Good evening esteemed guests, and thank you for joining us tonight for this special event. I am Juan-Carlos Molleda, the Edwin L. Artzt Dean and professor of the School of Journalism and Communication
of this wonderful University of Oregon. Tonight we are honored to host award-winning public relations strategist Alan Nierob, and one of his most notable
clients, Caitlyn Jenner. When I met Alan in Los Angeles last year–probably a
year and a half when I began my tenure as a dean here–he told me this
fascinating story, not only about his client, but also about his life. Alan
started as an intern in his agency and now he is the president. Let me say
that again. He was an intern and now he’s a president. This is an amazing story, and I
think it’s very inspirational for our students. Alan and Caitlyn are here
tonight to offer a behind-the-scenes look into a real-life case study in
public relations and identity management, a case that really was very
well-regarded by the industry. It is not often here that students
have the opportunity to hear from such a high-profile public relations strategist and a
client at the same time. Usually we hear either from the agency or from the
client, but having the two together is a special opportunity, especially a client
who is constantly in the public eye and made a step to come out publicly as
transgender. This is a fascinating story for our profession and for students who
are studying public relations and communication management, and hopefully they are going to be the professionals of the future that are going to change
the industry for the better. But before we welcome Alan and Caitlyn to the stage,
I want to introduce our M.C. for the evening. She is someone who has been an extremely valuable force, and I will say that again–
a valuable force–in the SOJC’s efforts to strengthen diversity and transgender
inclusivity –doctoral student Bethany Grace Howe.
[Applause] Bethany enrolled at the SOJC in 2015
before I came in as a dean, prior to her transition. She has since
used her own experiences coming out as an opportunity to educate those around
her, including me, about an often misunderstood community. Bethany has
served as a graduate teaching fellow at the SOJC and a mentor to students
looking for help and support, both in class and in their personal lives. In
fact, if you go to Allen Hall to the third floor, you will find her seated and
talking to students. She says that when students interrupt her work to talk, it is
not a distraction but rather an opportunity to do what she sees as her
real job. She had also served as a member of our school’s diversity committee, on the
university committee on sexual orientation, attraction, gender identity,
and expression, and is the founding member and president of the U of O Queer Media
Association, and a recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. award presented
by the U of O Division of Equity and Inclusion. Aside from her accolades and
involvement in the community, Bethany is known around Allen Hall for her humor
and her dedication to her students. So she’s also a chameleon, by the way. Our
school has grown leaps and bounds since Bethany enrolled, and I have the privilege of learning from her as she continues on her own personal
journey. So, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Bethany Grace Howe.
[Applause] Hi. It’s funny, when this was announced a few days ago, somebody asked me, “So what are you gonna wear?” And I said, “Oh, girl, this is Hollywood. It’s who I’m gonna wear.”
And to that end, my best friend Elaine Pruitt made me this dress. So it is an
Elaine Pruitt original, and if you’d like one, you let me know. Good evening. I am
Bethany Grace Howe, and I am a proud student within the UO SOJC—
which, as you may know, is where great storytelling begins. And just like Dean
Molleda, I’d like to tell you my story of who made tonight possible. What I speak of,
however, is not this event. I speak of making my existence here on this stage
possible, and with the understanding of our guests, they’ve granted me a couple
of minutes to tell that story because that story is an act of love. Some 40 percent of transgender people attempt suicide and 90 percent of transgender people report
experiencing some type of suicidal ideation. I was happily, arrogantly that
10 percent until the fall of 2017. I call it the black rabbit hole, but let’s be candid
here about what I’m saying. I wanted to take my own life. That’s what I mean when
I say making my existence possible, because without the people in this room,
it’s very possible my story would have had a very different ending. I am here,
however, for as they have from the moment I announced I would transition, my
friends in the SOJC let others who cared about me know I needed help.
Friends, faculty, staff–they came early, stayed late, and put aside other things
to talk with me, make sure I was safe, and get me help. And when I left campus for
two weeks to get that help, they covered my classes for me, they allowed me the
time to find my faith and myself when I had none. And when I returned to Allen
Hall, they all had an open door, a warm chair, and they were ready to listen to
my story. Who were these people? You’d know them as dean, associate dean, vice
president, professor, instructor, manager, and so many other titles within the SOJC and this university. And nowhere in their job
description does it say pluck transgender people from the rabbit hole.
And yet these people are why I’m here tonight. Indeed, as this event is
livestreamed and Twittered somewhere across the internet, I want everyone to
hear this. Across this campus of the University of Oregon to the atriums of
Allen Hall, this is the story of how you support transgender people. Theoretically,
empirically personal, I know this school has saved me in every way a person can
be saved. No, no place is perfect. Mistakes are made.
But my story is a story of how you save lives, for it’s not just about support
when our souls cry out to die, it’s because from the very beginning, you’ve
showed us that you believe that our lives are a story worth telling. Before I
go, there is one more group of people I need to thank, and that is all of you in
this room tonight. There are transgender teachers and
students, transgender leaders and followers, transgender employees and
athletes. I think I read one of them even has a gold medal. And others of you have
come with them. Loved ones that believe the transgender people in your lives.
Even when you don’t understand us, you believe us. You believe our story. Our
belief in ourselves is enough for you to stand by us when others will not.
You have been here, you will always be here, and even tonight as we sit here
together, you may be literally saving a life and not even know it. Perhaps that
sounds crazy, but many of the people I mentioned tonight, until now, despite
being forever in their debt, I’ve never told them how much they made all of this
possible. So that’s how I’d like to end this story, by saying to my friends both
within this room and without, what I have so longed to say. Thank you for your love.
Thank you for my life. All right, well I’m glad I got the waterproof makeup.
All right, and now why you really came here, to hear another story.
One of self-determination, choice, and the power that comes with choosing your own
narrative, and what it takes to make the whole world share it. More, it’s great
storytelling that shows what happens when people believe in each other,
support each other, and care about each other. It’s a story of friendship and
respect, even when things are at their worst. And if you don’t see yourself as
that kind of friend, well that’s OK, too, because after tonight maybe you will.
Our first guest tonight is the co-author of that story, although he’d probably
prefer the term ghostwriter. He’s Mr. Alan Nierob, who is currently the
president of Rogers & Cowan, a leading full-service entertainment PR and
marketing agency, connecting brands with the media, with offices based in Los
Angeles, New York, Florida, and London. Now, if you’re like me and not immersed in
the world of public relations, you may not know what that means, so let me
explain it another way. Mr. Nierob knows everybody. Over the years Mr. Nierob has represented talent, including, of course,
Caitlyn Jenner, and many other athletic overachievers like NBA all-stars Dwight
Howard and Shaquille O’Neal, as well as Indianapolis 500 champion Danny Sullivan,
and baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith. He’s been involved in such
films as the Academy award-winning Braveheart, along with Ransom, Blue Chips,
Conspiracy Theory, Lethal Weapon 4, Payback, What Women Want, The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto, and Dream Girls, just to name a few. He’s worked with producers and directors, including Brian Grazer, Ron
Howard, Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington, Andrew Davis, Mike Newell, and he may have even seen dead people when working with M. Night Shyamalan. Well, thank God
somebody got that joke. And it may have just been the
old people in the room, I don’t know. But for those of you who are in my
generation, his clients also include Steve Martin, Jeff Daniels, Victoria
Principal, Robert Wagner, Garry Shandling, Ali McGraw, and Shakira, although she
might still be popular. I have to be honest, I don’t really know. But what
if I told you there were more? Like Lawrence Fishburne, Richard Gere, Rob Lowe, and
Kathleen Turner, who 37 years later still gives me body heat. Yeah, I’ve changed
since I was a teenager, but not that much. And all of you out there that are
giggling, wondering what it is I’m talking about, remember in 30 years your
kids will make fun of you, too. Not that Nierob’s client list is grounded in the pop culture nostalgia tour. His clients have also included Beyonce, JLo,
Taylor Lautner, and fashion icon Giorgio Armani. He and Oscar have united with
Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson, Jamie Foxx, and Matthew McConaughey, and that’s all
right, all right, all right. He’s dodged dullness with Vince Vaughn, developed a special
set of skills with Liam Neeson, made sure we were entertained with Russell Crowe,
and he’s cleaned his claws with the greatest showman, Hugh
Jackman. And in response to my daughter’s question: Yes, Nola, I asked him. Alan knows the coolest person in the universe. He was fast and furious as he welcomed
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to the jungle. And honey, you’re welcome. Now turn off
your tablet and go eat your dinner. But even those aren’t the coolest things
about Mr. Nierob’s client list. He’s worked with Chris Pratt and Robert Downey Jr.
And unlike half the cast of The Avengers, Alan is still alive at the end of Infinity War, which is so nice. Not content to just work with celluloid, Mr. Nierob has had a role in combating cellulite by representing celebrity clients in their endorsements and creation of various products, such as Victoria
Principal’s skincare line, Principal Secret, Ali MacGraw’s award-winning video, Yoga
Mind and Body, and JLo’s fashion line, JLo by Jennifer Lopez. He has also
represented numerous celebrity-authored best-selling books, as well as created
marketing and campaign strategies including infomercial sponsorships and
in-celebrity tie-ins. Yes, not only does he know everyone, he does everything. But
here’s the thing. Mr. Nierob doesn’t just represent the award-winning best. He
is the award-winning best. In 2007 Mr. Nierob was awarded the Les Mason Award, which honors those in the field of public relations
whose achievements have been outstanding, whose work reflects the highest
professional ideals, those worthy of being singled out by their peers for the
highest honor the Publicists Guild can bestow on one of its own members. In 2015 he received the Prism Award, given by the Public Relations Society of America—Los
Angeles chapter for outstanding achievement in publicity. Now as you
might expect, Mr. Neirob, being from Southern California, he went to school
there, too. But I have some excellent news. He did not attend USC. He’s a graduate of
UCLA, as well as a frequent guest lecturer at his alma mater. And that’s
how lucky we are here at the UO tonight. And as long as Chip Kelly doesn’t come back to haunt us on the Bruins sidelines this year at Autzen, we’ll
continue feeling that way about UCLA. But what he’s doing tonight here is
something he’s very good at–public speaking–which he’s done at the American
Film Institute. He delivered the commencement address to the 2010
Communication Studies graduating class at UCLA’s Royce Hall, which may be one of
the reasons in 2017 Mr. Neirob became a founding member of the UCLA Department
of Communication Studies Board of Visitors. Hmm. 2017. That’s last year. So I
think that’s pretty much the wrap of his resume. Still, I’d like to share with you
one last thing: why Alan is my friend. Aside from the
kindness of introducing me to Ms. Jenner and even taking an interest in my
health when I went down the black rabbit hole, Mr. Nierob has given me career
advice when I’ve asked. Indeed, it was just a few weeks back that I told him I
was nervous about a presentation I had to make. I didn’t know–should I be
reserved and simply play it safe, or should I go for it, leave every idea I
had on the table? “I don’t think there’s such a thing as going too big,” he told me.
And he was right. I still don’t know if that presentation, how it went on the
receiving end, but I can tell you I never felt better about anything,
never more secure about any advice in my life. Why? It’s simple. Alan Nierob,
president of Rogers & Cowan, the near official publicist of 30 years of pop
culture, knows what it means to dream big and go big. Because when Mr. Nierob began his career at Rogers & Cowan in 1979, he was an assistant, his first job after
fulfilling an internship there. Or, as he once explained it to me, that means he
started in the mail room of the company he now runs. Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present Mr. Alan Nierob.
[Applause] That was awful. That was terrible.
That’s embarrassing. Actually, most importantly, I am a father of a Duck, who’s here, my son Josh. And that’s why I’m here. You got to remember your
priorities. And all that stuff is all fine and dandy, but at the end of the day
I’m a dad, just like you all have parents and friends, people looking out
for you here. I am so honored to be here at the University of Oregon. I love this
school. It’s–four years now, I remember coming here with Josh as a–before he was
enrolled here. This would have been the last place I thought he would choose. And we got back on the plane going back to California, and he said, “Dad, I love it.
That’s where I want to go.” And I’m like, “Really? Seriously? OK, you know what, good. Go for it.” And it’s been a wonderful, not only
education for him, but it has been a wonderful education for me, so thank you all,
because we wouldn’t be here without your generosity. And I spoke to the journalism
students and faculty a couple years ago. Any excuse to see my son, of course. And
one of the people in the class, one of the classes, was Bethany. And we had
actually, I had been here a couple weeks previously. We snuck in, Caitlyn Jenner
and I, to shoot the cover of Sports Illustrated, because Hayward Field is where she first qualified for the Olympics in 1972. And
then following that a few years later, she qualified again in ’76, but in ’75
she was here. And she holds two World Records performed at Hayward Stadium, so it’s a special place for her as well. So we actually brought the photographer in
who shot the famous Bruce Jenner crossing the finish line from the Olympics in Montreal and winning the decathlon. And they
brought him and he was 83 years old, I believe, at the time, and he shot the
newest cover of Caitlyn Jenner on Sports Illustrated. It came out about a year
and a half ago. So it was a very special moment. Oregon seems to breed special
moments, and hopefully this will be one for you once I get off and Caitlyn gets
on the stage. But Bethany was troubled at that time, to say the least. And you
just sort of know it, when somebody’s hurting, and you pay attention. And what
you learn in business, as in life, when you pay attention, you learn. You know,
it’s not always the person talking. Listen. The smartest people you know in
business know how to listen. It’s important. When I address students at UCLA where I speak, I listen to them. I listened to you guys speaking with a few
of the PR students earlier. I listened to them and I learned. I learned from
Bethany. And Bethany was going through something, and I said, “You know what? I
think, I think maybe I can help. I’m not really certain.” So I went back to my
office in California, and I called Caitlyn. I said, “You know what, I did this at the
University of Oregon, where my son’s at school, and I met somebody. And you know what? I
think she needs some help.” And that started a relationship with you and
Caitlyn on the phone. They had never met until tonight. And that’s pretty much why we’re here now. Quickly, my story with Caitlyn is: I knew Bruce Jenner in the early ’80s.
Bruce Jenner was a client of my company, Rogers & Cowan, the minute he crossed the finish line and became the world’s best athlete in 1976. I, of
course, was in college at the time. And we struck up a friendship. And he was a
client of the company at that time. And I remember he invited me to
dinner. There was just the two of us, and he said, “You know, I got a problem. The New York Times is trying to find out and actually publish a story that Bruce
Jenner was a crossdresser.” Which wasn’t the case. Bruce Jenner wasn’t a crossdresser. But with the help of his manager at the time,
an attorney, we killed the story. But Bruce confided in me at that dinner. He
says, “You know, I don’t know, I–I’ve got this thing called gender dysphoria.” Or,
I’m not even sure if he knew at that time what that term was or knew the
term, but, “I have a soul of a woman.” And my response, being naive and
not really versed at all, I said, “So does that mean you’re gay?” That was my
response. And he goes, “No, that doesn’t mean that. It means I think like a woman.”
And I really had no idea what he was talking about. And we went on and
that was it, and worked together, and then he’d be married and went on, had another
family. And we sort of parted ways for about 30 years. And I’d run into him occasionally at the ESPYs, but really, we weren’t
working together. And I sort of just let it go. And then I get a call out of
the blue. Unless I’m in 2015, that would make sense. And the message is–Bruce
Jenner called. And I’m like, “Hmm. OK.” So I called him back, and first of all, he says,
“You mean you’re still there? You’re still there?” I said, “Yeah, I’m still
here.” He goes, “You know, I’m getting beat up in the tabloids. I don’t know what to do.
I feel like it’s time to do something, and I want to do it right, and I want to take this story out of the trash and the tabloids and elevate it.
And I need some help.” And I’m like, I was very skeptical. I said, “OK.” He goes,
“Can you come over to the house this weekend? And we’ll meet and we’ll talk
about this issue.” And I said, “OK.” Then we hung up. And I thought to myself, I’m not
sure—-I’m not sure this is my wheelhouse. I’m not sure this is something I want to
take on. But I was very fond of Bruce and I knew he’s going through a rough time.
So I wanted to hear him out. But my real– of all the questions and things we
discussed, the real—the thing I needed answered, for me to pursue this on a
business level, was: What is your motivation? Why do you want to all of a
sudden come out and go public with this? There is a variety of possibilities, right?
I mean, let’s be honest, I questioned . . . I questioned the motivation behind that.
And so when I got there, I asked him, and he very calmly looked at me and says, “You
know what? I want to save lives. I want to, in the fourth quarter of my life, I wanna do some good. I’ve been blessed with wonderful children, I’ve had an
amazing career. And I’ve been struggling with this issue. And I think if we do
this, and we do it at a certain level, we can save lives.” And that’s all I needed to
hear. I’m like, I’m in. Count me in. And then we had, we went back to the office,
and I told nobody at the office. So it’s very difficult to have a company and
work on a client without most of your peers knowing that you represent that
client. I did not want the media to know, either,
because I didn’t want to be barraged with a bunch of tabloid calls, and calls that,
really, from press that meant nothing, in the sense other than they weren’t on our
agenda. So we formulated the strategy, and we
figured out, you know what, we can educate people on an issue they know very little
about. How do we do that? Well, for you journalism students, television is much
more of a credible medium than print. You’re in your living room, you’re watching
something, it’s coming into your living room, you’re making a choice to watch it,
it’s a visual. So we figured, who is the best, most credible journalist there is,
period? And it was Diane Sawyer. There was not a plan B. Now, unfortunately, Diane—-who
I had known over the years—-had recently lost her husband, and she basically had
taken a leave of absence. So of course Caitlyn and I are thinking, you know, what
if we can get her to do this? This may be really good for her as well, to come out
of her semi-retirement at that stage and find something–if she’s passionate
enough about this–to basically make history, to make television history. And
she came on board. And she came on board with such passion that we figured this
is more than about Bruce, you know, transitioning. This is about educating
the world on the subject. So part of our deal, and it wasn’t a deal where like you
have to do this or you don’t get it. That’s not the way it works with someone like
Diane, and that’s not the way I work. Basically we want to educate. My job,
as Caitlyn’s representative, is to not only educate with this, but I need to
gain support. I need sympathy. And then I want people rooting for her at the end
of this interview or I haven’t done my job. And there’s a whole generation of people that have no idea who Bruce Jenner is
other than being the dad in the Kardashians, right? And speaking of the
Kardashians, that was one of my biggest problems, in terms of credibility to
launch this campaign. Nothing personal against them, but I had–what I was up
against is half the people who watch that show would think this is a publicity stunt, wouldn’t they? I had an informal marketing group in my
office. Pizza and beer gets the staff to stay late all the time. And I asked them,
old, young, women, men: What would you want to ask Bruce, you know, if you had a chance?
Bless you. And a couple girls will now say, “Well,
is this a publicity stunt?” So out of respect to her family, I had to
build that wall with ABC News and Diane so as not to include the Kardashians,
other than obviously a mention of them. But if you notice the kids on that show,
and I don’t know how many of you saw it. If you haven’t, give yourself a little
break and go watch it. Because you have the Jenner kids. Not for any other reason
other than we wanted to bring it, give you foundation. And we also had to inform
you and educate you. Who is Bruce Jenner, other than the Kardashians’ dad? So the entire first part of the two-hour special–it grew from one hour to two hours–was the feats of Bruce Jenner in the ’70s and the ’80s. The world’s greatest athlete,
the epitome of masculinity. We wanted everybody to remind them or to inform
them who this person was and is, and then bring it to today. So it was a great
conversation. I was actually up here for parents weekend. I’m very clearly, Friday night, running to my television.
“Sorry, Josh, I gotta go.” I go to my room and watch this special, but I promised
Caitlyn Saturday morning, after the 20/20 special aired, that Friday night I would
go to Hayward Field and answer every email from my phone. And I did. I got
there early, 7:00 am. And about three hours later I was then answering every
media inquiry that came about from that special. And it was is a life-changing
weekend for me as well, because I knew we had succeeded. And we did it with dignity. We did it with class, and with respect. And now she had a chance. She had a chance. But
the next part of the equation, which was all completed. Our strategy, we only
needed three things for the year. We were going to say goodbye to Bruce on the
Diane Sawyer special and introduce the world to Caitlyn Jenner. Well, how do we
do that? Well, let’s just think large. I remember asking Bruce at the time, what
magazine have you always wanted to be on the cover of? And, just nonchalant, “Eh, Vanity Fair. Vogue.” OK. And I just left, let
it go. I went back to my office and the next weekend I called the editor of Vanity Fair. I said, “Now here’s the deal. Here’s what I’m thinking of. This is all in
confidence.” I knew her well enough to know that it would stay between us.
And this is still before the media knew that Caitlyn and I were working together. This
is in January, and Sawyer aired in April, Vanity Fair was a July issue out June 1.
So I made one call to ABC to Diane and her producer. Next call was to Vanity Fair.
How do we launch Caitlyn? How do we introduce everyone to Caitlyn? Now, crisis communication, I know you’re all interested in it. When we aired that Diane Sawyer special, I had every gay and lesbian activist group, trans group, GLAAD– they were pushing us hard when that aired that night, to refer to
Bruce as now “she,” and tell us her name. But that wasn’t our plan. And I remember saying to the head of GLAAD, which is a wonderfully respected organization,
I say, “Your walls are too small for us. We’re gonna enlarge your walls in your
universe a little. Just let us do this.” Fact is, they had no choice. They didn’t
know the name, they didn’t know much about it other than you are putting
pressure on us. Don’t fall for the pressure. Trust your gut, trust your
instinct, trust your experience. It will always work out. If you guess wrong, you
guess wrong, but the fact of it is, we knew we had a plan. And then the third
leg of that plan was to–Caitlyn’s coming-out party. Hence the Arthur Ashe
award for courage at the ESPYs that July. That was it. That was our strategy. And
you know what? It actually worked. We pulled it off. And I’m going to turn it over to
Bethany now because I’m done talking. And the person who I just–I cannot tell
you. She takes it. They go after her, her own community goes after her in a lot of
ways. And, you know what, everyone in this room is the same. There’s nobody different here. Yet we’re all different, and thank goodness we’re
all different because it makes the world a lot more interesting, don’t you think,
Bethany? Anyway, thank you, and here’s Bethany, and then we’ll go from there.
Are you shifting? I’m going to go back over there. All right. We’ve been asked a lot of
questions by a lot of people this week. That’s what happens when you’re the
fourth name on the program and the first two are out of state and the third one
leaves the country. To paraphrase Henry Ford, you could have any interview you want, as long as it’s the SOJC PhD student. Everyone had good questions, which is
awesome, because most of the people that interviewed me are current students or
graduates of this school, and one of them even used to be my student. That would be
awful if they were terrible. That said, each one of them did ask me a version of
the same question: What does Caitlyn Jenner mean to you? Well, as a PhD student and a researcher, I’m happy to explain that. In 1976 I had a parasocial relationship with Ms. Jenner, which is to say, she was a celebrity persona who
was completely unaware that I was alive. I was aware of her because after
securing her spot on the U.S. Olympic team just a few feet away from here at
Hayward Field, Caitlyn Jenner broke the world decathlon record by scoring 8634
points at the Olympic Games in Montreal. She brought the title of
world’s greatest athlete home to America, and I gleefully celebrated it every
morning at breakfast as I gazed at the cover of my Wheaties box. Forty years later
she captured the world’s attention again when she revealed that she is a
transgender woman during the ABC News special with Diane Sawyer. Two months
after that she took her new name and was on the July cover of Vanity Fair, a cover
which has become one of the most iconic in the last 50 years. And as a mass media
researcher and academic, I found myself objectively assessing her skills and
attributes as gradually seeing the possibilities for myself and her
personages. Yes, we really do talk like that. Something that eventually resulted
in my own decision to transition male to female in the fall of 2015. Similarly, later in 2016, she provoked internal self-enhancement and
inspiration as her successes seemed similarly attainable to myself as a
middle-aged transgender woman. Since Caitlyn revealed her true self, I have
continued to observe from both a media and a parasocial standpoint that she
has continually worked to constitute and maintain a pervasive influential and
informative influence on a cisgender community, that, prior to
Caitlyn’s revelations, had very little understanding of who or what transgender
people were. To these ends, Caitlyn executive-produced I Am Cait, the
landmark series on E! documenting her post-transition life. She partnered with
MAC Cosmetics to donate over $1.3 million dollars to transgender initiatives, and
became the face of the H&M For Every Victory sportswear campaign. She was named Barbara Walters’ Most Famous Person of the Year in 2015, runner-up for
Time magazine’s 2015 Person of the Year, Out magazine’s 2015 News Maker of the
Year, and one of Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year, and she was honored with the
Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2015 ESPY Awards for her transition from
Olympic athlete to transgender activist. In April 2017 Caitlyn shared her story
in the New York Times best-selling memoir, The Secrets of My
Life, co-authored by Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Buzz Bissinger,
and published by Grand Central Publishing. Also in 2017, Caitlyn started
the Caitlyn Jenner Foundation to support organizations doing on-the-ground and
impactful work to empower the transgender community and further
transgender rights. Off-screen, Caitlyn finds time to enjoy her own hobbies,
including flying planes, including one up here, and–sorry, I find that very cool–racing
cars in Grand Prix events, working on her golf game, and spending time with her
children and many grandchildren. As to my current role as an academic and
observer of Caitlyn, I have watched all of this and been fascinated as a
media studies PhD student, and a hopefully emerging transgender identity scholar.
What I’ve also stopped having, however, is a purely academic understanding of the
woman that has so inspired me in 2016. She called me on the phone as I sat on
the bleachers in Hayward Field. We talked about our transitions as middle-aged
women and the hopes for our futures, mainly as they related to our children.
Later in another phone call last fall she would make me laugh for 30 minutes
straight, the first time I’d seen the light out of my black rabbit hole in
weeks. As an academic, I would tell you my parasocial relationship has now
manifested itself in a real-life way, and then go on to explain the current
cognitive effects of what was once merely Wheaties now made material. But I’d
rather not tell you that at all. I’m going to tell you instead that it is my
very special honor and joy to introduce her here at
last. Now, to my friends and family within the SOJC at the U of O, ladies and
gentlemen, my friend, Ms. Caitlyn Jenner. [Applause] So glad we could make it.
I’m glad you could too.
I know. I think y’all get that couch.
I’ll slide around the other side. All right.
Well, the president is sitting over there. Bethany, wait a second, I’ve already got a beef.
There’s a lot of vegans out here so be careful.
I know, I know. Alan’s introduction was longer than mine.
Here we go. You see what I have to deal with? I got to be honest, I pretty much went
with what ya’ll gave me, and he wrote it longer than yours.
Oh, well that’s true. That’s true.
Control the narrative. Remember that. Control the narrative.
When I was writing the introductions I very carefully was like, whatever you do, don’t
take anything out. Yeah, I know.
Yeah, all right. What we’re gonna do tonight, folks, is we
had, when you all got your tickets, you all had the opportunity to write a
question. And what we did was we took all those questions and we kind of divided
them up. And we’re gonna kind of go through them in sort of different blocks,
in terms of PR as a career, in terms of the mechanics–
nothing too personal because I do blush. Not a problem.
Not a problem.
I blush, too. But that’s only because I go to the MAC counter. And the mechanics of PR in terms
of the nuts and bolts, and obviously that’s something you’ll know intimately, a
little bit on politics–let’s be honest, it’s kind of an elephant in the room–but
again, just to be perfectly honest, of the 40 questions we had submitted, the vast
majority we’re about PR, so that’s what we’re gonna spend our night on. And then there
are some at the end just about life as a transgender woman in a spotlight that
quite frankly most of us can barely imagine. So with that in mind, let’s get
started. Alan, this question comes from Ashley F., and that is: What personality
characteristics are most important to be successful in public relations?
People skills. Real simple. If you can’t deal with people, you will not go very far in public relations. People skills, simple as that.
Caitlyn, as somebody who has obviously been on the receiving end
of people skills, are there things with public relations professionals that have ever–and this is for you, too, Alan–is there anything that’s ever turned you off? Where you’re just like, OK, that is a person I don’t ever need
to interact with again?
Not as when it comes to, with Alan, the whole time. Yeah. I started with Alan over, you know, in the early ’80s. We’re talking, you know,
30-something years ago. And then I had a 30-year hiatus from Alan.
And he was talking earlier, when I finally had come to peace with myself. I
had raised 10 wonderful children who are all doing so well. And Kris and I had
gone our separate directions, not because of these issues, because of other issues.
And there I was back in Malibu, and I had to have long conversations with all my
kids about what I have lived with all my life. I’m dealing with the same things
today that I was dealing with when I was this high, OK? And they don’t go away.
You can’t take, like, two aspirin and get plenty of sleep and wake up the next
morning and you’re going to be fine. It just is with you. It’s part of you. What
am I gonna do about it? And so the last thing I had to go to, as a person of faith, I
had to go to my pastor, and I think everybody asked that question, of any
faith at all. You know, God, why did you do this to me? Why is this in my head
all the time? And, you know, at one point I thought about suicide. It’s kind of the
easy way out, but I thought how stupid is that because I don’t want to silence my
voice, I’d rather be out there. So, you know, I made the decision that that’s what
I’m gonna do. So, the only person I knew when it comes
to PR was really Alan, and he was the only one that knew my story from back in
the ‘80s, you know. Even then I was– I struggled during the ‘80s. I stayed
to my house for almost six years and never really came out because I never
felt like I fit in anywhere, besides to go to work once in a while. Yeah, I was–I
was struggling back then. I was on hormones, I’m in therapy, I’m thinking I’m
gonna do this before I’m 40 because I don’t want to be an old chick. Then I
found out old chicks are pretty cool. But that’s a whole other thing.
You rock. I’m telling you, we rock it. Remember that.
Yeah, and so anyway . . . Yeah, so Alan’s pretty much the only PR
guy I’ve been with. So yeah, I mean, but Alan and I . . . honestly he’s–I think the
best PR guy in town. He’s president of Rogers & Cowan, but more importantly we
are really, really close good friends. Alan would always be there
for—-I know all his clients that he has, and he has many clients. He’s like their
best buddy and everybody loves him. So when it comes to PR and stuff like that,
you really have to have a personal relation, it is just very personal.
Plus you have to trust your publicist. And 30-some-odd years went by, and I
didn’t tell a soul. Also, I love your line about when you were
thinking about suicide. At the end of the day, the real reason or one of the real
reasons you didn’t is you wanted to know how the story ends.
Yes, I didn’t want the story to end that way. I was out there walking in a field, walking across this field. And I was thinking the
night before, there was a picture coming out and I knew it was coming out, and TMZ
was going to do it. And I knew all hell is gonna break loose tomorrow, that day. And I thought like, I’m just done with this. I had four or five
paparazzi cars following me everywhere I went. People were harassing me. I mean,
taking pictures, coming up with every stupid story there was out there, putting
my face on some woman’s body on the cover–I think it was Us magazine or
something like that. And I would walk through the grocery line and
my kids would walk through the grocery line and look at this crap and it was
just horrible, you know? And anyway so finally I decided
to do something about it and tell my story. And like I said earlier, I am a
person of faith, and that day when I was walking through that big
field all by myself after the night before, it was horrible, I thought, maybe
this is the reason God put me on this earth, is to see if I can make a
difference in the world. The trans community has been around throughout
humanity, OK? There are trans people everywhere.
Trans issues do not have borders, OK? It’s part of humanity. It doesn’t stop at
the border. It continues on. And these are people, and these are legitimate, I mean,
these are great people. I have met . . . I mean, we certainly have our issues in this
community, big time, but I have met some of the most fascinating people in the
world who are in my community. I mean, there’s nothing better than going to
dinner with like four or five trans women, OK, and we go like to Nobu.[Laugher]
Yeah, and we have this wonderful dinner, and we’re all sitting
around the table and just swapping stories, and oh my God. They’re just
fascinating. Honestly, if you ever know anybody, ask them, and most trans
people are very willing to talk about their situation. But some of the most
fascinating people. Now, on the other side, we have our big-time issues, especially
with the trans women of color. In fact, through the foundation that’s where most
of my dollars go, is to organizations that help them. They’ve been by far the
most marginalized part of the community. Right now we lose a trans woman of color to murder, one every two weeks. One every two weeks. We average for the last couple
of years 24 to 28 homicides of trans women. Primarily, the majority of them, are
of trans women of color. They have the biggest homeless rate. They have the
biggest suicide rate. That list goes on and on and on. And so that’s the biggest
part of the marginalized community. So a lot of the dollars that I do raise goes to organizations like that.
Now, you mentioned your friendship, and that
kind of leads into it a question from Gellera and I hope I pronounced that
right. And that is, what they wanted to know is:What has been the hardest
thing about doing PR, and how do you get over it? And I guess maybe a
corollary question to that would be—-is you mentioned you have to have a close
personal relationship with all your clients–is it possible to do effective PR for a client that maybe you don’t like much? Or do you kind of, it’s like, you know, I just . . .
We want names. No, I’m just kidding, just kidding. Nobody cares what you want.
I don’t want names.
By the way, you don’t have to be friends with your clients. This is business. There are a lot
of clients–if I don’t like their movie, I still promote their movie. This is
business. It’s the entertainment business. Remember
that. This is business. You don’t have to like the people you’re in business with.
You just have to represent them properly, be honest with them, and give them as
good advice as you have. Some of them don’t take your advice. That’s OK as
long as they pay their bills on time. But no, you don’t have to be friends with
your clients, but you have to believe in–I personally have to believe
in their talent and what they have to offer. If Caitlyn had a different agenda
when I first met with her about why she wanted to transition and come out, I
would have walked away and said, “You know, I’m really not the person for you. I’m
not the person for you.” There’s no money you can pay me that’s even close to being
enough. There’s nothing you could pay me to handle this for you, because this
is what–once I knew what she wanted to do and how to do it, I knew I could do it
with her because she in her heart and in her brain was ready. As she said, I was
Society was ready.
And it was timing. Timing is everything.
I couldn’t have done it . . . I thought I’d do it in the ’80s, and it was like the issue just
wasn’t there. I mean, people had gone before me. Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, the other people that were out there, trans women, very visible. And the issue had
moved forward so much that it was time for me to add my voice to that
conversation. But I thought about that at the time. I said, “What a wonderful
opportunity and life for me.” Number one, to live my life authentically
of who I really am. OK, just wake up in the morning, and be
yourself all day long. Oh boy, very difficult to do. But what a wonderful
concept, OK? No more struggles with that issue. But in doing that, can I make a
difference in the world? Can I do it in a way that can make a difference? You know,
we have all these issues in our community, and I thought, “OK, I’m playing
in the fourth quarter of life, you know.” And I remember right after I came out I started getting letters from young
people who said–literally, I mean, I got seven or eight letters in like a row of
young people–who said they were thinking about committing suicide and didn’t do it because they said if I’m so strong, I can be strong, too.
When you start getting letters like that, you realize, you know what? Maybe I
can make a difference in the world. And I continue to fight and it’s not easy.
The trans community can be very, very tough on you, to say the
least. And it hasn’t been easy at all. I mean, I’ve had times I’d call Alan
up and I said, “Why am I spending my time, my money, and all these things to help
these organizations, to try to make a difference, and all they do is shoot you
down all day long?” You know, just take you down, take you down, take you down. And I
say, “Alan, why am I doing this? I could just go off to Alaska or go someplace
and not do all this stuff, you know?” I spend 60, 70 percent of my time on
foundation work, trying to raise money, meeting with people, giving money away,
you know? So far between MAC and my foundation we’ve given away
about $2.5 million over the last 18 months to trans organizations all over
the world, especially through MAC. Primarily right now with the foundation
we’re working in LA, and yeah, it gets very frustrating at times. There’s a lot
of hate out there.
I remind her of that one phone call that she takes or
makes that changes that person’s life. And you know what? Makes it all worthwhile. It’s not even the conversation. She goes, “All right, you’re right, you’re right,
Let’s go on. And then, you know, a week later I get a letter like
that. I said, “OK, we’re moving on.” Yeah, there’s a group out there that, you know, it’s a fight. It’s never easy. But I just keep plugging along, I just keep doing my thing, you know?
Well, I’m kind of going back to the original question is just, in terms of what is the
hardest thing about, you know, doing PR? Is that the hardest thing, is this sort of,
“Why am I doing this because no one seems to be listening?” Or is that just one thing that’s a little annoying? It’s very frustrating at times. I don’t do
much media. I’m very rarely–this is actually, like,
rare. And this will be all over the place somewhere. You know?
Yeah, I’m discovering that.
This will be on TMZ tomorrow, baby. You know, anyway. Yeah, it’ll be somewhere, so I really limit the amount of things that I do. Most of my stuff, politically
this and that, are all done behind closed doors that nobody knows what I’m doing,
and that’s kind of the way I like it. I am kind of changing a little bit of that
to try to get the community and other people to realize what I am doing. You
know, I was speaking at Parliament in London last week, you know, on trans
issues. And I’ve constantly been doing stuff like that.
Do you get frustrated by the paradox of the only thing she does is for attention, so if
you do something where you don’t seek any attention, nobody knows you did
anything, therefore they don’t know what you do, therefore the only things you do
are for attention?
Well said, Bethany. You sound like Alan.
You have no idea how long I practiced that.
That was impressive. Excellent, excellent, excellent. I
like that. No, I don’t do things for attention. I do things that–what can I do to try to
make a difference? What can I do to raise money? How can I give it away? I mean, I
sold my car. I had a nice Porsche and I said, “You know what, let’s take the
Porsche and let’s sell the Porsche at an auction, and we’ll give all the money to
the foundation, and then we’ll just give the money away.” How much fun is that? It
was so much fun, you know, to go to these organizations. Financing, in the
trans community especially, it is extraordinarily difficult to raise money.
I know from a personal standpoint how difficult it is to go to people with
an issue that they don’t understand. People don’t understand what being trans
is really all about. They think you’re a sexual pervert when
it has nothing to do with sexuality. It all has to do with identity and about
who you are, and they just can’t quite grasp this issue. And so to go out to the
groups or to corporations, because I want corporations to get involved. They have a
bigger scope than just, you know, just money. They have influence to get out
there into the community. So, it’s kind of a tough sale, you know, it’s kind of a
tough sale to raise money, but I just keep plugging along and eventually we
found . . . Jesus, you never know where you’re gonna find the money. I had two $200,000 grants come through by just great individuals, very wealthy guys, just
recently. So I mean, I went, “Yes, OK, we got a little bit more to work with.”
All right, kind of moving into maybe some of the nuts and bolts of PR. Alan, in
terms of negative publicity, how much time do you allow to pass before you
respond to something. I mean, is there like a tipping point where it’s like,
OK, this is not gonna go away? Or is it you pounce on it? Or is it determined by circumstance? Good questions. It’s a good question.
Oh, wait, let me give credit.
That comes from Damaris. Who asked that question?
It was me.
That comes from Damaris. If you’re Damaris, go see Alan later and get a job.
Where are you?
Here’s the deal. You usually . . . in my position, you usually know about the
negative publicity and the issue before anyone else does and before it’s
published or posted, so preparation is key in our business. Remember, I mentioned controlling the narrative. I’ve had situations where I knew a client was
going to be sued for, let’s say, harassment from a staff member or
somebody, and we’ll throw it out there. And the first hit is usually the most
important. And if you know someone’s going to attack, you can plan your
defense, right? So we’ll let that roll if it’s to the client’s advantage because I
always know if . . . they always say the best attorney is the one that knows the
answers to every question they ask before they ask that question. You know
there’s a couple of legal scholars here. One runs your university by the way. But
isn’t that true? You have to know the answer before you ask the question or
you don’t ask it in court. So I usually know the end result before it even is
initiated out in the public, so that’s where your preparation comes in, and
depending on the issue, depending who’s involved in what it involves, you either
hit it before it hits, you hit it immediately afterwards. I mean, if you get
caught and someone’s accusing you of something and someone’s coming at you,
from a practical standpoint you want the news cycle to be the shortest possible. So
you want to answer within 15 minutes, let’s say, and have your answer or your
response included in that first reporting cycle because then there’s not
a second cycle. If you have to wait a week
or you wait a couple days the issue that was hot today, you know, is lining the cat
litter box tomorrow. So at the end of the day, you don’t want to have a second
cycle. You don’t want the news cycle to continue. So you want to nip it in the
bud. So we respond. Then you close it, it’s done. So if you can, you want to
respond sooner than later, again, depending on the issue, but in
general, you want it to be in the same news cycle so there’s not a subsequent
cycle following with your response. Because then you’re just bringing it to people’s attention again. And a lot of the problems we have obviously stem from social media, but if
somebody goes after a client, let’s say, and that client . . . Some of them read
everything. Some of them don’t. The ones that read a lot, they think the world’s
falling apart because one person has posted on their blog X, Y, or Z, and it’s
my job and people like me to give them the voice of reason. Nobody really cares
about this but you. But you can’t really say it that way because they’ll be offended.
You tell me that.
Because you understand it.
But you have to be judicious. But the fact is you have to convince them it’s really not a big
issue. It’s just not. Or, you know what? The royal wedding is tomorrow, don’t worry
about it. It’s gonna be off the page, no one’s gonna pay attention in about five
hours, OK? So you have to sort of understand the news and what they’re
covering and the timing of it. And that all sort of filters into your decision-making process on how quickly to respond or not. And sometimes you
don’t respond at all because you know it’s going to go away.
I found, I found that most of the negative things that have come my way over the last couple
years, its not about me. It’s about the other person. I had this woman come up. I
went to–the LA Trans Choir was doing a tribute to David Bowie, and so they asked
me to come. I had donated to them the year before
quite a bit of money, the biggest donation they’d ever had.
I love the LA Trans Choir. You have like 40, 50 people up there, all trans, singing
the national anthem at Dodger Stadium. They’re out, they’re beautiful, they’re just
wonderful. I just love these people, you know, because they’re visible, they’re out
there, and I want to support that. So I gave them a really nice thing. And so they
asked me to come. Then they said that the night was brought to you by the Caitlyn
Jenner Foundation, and then there was nothing but love in the room. I mean,
people coming up, hugging you, all these—-probably of the 300 people,
probably 150 of them were trans—-love in the room and this and that. When it’s
over with, I get up and I’m getting ready to go, and next thing I turn around
and there’s this girl, Ashley, right in my face and just started screaming at me, OK? Calling me a fraud, calling me this. “Oh my God, you’re a Republican, and you’re this, and you don’t do anything and you don’t know–”
I mean, just went absolutely off on me. And first thing I said, is just–don’t say anything. The only thing I did say, I said, “But you don’t even
know me.” And she looks at me. “I know you,” screaming at me. And I look off on the
side and there she’s got a camera. And the camera is recording the whole thing. So
I know, keep your mouth shut. And Sofia was in the back, she was with me, and a
person that works with my foundation is there and another trans woman of color
was there, and they’re trying to back her up. Within 10 minutes of me
leaving that place and going, and everybody was so upset because there was
nothing but love in the room except for one person. [She] went out online . . . her yelling at me was online within 10 minutes of me leaving the facility, OK? And I go, oh God, here we go, and of course
now TMZ is picking it up. They want her to be on. It was all about her. It wasn’t
about me. Okay, I don’t want to go on TMZ, alright?
Man. Well, that’s a whole other story. But, you know, yeah, I don’t want to do that
type of stuff. I want to, I do media, I want to do something that’s gonna make a
difference, that’s gonna make things better for our community. And I don’t do, you
know, any of that kind of stuff. So yeah, she was on TMZ, and then she gets a
writing job, and, you know, she’s this big “I am a trans advocate” and you even ran into her for this event.
Yes, it’s been . . . I got it, I got a little slice of your world. I love this. This is fantastic. No, it’s just. It’s, it’s been interesting.
I’ve had several days where, well, I walked up to somebody who I’ve
considered a peer and simply said, you know, I respect the fact that you don’t
agree on this, and they just looked right at me and said, “Thank you for selling us
out.” I was like, OK. And, you know, what do you say to that? You say, I respect your opinion and I respectfully disagree and you move on because
discourse without purpose is meaningless, and I don’t think when
somebody says that to you to begin with that they’re interested in discourse.
As somebody who has spent a lot of my life reacting, I think maybe
one of the things I’ve learned in the last few years, and quite frankly the
last week, sometimes the best reaction is no reaction at all.
Yeah, I just can’t. I’m the same way. I just can’t let it affect me and I just keep moving on. Recently I
had another trans woman come after me and, you know, “I don’t do anything,” “I’m not
good for the community,” and there were people outside saying that I’m just in
it for the money to make millions and millions of dollars.
Boy, I wish. I’ll tell you, Bruce made a lot more money than Caitlyn has ever
made. And all the money little Caitlyn made, I’ve given it away. I sold my cars and gave it to foundation
work and then give it away. And yeah, it’s not like I’m just like selling out
everything. I’ve got to work, but I’m, you know, it’s just the whole thing is just
people don’t know you. They don’t know what your intentions are. I come from it
to this position and the position of love for this community, love for people,
love for society, and I want to make a difference. That’s all. It’s that simple.
No hate here, whatsoever. We’ll get back to that. Don’t be shy. You’ll never get a job if you’re shy. Before we kind of move on, there’s a
question on here that I thought, and it’s an interesting question at a very high
level, but I wonder if it also applies at the level where many of these folks are.
They are going to be getting out of here, they’re going to be getting their first
job, they’re gonna wonder, how am I going to afford to eat? I’m kidding, you’re all
gonna get hired. It’s going to be fine.
Been there. But they ask, how do you
both collaborate . . . in terms of collaboration, which companies are
persons to partner with for the benefit of your name brand? What makes you want
to partner with someone or something? And I wonder if along with that question,
maybe at more the micro level, is, as you are starting your PR career, how do
you . . . I mean, I know when I first started in journalism, it was like, OK, I
could get a job there. I don’t think I want to be there, but at the same time I
couldn’t find where I wanted to be and so I think there’s always sort of this
balancing act of, “OK, it’s my first job, can I afford to make a choice? Can I
afford to have ideals?” And so, you know, I kind of, like I say, there’s
the broader question about brand names and who you associate with, but as
someone starting out of the profession, how do you elect to decide who to
associate with and how picky are you allowed to be?
Well, let’s be honest here. We all have to support either ourselves, or you are fortunate enough to have parents that contribute and help, so there are different motivations. If
you want to buy a new house and have a new car, I really discourage you from
entering the fields of public relations. I do this, actually, when I’m at UCLA.
I discourage the whole class about PR. And the fools that are left who still
want to be in PR, those are the ones I actually want to hire, because they’re
relentless and they’re aggressive and they’re not afraid to fail. But finances are a big concern, obviously, and you do not start off and you do not make
a lot of money, so consider it like you’re investing in your own career. Now,
that being said, if you have an opportunity to get into a firm, a
reputable firm, and you can get in, and it may not be-—your passion may be music, but the opening is in sports—- get on in, because it’s easier to move
laterally within a company than to try and get in from the outside. Once you’re
in, it’s easier to move around. I started in the music division as an intern. I
went to sports, and then I became an assistant in the entertainment side. But
I didn’t really know what I wanted and most of you really don’t–aren’t that clear as to what you want to do, and you don’t really know to you try.
It took me two years to describe to my father what I did, what public relations
was, because he couldn’t concede . . . the concept didn’t resonate. He was a
plumbing contractor. He didn’t get it. If I didn’t come home with dirty hands and
physically exhausted, I wasn’t really working. So get in there, learn, but again,
network. You probably have all heard that word: network. Networking. Your peers
right here are the ones that you’re going to be working with in the future.
Cultivate that network. Cultivate the relationship. One’s going over to tech,
the other’s going to sports, the other’s going to music. Stay in touch. Network.
You’d be shocked at how many journalists and editors and heads of studios and
networks that I actually knew from high school and college, or I met at an internship.
I got that, just, big time. I told every one of my kids. I got a lot of
kids, OK? And I’ve told every one of them. I say, and, you know, especially the
last two, Kendall and Kylie, I say, when they were little: Be nice to everybody.
Even the person carrying your bags, OK? Be nice to everybody. You never know. Cut to the first show I did after the games in 1976 was the show
called–I’d never even held a microphone, and I’m doing this television
show with Howard Cosell. And it’s like the first time, I’ve never gone on camera.
Me and Howard Cosell. Anyway, I do the show and I have to go to New York to do the
voiceover, and it’s a celebrity challenge thing. And I’m in New York and of course
it’s running a little bit late, and so I had to catch a flight to get to some
other job. And so my stuff was still all back at the hotel room. So we asked one of our production guys if he would run over to the hotel, pack up my bags, throw them
down, go downstairs, throw them in his car, drive over here, and wait downstairs in
New York, right downstairs. And so as soon as I’m done, I’m going downstairs, jump in
the car, and off to the airport. It worked perfectly. Got to the airport on time. The
guy was a really nice young guy, really nice young guy. And we talked a little
bit on the way, kind of became little friends. That guy today? Bob Iger. Chairman to the board and CEO of all of Disney. OK?
Be nice to everybody.
The funny thing, the last time in a year that Caitlyn said,
“Can you get my car for me, please?” Yeah, and even in my position, and with being trans and being public and everything, honestly I take it personally
to be nice to people. I take 40 selfies with people, 50 selfies
with people every day, OK? That can get, like, tiring. OK, how many selfies can
you do in a day, OK? I can’t walk down a street. Poor Sophia, we we’re just in New York–or in London–last week, and she kind of got a little upset because every place
I’ve walked, you know, people are, oh, can I have a picture? It’s tough to walk
from one place to another and they all want selfies. It used to be autographs
in the old days. Now it’s the selfie. But I go out of my way to be nice, you
know, because I figure most of those people have never met anybody who’s trans, you
know? Probably 98 percent of them don’t know anybody who’s trans. When they
meet somebody, I want it to be a really nice experience. I want them to walk away saying, “Oh my God, Caitlin was so nice. You took my picture and this and that.” I want
that to be–just to represent the community.
First of all, that was Madeline’s question. I want to give credit where credit’s due because I
don’t have an intelligent question in me. I just steal y’all’s, just know that.
OK. Well, I will say this. Backstage I got to introduce two of
my friends to Caitlyn, and you said yes to every single photograph. Although I
think we tried to take our own photos because hopefully that was a
little less exhausting.
I love those things. I love, you know, building memories for people. It’s so much fun. I have a great time doing it.
All right, as I mentioned, we’re probably gonna spend
a minute or two talking about the elephant in the room. And this is a
question from Desiree–or, I’m sorry, from Matt. And we’ll get back to
Desiree’s I hope. The question is: Is there a difficulty
in attempting to cover or provide representation to the transgender
movement without making it a political party movement? And I guess what I’m
kind of wondering is in correlation with public relations. It seems to me
we’re living in a time where four or five years ago, you could vote for the
whatever the out party or whatever. In Hollywood there are a number of known
conservatives. We now live in an era where it seems like even your vote makes
you . . . you’re an enemy of the state. You’re an enemy of the people. And,
I mean, I think about my own life and I mean my one of my best friends in the
world, her name’s Tara and she’s here tonight, and she’s about the most
Republican person I know. The only thing blue about her is the Blue Lives Matter
bumper sticker. I tried telling her that was in support of Democrats. She didn’t
buy it. She’s very smart. But she’s my friend. She’s one of my best friends and
I have absolutely no problem saying that. And yet we’re in an environment where as
a celebrity, if you are known to consort with members of the other party, that is now a public relations problem. And so going back to, kind of going back to the question, is
how do you navigate this space where everything is a political statement when
you don’t want things to be a political statement, you simply want them to exist
for what they are? Well, interestingly enough, when Bruce Jenner confided to
Diane Sawyer in front of millions of people—-17 million to be exact–
that he was transitioning, that was big news, right? That was nothing compared to
the news that Bruce Jenner was a Republican in the same interview. And
within that two hours all this wonderful stuff about transitioning and what
gave you more . . . people came at you and attacked you. You think it was about transitioning.
It was more difficult to come out as a Republican than it was to come out as trans, OK? I mean, it was just ridiculous, yeah.
Ridiculous. Yeah, you can’t get it. From my standpoint,
you know, I’ve always been very conservative. I grew up, I’m, you know, I’m
68 years old. I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s. Things were different. And I–I’ve
just always been more on the conservative side, you know, and I’m not a
one-issue voter. I’m not gonna vote just on one issue, I’m gonna vote on all the
issues. And I’ve just always been on the Republican Party, although they’ve
really disappointed me in a lot of things when it comes to conservative
thinking, limited government and all those types of things, they’ve
disappointed me quite a bit. But that’s just always where I’ve been. I didn’t
think it was that big a deal, OK. Until, oh my God, you come out as trans,
and then on the bus we talked about, you know, they’re all, you know, how can you be
a Democrat? Or how can you be a Republican? And it’s just like the whole
thing so blew up out of place, and then Trump getting in, and oh, God, it’s just
like it–the whole thing’s just totally blown up. And, you know, I’m kind of just
like, OK and what am I gonna—-I’m just gonna move on in life.
So how do you, and this ties into Desiree’s question–
you had a lot of political questions came up. How can you be–
Well, actually, we didn’t. That’s the funny thing. I’ve got
one more and then we’re moving on because most people want to know about
other stuff. It’s a PR audience. They want to know, let’s be honest–
This is real interesting issues, right? What’s in this for me?
In terms of . . . and this really isn’t a PR question, it’s: How do
you navigate that space? Because it it made all the news last week that, you
know, you kind of announced that Trump was a pretty terrible president for
LGBTQ people. I’ve been saying that from ever since he, way back almost a year ago,
when they rescinded Title IX. It just really pissed me off. And I even did,
we’ll go all the way back to the elections, we did that video.
You got to take this one. People don’t really–
The whole bathroom issue in North Carolina during the campaign and everybody’s asking about, oh my God, you
know, and it’s like, come on, just leave. Wasn’t it Ted Cruz and Trump who were running on the ticket, the Republican party?
Trans people are not sexual predators. We don’t cause problems. We just want to go in and do our business and get out, and not
cause any problem.
That was the Ted Cruz line, the predators, you know.
I haven’t been in the men’s room in three years, OK? I’ve followed every rule. I have
never thrown any feminine products down the toilet, OK, girls? I’m good, OK? So
we just want to do our thing and get out. Did you ever think as a transgender
woman that more people–that many people would be that interested in your opinion
on bathrooms in your life?
Oh, I, no, never did. Tell them what we did.
In New York, this came up is this big thing during the campaign when it was still Trump and
Cruz. And it came, this whole North Carolina issue, and so Trump was asked. He goes, hey, if Caitlyn Jenner came to Trump Tower, where would she go? He says, “She can
use any bathroom she wants, you know, I don’t care.” And Ted Cruz is going, “Well, I
don’t know about safety and bathrooms, you know, I don’t want, you know, guys in them, in my daughter’s bathroom.” Please, get over it. But anyway–
I think he used the term predators.
Predator. So, I’m in, like five days later I’m in New York, and I’m with Alan. I said, “Alan, I’ve got to do this video.” So I got out my
little cell phone, I’m walking down the street holding my phone up, and said, “Ah, hi, Caitlyn Jenner here, you know, a little trans girl in New York. I got to
take a pee. What am I gonna do?” You know? And so I look around and I said, “Oh my
God, there’s the Trump Tower. You know, he said, Donald said I could use any
bathroom I wanted. This is perfect. I’m gonna go in.” So Alan was with me. Now, he
gets the camera, I walk into Trump Tower, I go to the maître d’, say, “Where’s the
ladies room?” “Over there.” I said, “OK.” So I go over there. Alan shoots me going in and I basically just go in, turn around, come back out. When I come back out, I go, “Oh, I feel so much better. Thank you, Donald.”
And as I walk by the camera, I just take a little shot and go, “Oh, and by the way,
Ted, nobody got molested.” That ran everywhere. That ran everywhere.
I want a residual on that one.
So now I got Ted Cruz, you know, having to go on
national television and answer all these questions about Caitlyn Jenner. So I’m
thinking, this is great. I just love to see him squirm. So, cut to right at, about at that time I went to watch, I go to Washington, DC, probably about
every two months. I work very closely with a group called the American Unity
Fund. They’re a wonderful, wonderful group. Their only mission statement of the
American Unity Fund is to get the Republican Party to do a better job with
all LGBT issues. They are on top of everything, a wonderful, wonderful group.
So I go back there, at least like a couple of weeks ago I was back doing a
whole bunch of stuff on the trans military stuff with them, meeting with
senators, congressmen, this and that. One of the first things I did, I went
with my good buddy Zachary and I went to a private home, private dinner with, it
was like 15 to 17 Evangelical Christian conservative Republican senators and
congressmen. I’m talking the enemy, OK? This is, you know, and I’m going in to
have dinner with all these guys because they invited me, because I’m in a
position where they know me, they know my story. They’re what, and they’re very high– I’m not gonna name everybody–but these are
big-time names. And we sat down for three hours talking about the issues. It was
just wonderful. They had never, I’m sure almost every one
of them had never met anybody who was trans, didn’t know the issues. We talked
a lot about faith because faith was very big on me. A lot of things like that,
so I do a lot of stuff like that with the Republican Party to try to get them
to change. Actually, next week I’m having dinner with Nikki Haley. I do a lot of
stuff with the UN. I love Nikki Haley. A lot of stuff with the UN. We got a dinner
plan for next–just found that out today– because I have to go–to actually
tomorrow I go to Vienna, Austria, and I’m there for like three days. I’m
going to the Life Ball. I know what I’m wearing, don’t worry. And then I come
back and I go five days in New York. So we’re trying to schedule to shoot a show,
and we’ll try to schedule as many things. Just found out Nikki Haley wants to have
dinner next week, so that’s cool. It’s a work in progress. It’s a work in progress. But you know what? The fact of it is, she is working behind the scenes. You’re not gonna read about this
because it’s not about PR. It’s not about publicity. It’s not a publicity stunt.
These are real people in real seats of power that control a lot of issues and
they need help. They need education. And they haven’t met anybody trans, and now
they have. So maybe, just maybe, a light bulb will go off. Or maybe they’ll figure
it out, and maybe they won’t, but you know what? You never know until you try, right?
You never know until you try.
I wanna– Amen.
I’ve got a couple little ways that I use, OK, to kind of get people to understand. Being trans or having gender
dysphoria, whatever you want to call it, is not as complicated as you really
think it is, OK? So I had this happen. A good friend of mine, Kate Bornstein, who
was on the show with me . . . Kate Bornstein has been an activist in this community
for the last 40 years, written some of the greatest books on it. I don’t know if
you ever read Gender Outlaw. Wonderful books. Kate is like one of my closest
confidants. She did this to my daughters, Kendall and Kylie. They were over at the
house. And anyway, so I’m gonna ask it to this group. What I’m gonna ask, now I’ll
do it to the girls because we’ve got a lot of girls in here, but the guys could go
with it, too. I’m gonna ask you a simple little question, OK? Now, when I ask this
simple little question that I’m pretty sure you’ve never ever ever been asked
before in your life, I want you to take a second and just think about your answer,
OK? That simple little question is this: When did you know you were a girl? Every time I ask that simple little
question, I look around the audience and you can see, in this case the girls, every
girl will go, “Wow, wait a second. I’ve never– when did I know I was a girl?” And they
start thinking about this. That is what is in the head of a trans person, okay?
That was probably the first time in your life you ever really thought about
gender. Not about sexuality, not about any of that other stuff. This is gender. This
is who you are, OK? Now for a trans person, that thought is in their head 24
hours a day, 365 days out of a year for their entire life, okay? And it’s how are
you gonna handle it? How are you gonna deal with that question in your head
about who you are? Because it has nothing to do with sexuality. This is
identity and about who you are. So for that few seconds you’ve thought like
a trans person. Wait a second. Who am I? As far as gender, who am I? And
so that’s a lot of it. Then I have a lot of different things that I try to do
with people to try to get them to understand it’s not that complicated,
OK? And so it’s just who we are and how you deal with it. Everybody does it
differently, you know, and it’s your own journey. Bethany had a journey. I had a journey. I have an ongoing journey.
Yeah, but that’s as simple as it is.
This is a question from Sean, and you alluded to this earlier, and I said we’d come
back to it. And we’ve talked a little bit about conservative views, but what
they also asked was how do you balance your Christian views with your
transgender identity, both publicly and privately?
My entire life when I talk about Christian feeling–I’m a person of faith. I have sat at church my entire
life, not even listening to sermons. I would sit there and I would ask myself,
Why, God? Why? Is there an answer? Am I doing the right thing? Why is my head
into this space and I just can’t get rid of it? Is there a reason for it? Am I
doing the right thing? When I go up to the pearly gates and I stand there in
front of God and I say, “Hey, how did I do? Did I do a good job, you know, with this
life?” Yeah, one of the games I did this, I did that. I did all these things. But the
one thing that I was constantly struggling with is what was in my head.
And God, did I do a good job? And that was kind of the last thing I had to get over
with, and that came from all the way to the point where I . . . when I thought about
suicide, I thought, That’s ridiculous, you know, I got to do something. I just–what
a great opportunity at my age, at that time like 64, to reinvent myself, to try to make a difference in the world. Because maybe I can. I don’t know, maybe I
can. I’m gonna give it a shot, anyway, because you gotta pull it off. But anyway, that’s
a whole other story.
Very demanding client. A very demanding client.
This is, uh, I don’t know, I think maybe in journalism they call this a “softball,” but
it’s one I want to ask anyway, is, you know, you’re obviously–
this is from Austin–but I’ll admit it’s my favorite. You’re obviously a
public figure and you and Alan had both discussed a lot of things get
thrown your way. But as a human being, how do you deal
with the derogatory comments and the actions people make against you? I mean
on an emotional level. I mean, I know you’re the world’s greatest athlete, but
last I checked that doesn’t mean bulletproof.
Yeah, I mean, you know, that’s a tough one to answer just because when I was younger, there was no internet,
there was no nothing. I live in the most social media family in the world.
I don’t think I need to do a research study to quantify that.
Oh, you don’t have to figure that out. I can sit on the couch at a point, you know, and reach almost a half a billion people just from going like this on the couch. Social media can be
very good to bring an issue forward. Then it can be also very, very hard. I mean, I put a stupid Instagram post up, and I don’t do a lot of it. Actually, I
never post anything myself, OK? Good old Rogers & Cowan has an entire social
media department. If I want to post something, it is looked at unless it’s
something really simple like my dog, you know, my dog, Bertha, who’s not getting me in any trouble. And
they all love Bertha online. But when it comes to very sensitive subjects that
I want to talk about, I go everything through Rogers & Cowan and their social
Excuse me. Just to be clear, we don’t create her social posts, we execute them. They’re her thoughts. They’re her wishes.
It’s what I want to do, but I want to make sure it’s worded right, that it’s done
right, and that the picture is appropriate. Only in a few cases you said,
“You know what, we could probably do it this way.” And, you know, what? You were
Or you may want to wait a day. You may want to wait until
something passes or something else is going on. Timing is important, obviously.
Timing is important, and although it’s kind of fun to be able to post these things.
Read the comments? Oh, God, they just want you to die. I mean, you know, oh my God. And I don’t really read them. I never, you know, but once in a while I’m sitting in an airport and I’m bored
and I want to laugh, I will read . . . I’ll read these comments and I’ll go, oh my
God, they’re a bunch of idiots out there, you know? How do they come up with this
stuff? And, you know, it’s just . . . that is not– besides the one thing that Ashley
did, who came up to me at the trans choir–that was the only negative comments that
anybody has ever to my face come up to. I am met every day with love, with respect.
People are so nice to me face to face. You just don’t read what’s happening
online. Unfortunately, you need online for the things that I’m doing, you know. You
need that online presence, and, you know, hopefully millions of followers. But I have been met over the last three years with nothing but love. And people
come up and hug me. It’s just, it’s amazing, I mean, it’s just amazing. I’ve been very blessed.
Let me discuss the difference of having an intermediary go through the
social media posts. If she wants to tweet something out, it will come through us
first. Just think, if you were someone who
didn’t have that, like, maybe Roseanne Barr? [Laughter] She probably wouldn’t have been posted if she had somebody as an intermediary. You see? It’s real simple,
isn’t it? Doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure that one out. It’s important.
And as you guys enter the world of public relations, understand that’s a big
part of the job right now, is controlling social media and editing your own
clients. That’s a big part of the job. It’s just, social media can take you down,
you know? It doesn’t represent the population. It only represents a
very tiny portion that gets a big voice. Just recently I had, this trans woman did
a YouTube post or something saying, “She’s doing nothing for the trans community. She doesn’t . . .” I’m thinking, every day that’s all I do, is try to do and raise
money. And I haven’t talked to her in over two years. She has no idea what I’m
doing. And oh my God, then all the press goes viral on it, and you know, they show
her, and then TMZ wants to talk to her, and all these people and all of a sudden
somebody who’s really not in the media a lot–she’s in there once in a while–all
of a sudden everybody’s calling her thinking, This is great. You know, we dump on Caitlyn. You know, we got a shot on, you know, on TMZ. And so, yeah, and you get a
lot of that. And my response is, don’t worry about it. Nobody cares. Yeah, I call up Alan: “Look what this girl is saying.” And Alan goes, “Let’s go to Oregon and make a difference. Let’s go to work and do some good stuff, not deal with these people.”
And on that note, I think you have it. Ladies and gentlemen, that is our presentation.
You know, we’re not done yet. Not done yet.
Bethany thinks we’re done. I just want to, first of all, the reason I
came here, I mean, at my own expense, I’m not getting paid for this.
I, on the other hand, am getting paid greatly. I’m not cheap.
I’m not getting paid for this. The money, you know, comes out of my pocket to get up here to do this. And
tomorrow I got a be on a 5:30 flight out of LA, or the next morning, so anyway, I
got to go back today–tomorrow. But the reason I came is because of
Bethany. Not only did we form a relationship. This is the first time . . . this is the first time that we’ve had an opportunity to personally meet,
besides talking on the telephone. Bethany has also done some really, really,
really good research on trans issues, on the media, on all of that stuff. She’s
really had some great writings. And so with my foundation, I need researchers, I
need people. And the one thing that just kills me, is our suicide rate in the
trans community is nine times higher than the general public. And suicide is part
of the–I’ve been there, I know what it’s like. But anyway, we need good, good, really
good research. So I talked to my board. Unfortunately, me as the head of the
Caitlyn Jenner Foundation, I can’t really give money anyway. I have to talk to the
board. But fortunately they had all seen your work, and I know you’ve talked to
them, so we all decided that we wanted to present you with a check for $10,000, OK, to help you with your research, OK?
Thank you so much. You’re quite welcome. Well-deserved.
Because research is very important, and
you do such a wonderful job that through the foundation . . .
It’s real, Bethany, it’s real. It’s not a publicity stunt. It’s real.
It’s real, yeah. She’s a star.
It’s better than those big fake ones, because this one’s real. Yeah, I thought it would really help out, and that everybody at the foundation really loves the writing that you’ve done up to this point, and the things in the research
that you’ve done, and the ideas that you have. And we appreciate them, and we want that to continue. And so through the foundation we want you to be involved.
I won’t let you down.
You got it, babe. [Applause]