In an excerpt from her new book, Dirty Sexy Politics, Meghan McCain shares the story of how the Palin family took over her dad’s convention to the point where she had to fight for makeup.
No matter who you are, or where you come from, you had to think that Sarah Palin’s lipstick on a pit bull speech was incredible. There was so much tension building beforehand—everybody wondering whether she would choke, how she would look, whether she could pull it off. I don’t think anybody on the campaign was relaxed about it. And it seemed to make matters more stressful that very few people had met her, or even seen her. Almost as soon as she was announced, she had gone underground to prepare her remarks.
And when she delivered her speech with such confidence, so naturally, as if she had given millions of convention speeches already, even ad-libbing some jokes, the sense of excitement in the hall was palpable.
In the family box in front of the TV cameras, the Palins were assembled, looking inhumanly gorgeous and well-groomed. The media frenzy around them was astonishing—they were rock stars, from Bristol and Levi down to little Trig.
I wish I could have been a better sport about the fact that Sarah and her family now seemed to dominate the entire convention. Everyone was so excited by the Palins’ newness and real-life dramas, their exotic Alaskan lifestyle and their cohesiveness. The campaign’s focus, as well as the world’s, was suddenly completely on them. But it was starting to seem like reality TV to me. I kept wondering, why are these people taking over our lives?
Later that night, I happened to be sitting in the hotel lobby bar with Shannon and Heather when Sarah walked by—and the campaign staff and journalists in the room exploded in spontaneous applause, and then charged at her. A rope line formed, almost magically, as people began waiting their turn to talk to her, ask for an autograph, or to have their picture taken with her. I mean, even journalists were waiting to be photographed with her.
Sarah was basking in a kind of golden haze of glory—and who could blame her? She was not just an overnight success or even a political Cinderella story. She was a sudden, freakishly huge, full-fledged phenomenon. It seemed too much. And it seemed too easy. From my chair across the way, I watched with incredulity. I had never seen anything like it, ever, even in all my travels with Dad.
Maybe there was a chip on my shoulder or maybe I was jealous. It was hard to collect all the complicated feelings I had. But earlier that day, it had been made painfully clear to me how low I’d sunk, in terms of status on the campaign.
I had wandered down the hallway outside my room at the convention hotel, where I was staying on the same floor as my parents, my brothers and sister, as well as senior staff. My hair was wet and my face was bare. I was heading to the “makeup room” in the middle of our floor, where two hairdressers and two makeup artists had been installed to glam up everybody. And I mean everybody. There was nothing more important, suddenly, than how we looked.
The scheduling of these miraculous makeovers was really crazy, and stressful. We all needed to look perfect and camera-ready when we needed to be, but quite often there weren’t enough stylists to accommodate all of us—my parents, both Sarah and Todd Palin, and our families.
I was running late that morning, and hoping to get some help with my hair for a photo shoot. I entered the makeup room and looked around. But all the chairs were taken. The stylists were busy with the Palin kids, as well as Levi.
“Can you make time for me?” I asked.
“You’ll have to wait,” the makeup artist replied. Levi, Bristol, Willow, and Piper, who was 7, needed to be styled first.
The makeup artist shook her head slowly, always the sign of a power trip going on.
“They’ll be getting more airtime.”
Silence fell over the room. It was so quiet you could hear the sound of the reality check going on inside my head. I tried really hard to call upon Meggie Mac, my alter ego, the perfect, polite, and smiling daughter-of. But she failed to appear.
There was only one thing left to do: Go back to my room and do my hair and makeup myself.
The Palins had taken the lead now. The makeup artist was right. I should have thanked her for making me take that big red pill. All my delusions of having an impact, or the importance of my fanbase and the unique hits on my blog, vanished like the steam rising from my hair dryer.
I was irrelevant. And in fact, I might have never been relevant to begin with—even way back in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, when we only had one damn bus.
I felt a joke in the air, but it was on me.
Reprinted with permission of Hyperion Books.
Meghan McCain is a columnist for The Daily Beast. Originally from Phoenix, she graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She is a New York Times bestselling children's author, previously wrote for Newsweek magazine, and created the Web site mccainblogette.com. Her new book, Dirty Sexy Politics, was published in August.