as a columnist, Arianna has received various awards. She has been included in the first ever list of Forbes Magazine, the Most Influential Women in Media, and is recently included in The Guardian’s Top 100 list.
Early Biography in Greece
Arianna Stassinopoulos was born in Athens Greece in 1950 to Konstantinos Stasinopoulos and Elli Georgiadi. Arianna has a sister named Agapi, who is a well-known professional author, speaker and stage performer in Greece.
Elli, Arianna’s mother, was an active participant in the movement against a Communist regime in Greece. Konstantinos, on the other hand, was a management consultant to several mid-level companies, as well as a journalist and editor for the resistance newspaper named “Paron”. During World War II, Konstantinos was among the people sent to the concentration camps, but survived after a fortunate encounter with the British soldiers liberating the city.
Growing up in post-war Greece which was led by Communists, Arianna had what many would describe as a fairly good life, in spite of the persecution that her family encountered due to being part of the resistance. And although they were not wealthy, compared to most of the people around them, they actually had more than enough for their needs, which allowed Arianna to have a good educational background.
Arianna became quite fascinated with writing columns at a young age due to being exposed to her father’s work. She did not, however, get interested in publication due to her father being unsuccessful in his journalist career. From her parents, Arianna learned the importance of freedom and democracy and developed principles that would help guide her on her road to success. Although her childhood was founded with love and care, by the time Arianna reached sixteen, her parents divorced.
Arianna Leaves Greece to Study in London
After this incident, Arianna moved from Greece to London so she can study Economics at the Girton College of Cambridge University. A bright and excellent student, Arianna impressed many of her teachers with her amazing intellect and wit.
One of her tutors was economist Joan Robinson, who was known for her Maoist beliefs. Joan took a particular interest in Arianna and helped her in her studies. Due to her popularity and intellect, Arianna became the very first foreign-born female president of the famous Cambridge Union, a debating society. Arianna graduated in 1972 and earned her degree with high remarks.
In 1971, while studying at the university, Arianna met Bernard Levin, a popular columnist at the Times of London. And even though Bernard was twenty-two years older than Arianna, it did not stop the two from having a romantic relationship with each other. Many years later after he died, Arianna wrote of Bernard:
“He wasn't just the big love of my life, he was a mentor as a writer and a role model as a thinker.”
Because of Bernard, Arianna was able to write several books during the course of the 1970s. Bernard acted as an editor for Arianna’s books and often brought her with him on his travels around the world on music festival documentaries for BBC. Arianna and Bernard fell in love with each other and often toured Europe during summers, staying at three-star hotels.
Arianna’s First Book
In 1973, with the help of Bernard, Arianna published her first book entitled “The Female Woman”. The book criticized the work of the Women’s Liberation movement in general and attacked the 1970 book “The Female Eunuch”, written by Germaine Greer, for degenerating the woman’s freedom to become married and bear children.
Inspired by the hippie culture of the 1970s, Arianna ventured out and went on a “soul-searching” mission. In an interview made with her many years later, she described the cause for her interest in involving in spiritual matters:
“It was like knowing there was another dimension to life and that I wanted to experience it, knowing that nothing else mattered as much... It took me over completely.”
Among those who Arianna got interested in was Carl Jung, a Swedish psychoanalyst who introduced analytic psychology. Arianna read Carl Jung’s works heavily, which then led her to Insight, a spiritual organization that encourages its followers to act out their fantasies. She even got Bernard to join the group.
Arianna was also temporarily involved and became a disciple in the cult of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Shree’s cult encouraged its members to practice open sexual intercourse with both their partners and Shree himself as a sacrament of their religion. After moving to the United States, the cult was disbanded after a failed attempt to rig the elections by spreading Salmonella bacteria in an Oregon town.
In 1979, after involving herself in various spirituality organizations, Arianna wrote and published her second book titled “After Reason” (released in the United Kingdom under the title “The Other Revolution”), where she attacked both sides of politics for doing very little in improving the lives of the poor in society.
Although Arianna loved Bernard deeply, to the point that she wanted to get married with him, Bernard had other plans. As he was old, he refused to marry Arianna and did not want to have children. And so, by 1980, the couple decided to separate ways, with Arianna moving to New York to look for a new life. In spite of the heartbreak that she felt due to the break-up, Arianna decided to move on with her life.
After moving to the United States, Arianna began writing a biography about Maria Callas, a famous Greek operatic diva. Entitled “Maria Callas: The Woman Behind the Legend,” Arianna published the book and released it in 1981. Although it garnered praise from various literary critics, it was also a subject of controversy after Arianna was accused of plagiarising the work of Gerald Fitzgerald, another Callas biographer. It was reported that the plagiarism claims were settled privately, with Gerald being paid a “low five-figure” amount.
Eight years later, she published another book titled “Picasso: Creator and Destroyer”, which was a biography of the famed artist Pablo Picasso. Although it did good in the best seller charts, the Picasso biography became a target of criticism and even a lawsuit from one of Picasso’s mistresses who Arianna had interviewed prior to writing the book.
Another issue that arose was a claim that Arianna’s biography of Picasso was copied from Lydia Gasman’s four-volume doctorate thesis. Lydia, a professor of art history at the University of Virginia, stated that Arianna ‘stole’ twenty years of her work by copying the thesis. In spite of her claims, Lydia did not file any cases against Arianna.
Arianna continued her quest to find more about spirituality in the United States. When she visited California in the early 1980s, she was introduced to John-Roger Hinkins, the founder and the leader of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness. This New Age church was based on the belief the so-called Mystical Traveller, which was a spiritual consciousness that is present in all of God’s creations. Arianna became fascinated with the faith of the MSIA and joined the religious organization with John-Roger becoming her spiritual guide up to this day.
Arianna received criticisms in her decision to join the religious organization, which many described as a ‘cult’. One of the critics was Peter McWilliams, a New York Times bestselling author who accused John-Roger of manipulating him into giving John-Roger co-authorship of Peter’s books, which included the bestseller “Life 101”, by making him believe that he could be cured of AIDS.
Peter stated that Arianna was also fooled by John-Roger into becoming a major contributor in his organization. Arianna released a statement afterwards, defending John-Roger by saying, “I’ve gotten a lot of value from John-Roger’s work,” and describing him as a ‘good friend’.
Arianna becomes a Huffington
Arianna made a lot of friends in the upper class of society, including Dole Pineapple CEO David Murdoch, who introduced Arianna to her future husband Michael Huffington, a millionaire businessman who owned a Texas oil company. Prior to this meeting, Arianna dated with several well-known people such as Mort Zuckerman, an editor-in-chief for the U.S. News & World Report and real estate tycoon, and Jerry Brown, a former Governor of California.
After months of dating and close relationship, Arianna and Michael finally decided to marry on April 12 1986. The marriage was financed by Ann Getty, one of Arianna’s friends; however, it was reported that after Ann found out that Arianna spent one hundred thousand dollars including a thirty thousand dollar wedding dress, it put a severe strain on their friendship which eventually ended. In spite of this, Michael and Arianna fell in love with each other more deeply.
In 1992, Arianna and Michael settled in California after the former sold his family’s oil company to run for a seat in the House of Representatives. During the campaign period, Arianna extensively worked to help her husband by befriending many religious conservatives, and arguing for a reduction in welfare and a smaller government.
After being reported to have spent over five million dollars, Michael narrowly won the seat to represent California in the Congress. This incident brought Arianna to the attention of the public; however, it was until 1994 that she went to gain great publicity after her husband unsuccessfully campaigned for a seat at the United States Senate.
In the 1994 Senate elections, Michael narrowly lost the Senate seat to Dianne Feinstein, a veteran Democrat. Arianna was a target of much criticism for her involvement in John-Roger’s cult, which was said to have given a negative image of her husband to the public. In an interview made with Michael years later, he stated how John-Roger’s influence over Arianna’s life was much greater than his or anyone else’s.
The following year, Arianna was made a senior fellow at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, an organization founded by the then Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich. Through the foundation, Arianna was able to establish the Center for Effective Compassion, where she promoted volunteerism as a reliable alternative to the welfare state.
That same year, she began to appear in television shows, such as when she hosted the National Empowerment Television’s “Critical Mass” talk show. She also began to surround herself with various well-known leftist media personnel such as Al Franken, Bill Maher and Robert Scheer. It was said that the primary reason for Arianna shifting her political views was greatly influenced by the failure of her husband to win the Senate elections. Arianna’s career as a columnist for the Washington Times also flourished, with her articles garnering a nationwide popularity.
In 1996, during the presidential elections, Arianna became a supporter of presidential candidate Bob Dole. She also participated in an election coverage made by Comedy Central, partnering with the well-known liberal comedian Al Franken in the segment titled “Strange Bedfellows” as the conservative half of the duo. Because of her role in the show, Arianna was nominated for an Emmy Award. Arianna also started to appear more frequently on television, often guesting in drama sitcoms such as How I Met Your Mother.
Left with Her Two Daughters after Divorce
1997 took quite a wrong turn in Arianna’s relationship with her husband Michael, and after a long and careful discussion, finally decided to end up in divorce. It was reported that Arianna received a ‘seven-figure’ payment to settle the issue. Arianna and Michael had two daughters, namely: Christina Sophia Huffington (born 1989) and Isabella Diana Huffington (born 1991).
According to her husband, Arianna completely shift her political views to the left after their divorce, although in 1998, she was still being described as a “fierce right-wing supporter”. In an interview made with her that same year, Arianna described herself in a way that made the traditional party division peripheral:
“The right/left divisions are so outdated now. For me, the primary division is between people who are aware of what I call 'the two nations' (rich and poor), and those who are not.”
Arianna strongly opposed the NATO intervention in the Yugoslav Wars, and in 2000 instigated the well-known Shadow Conventions, held at Philadelphia and Los Angeles. This was her way of publicly voicing out the people’s concerns against NATO going against a nation and not trying to promote peace.
In 2003, Arianna became controversial after the release of a few of The Detroit Project’s advertisements illustrating how profits from buying sports vehicles were being used to fund terrorism. At that time, Arianna headed the movement, which was promoting the use of alternative fuels for cars all around the country. The advertisements brought a lot of criticism, with some stations even refusing to air them.
The same year, Arianna also made her attempt to enter the world of politics by running against the famous actor Arnold Schwarzenegger for the seat of Governor of California during the 2003 recall election. She described the campaign for governorship against Schwarzenegger like a ‘hybrid coming against the Hummer’, which she used to reference her ownership of a Toyota Prius versus Arnold’s Hummer.
She eventually withdrew her candidacy, choosing to support incumbent governor Gray Davis in his attempt to boycott the recall. Though the recall was not stopped, Arianna’s name remained in the ballot, and she ended up garnering less than one percent of the total votes. This disappointment did not cause Arianna to quit and fade from public view; instead, she viewed it as a challenge for her to actively participate in political issues by becoming a ‘people’s voice’.
After leaving the political arena, Arianna became busy in the television industry, appearing on various talk shows such as “Any Questions?” by BBC Radio 4, where she was among the panelists that discussed on the political situation of the United States, and “Both Sides Now”, where she was partnered with Mary Matalin in talking about the relevant issues in the political realm, offering both sides of issues that are being discussed on.
How the Huffingtonpost.com Came to Be
Arianna also began experimenting more on the unlimited potential of the Internet in bringing news by hosting a website which she named Ariannaonline.com. Among the very first issues that she focused on the website was an online campaign to call for the resignation of the then sitting President Bill Clinton, after his affair with Monica Lewinski. In the following years, Arianna’s site began to gather more and more supporters as the website grew more popular.
In 2005, Arianna established Huffingtonpost.com, as a means of providing the left-wing political groups a voice in the online world to balance Matt Drudge’s Drudgereport.com, where he supported the right. Huffingtonpost.com gathered a large number of online members and grew to become one of the world’s largest online news websites.
In 2008, Arianna became famous for claiming to drive a Prius hybrid as part of her effort to contribute in the reduction of global warming. When she was criticized for living in a ‘seven million house’ that ‘burns more fuel than a hundred people in the Third World’, she responded by stating:
“There is no question that the fact that I'm living in a big house, I occasionally travel on private planes—all those things are contradictions. I'm not setting myself up as some paragon who only goes around on a bicycle.”
In an interview made with famous journalist John Stossel, Arianna discussed how the welfare reform act that was enacted way back twelve years ago was not as successful as it was intended to be due to the number of people that were still living below the poverty line. She added:
“The fact that we used to live in caves is not a justification for the state of affairs right now.”
That same year, Arianna was included in the cast of “The Cleveland Show” by Seth MacFarlane, voicing the character of “Tim the Bear’s” wife, which was also named after her.
In 2010, Arianna was honoured to participate in the University of Buffalo’s “Distinguished Speaker Series”, where she joined the ranks of world-renowned people such as Jon Stewart, Tony Blair and the Dalai Lama. She engaged in a debate against her former co-host Mary Matalin regarding issues such as the local Buffalo economy, current events and politics.
That same year, Arianna paid for one hundred fifty buses to transport around ten thousand people from the Huffington Post headquarters to Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” movement for free.
In 2012, Arianna, along with several well-known political commentators such as Al Sharpton, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell were invited to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss on the strategies that can be used to introduce to the American public the need to raise taxes for people that are earning more than two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year.
Currently, Arianna is still active in her work as the president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, always aiming to provide a clear perspective of current events to its online viewers.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- The Huffington Post
- JobRaising Challenge
Awards and Achievements
- 2009: Named as the 12th Most Influential Women in Media by Forbes Magazine
- 2009: Included in the Top 100 in Media List of The Guardian
- 2011: Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Brown University