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How Hope Hicks, Trump's new press-shy communications director, became a White House 'survivor'

How Hope Hicks, Trump's new press-shy communications director, became a White House 'survivor'
From CBC - September 17, 2017

She's a top presidential adviser but a political neophyte. A public relations strategist who shirks publicity. A former model and actress described as camera-shy.

Contradictions abound when it comes to Hope Hicks, the new White House communications director. Case in point: her low-key persona is credited for landing her one of the highest-ranking jobs in the executive mansion.

As the fourth person to assume what's been described as a "mission impossible" posting in U.S. President Donald Trump's tumultuous White House, her appointment last week would seem improbable in any other administration.

Yet the daughter of an NFL executive and Democratic legislative aide from Greenwich, Conn., now occupies a desk just outside the Oval Office, devising strategy for the Trump messaging apparatus. Hicksat 28,the youngest person to assume the communications director role accepted her promotion in her usual way.

Quietly.

'She's been loyal'

It apparently works for her. Hicks is Trump's longest-standing political aide, serving him since 2014, when she was plucked from doing PR for Ivanka Trump's fashion line to help run his campaign.

"People, unfairly, will say Donald Trump just likes her because she's beautiful," former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg told CBC News in a phone interview from New York.

Though he says he's "not her friend,"Nunbergunderstands her appeal. "Hope has the president's confidence, she's been loyal, and she understands how to sell this president."

Hicks has outlasted three ex-White House comms directorsSean Spicer (gone after six months), Mike Dubke (three months)and Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci (10 days). How she achieved this positiondespite being seldom seen or heard fromis kind of the point, Nunberg said.

"She's cognizant it's not about her. It's about Donald Trump," he said. "She's focused on her job and not promoting herself. That's definitely an asset for the president."

Drawing too much attention away from Trump can be a career death knell in his White House. Former chief strategist Steve Bannon made the cover of Time magazine before his exit. Scaramucci's brash manner and penchant for letting off steam with reporters also preceded his demise. He was fired after a profanity-laced interview in the New Yorker.

Hicks is "neither Bannon nor the Mooch.She's the public relations counsellor who stays out of the limelight," said Fraser Seitel, a New York University PR instructor and author of The Practice of Public Relations.

"But the president's problem is he thinks he's his own best PR man. Actually, he's his worst PR man, so the deck is stacked way against her to begin with," Seitel said.

'The Hopester'

Hicks, whom the president affectionately calls "the Hopester," avoids televised interviews. Journalists are accustomed to her habit of leaving emails unanswered from when she ran the press shop during Trump's presidential campaign.

She graduated in 2010 from Southern Methodist University, where she played lacrosse and majored in English. By a twist of fate, her first PR job came by way of actor Alec Baldwin, who now savagely lampoons her boss on Saturday Night Live. In an acting audition, Hicks once read for a part with Baldwin, who later helped her secure an interview at Hiltzik Strategies, the firm that put her in the Trump Organization's orbit.

Trump told a crowd in December that when he hired Hicks for his campaign, she "knew nothing" about politics. At his final rally during his 2016 victory tour, Trump beckoned Hicks to take the stage.

'Walking into a minefield'

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