Nicole Lapin talks Kellyanne Conway, Mike Brezezinski, imposter syndrome, “giving zeo f****” and her a potty mouth
Go ahead, call Nicole Lapin a bitch.
“We have all been called a bitch in a derogatory sense. I have in my career,” says 33-year-old Lapin, the youngest woman ever to anchor a show on CNN and the author of the new book ‘Boss Bitch’, out today. “What they meant was that I was ambitious, aggressive, loud — I made my voice and opinions known — and successful. If that means I’m a bitch, oh my god, then I’m a bitch and I own it.”
Not everyone can use the word –”guys can’t use it for women,” she says — and plenty of women don’t approve of it either, including Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski, a friend of Lapin’s, who told her, “I like what you’re doing, the mission, the content, but I don’t like the word bitch.”
Still, to hear the fast-talking Lapin, who uses expletives as much as exclamations, tell it, being a bitch, in particular a boss bitch — which she defines as a woman who “doesn’t need saving because she has her own sh** handled” — is the ultimate compliment. She puts Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, and Alli Webb, the founder of Drybar on a list of fellow boss bitches.
Lapin is the child of immigrants, one of whom died of a drug overdose when she was just 11. “I didn’t have a silver spoon in my mouth, I barely had a spoon at all sometimes,” she says. She began — clad in a shoulder-padded Ann Taylor blazer and teased hair, no less — looking for TV work at just 18-years-old, eventually landing a job covering the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. She went on to be the youngest anchor ever at CNN and a host of CNBC’s “Worldwide Exchange.” “The ultimate boss bitches are the ones that made their life happen on their own,” she says.
She credits some of her success with so-called tempered authenticity. When asked what she thinks of Kellyanne Conway, in particular the now infamous photo of her sitting on the White House sofa, she uses the question as a way to talk about what to do and not to do. “I think a part of being a boss bitch is about zero fu**s given, but at the same time, you have to read your environment, read the room.,” she says. “I will swear, but I don’t swear on the air. It’s about being authentic but not being offensive and paying deference to your environment.”
Of course, Lapin has made plenty of mistakes, notably saying during a segment about Gillette: “It’s a new razor that is sharp enough to whack off the hairs closer to the skin than the previous version.” Her boss quickly pointed out that saying “whack off” probably isn’t the smartest thing to do on a national television show with a mostly male audience.
And Lapin spent a lot of time earlier in her career “having imposter syndrome” (she says it’s one of the biggest mistakes young women make in their careers). In reality, she says, all of us fake it sometimes — and that’s OK. When she was younger, she had a boyfriend who told her he wanted to be a hedge fund manager. “I thought he wanted to be a gardener,” she says. He eventually dumped her because she wasn’t smart enough to hang out with his Wall Street friends. But she studied up. “I bet his Wall Street friends want to hang out with me now,” she says. Once she started realizing the power of faking it, she even faked having an assistant by creating this email account email@example.com. It gave “the perception that I was a bigger deal than I actually was,” she says.
There have also been a number of stumbling blocks, including many women at the top not helping her out. “A lot of women who stand for girl power don’t necessarily do it when it matters. I’ve been really disappointed,” she says. (She proudly says she is a “girl’s girl” and will not name names.) In contrast, Lapin wants women to come together to help one another — though she isn’t sure the women’s movement is doing that in the right way today. “I take some issue with it — all of a sudden you go into rooms and you hear ‘we have to come together, it’s a really hard time,’” she says “Why are we in triage right now, why is this such a hard time — we almost had a female president.” She says that we should be asking ourselves “how are we going to make widespread change,” and adds: “I believe it’s not about wearing vagina hats, it’s about having tangible goals.”
But perhaps her most surprising advice, at least from a woman writing a book called “Boss Bitch”: That these tangible goals, at least on a personal level, must include family, even for women in their early 20s. “The family stuff creeps up on you,” says Lapin, who froze her eggs when she was 31. “Your body is a dictatorship not a democracy. If you aren’t happy in all aspects of your life, you aren’t happy.”
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