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Arianna Huffington (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail/Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Arianna Huffington (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail/Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

the lunch

Arianna Huffington: Linking together a bigger empire Add to ...

It’s part of Ms. Huffington’s carefully cultivated aura of warmth. She wastes no time attempting to establish intimacy: Not content to be interviewed, she fires off a string of personal questions, including what my relationship with my mother is like, how well I sleep at night and whether I want children.

The routine often works. Ms. Huffington’s social connections are staggering. In conversation, Ms. Huffington does not just drop names – she drops bon mots. It was her U.S. editor-at-large, famed writer Nora Ephron, who she says had the idea to launch a HuffPo Divorce section. “Marriage comes and goes, but divorce lasts forever,” she quotes with a throaty laugh.

The gift of gab is arguably what her success has been based on. When she moved from Greece to attend Cambridge University, her entry to society life was through participation in the Cambridge Union debate society. Her speaking flair earned her television appearances, which is how she met the journalist Bernard Levin, with whom she began a long relationship and who would help her publish her first books.

And when she left the U.K. to pry herself away from Mr. Levin (“I got to be 30, and I really wanted to have children. He wanted to have cats,” she quips) she rebuilt it all from the ground up, making famous friends; marrying a Texas oil scion and Republican congressman; eventually shifting political allegiances and launching her own failed political campaign; and starting a blog that would become part of an Internet economy that turned the media on its head.

Now taking the Huffington Post into its next phase of expansion, Ms. Huffington is as serene and chatty as ever. When asked about the future of journalism, she talks about the need for more “passion” and earnestly quotes Black Eyed Peas rapper will.i.am on the state of the news industry. She is effusive about her ability to raise discussions around her latest obsession, sleep deprivation. “We’ll have to show you our nap rooms,” she says (To find “Napquest 1 and 2” – hang a right at the foosball table.) But Ms. Huffington herself admits she does not manage to get as much sleep as she preaches, consumed as she is by her work and by taking herself and her site around the world.

“It’s really exciting, this international expansion, especially at a time when we’re seeing clearly how interconnected the world is,” she says, pausing slightly. “In good ways and bad.”

______________________

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON

PERSONAL

Born July 15, 1950 and raised in Athens, Greece.

Attended Cambridge University, received an MA in Economics in 1971.

Lives in the Chelsea neighbourhood in New York, and keeps a home in Brentwood in L.A.

FAMILY

Was married for 11 years to Michael Huffington, former Republican congressman and heir to a Texas oil fortune from his father’s company, Huffco. He revealed he was bisexual after they divorced

Two daughters, Isabella and Christina, both of whom are undergraduates studying at Yale University

Her sister Agapi lives with her, spending most of the time at the L.A. home; her mother Elli also lived with her until her death in 2000. “We’re a very tribal family,” she says.

SPIRITUALITY

Visited India at the age of 17 to study comparative religion.

She has been associated with new age guru John-Roger, but says she regards her quest for spirituality not as new age, but as part of something “eternal.”

She meditates every day.

THE PACE OF HER WORK

She has written 13 books, including biographies of Maria Callas and Picasso, and a self-help manual dedicated to her daughters, On Becoming Fearless.

She carries four mobile devices on every major wireless carrier in the U.S.; mostly BlackBerrys. She once wrote that she is “seduced by the charms of the little Canadian wireless device.” Occasionally the fourth in her arsenal is an iPhone.

Three years ago, she fainted from exhaustion, hitting her head on her desk, breaking her cheekbone and receiving three stitches in her right eye.

ON AGGREGATION ON THE WEB

“Even if I had an unlimited budget, I would be aggregating. Because our promise to our readers is that we’re going to bring you the best of the Web around the world. … I don’t think anybody can claim that they produce the best of everything, that they’re the only site that produces good journalism. So if you’re going to actually be a starter site, that brings the world to your readers, you need to aggregate.”

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