When Hope Hicks was selected for Forbes’ 30 Under 30: Law & Policy in 2017, she said of her boss, President Donald Trump, "Whether it’s Twitter or an arena or a TV show, he’s magnetic. People are drawn to him." Bursting onto the scene two years prior as the youngest press secretary in campaign history, Hicks was just 26 years old when she joined the Trump campaign with no political experience.
Since that time, Hicks has filled multiple roles within the Trump administration and prefers to work behind the scenes instead of seeking glory for herself. Maybe her former lacrosse coach at Southern Methodist University, Liz Holmes, can clue us in on the mindset of the model-turned-political operative. "Her four years of leadership, as captain, provided the groundwork for our program," Holmes told The Washington Post. "She is highly intelligent and brought that to the field in every game … When needed, she carried the team and would score, but preferred to have assists. She was the ultimate team player and competitor."
And as we’ll learn here, Hicks was the ultimate team player in the sport of Trump. Here are a few things you don’t know about Hope Hicks.
Hope Hicks was a model
Often drawing comparisons to Victoria’s Secret model Hilary Rhoda, Hope Hicks took a pretty serious stab at modeling in her teen years. According to NPR, she "landed a modeling gig for Ralph Lauren" in 2002, then signed a two-year contract with Ford, the famous modeling agency that has represented everyone from Lindsay Lohan to Naomi Campbell. While her Ford connections helped her land TV commercials and a guest appearance on Guiding Light, Hicks’ most high-profile gig, according to Cosmopolitan, came in the form of a cover shoot for The It Girl, a novel spin-off of the TV series Gossip Girl (2007-12).
Even with her early success in the industry, Hicks knew modeling may not be her career of choice. In an interview with Greenwich Magazine (via NPR), she said, "I’m not ready to decide if modeling is what I want to do with my life. I’m having so much fun, I’m just going to go where it takes me. But I want to continue with the acting."
In the same interview, Hicks also dropped a prescient hint about her future and offered a glimpse at her family’s politically connected past. "I’m also interested in politics — it runs in the family, my parents met while they were working on Capitol Hill," she said. "If the acting thing doesn’t work out, I could really see myself in politics. Who knows?"
Hope Hicks’ family is kind of a big deal
Hope Hicks grew up in the idyllic suburban paradise of Greenwich, Conn., a well-known East Coast enclave for America’s upper class. Her family assumed a new level of status within the community when the Town of Greenwich proclaimed April 23, 2016 to be Paul B. Hicks III Day — Yes, really — to recognize the achievements of her father.
According to the proclamation, he served as a town selectman for four years and worked as a political staffer to both U.S. Rep. Stewart B. McKinney and U.S. Sen. Lowell Weicker. He also launched a storied career in public relations, representing "a major tobacco company in Connecticut," as well as the NFL during the infamous "Deflategate" scandal, according to The New York Times. Paul’s B. HIcks III’s father was also something of a PR heavy-hitter, having "led public relations for Texaco during the 1970s oil crisis."
On her mother’s side, Hope’s grandfather held the distinguished title of director of communications of the Institute of Agriculture at the University of Tennessee, according to The New York Times. Clearly, her family forged a successful professional path along numerous avenues, but it was an ironic professional connection of her father’s that would open the door that eventually led her to the Trump administration.
Hope Hicks worked for Ivanka Trump
According to The New York Times, Hope Hicks got her own big break in the PR world when she and her father "bumped into [Alec] Baldwin at the Super Bowl." The chance encounter with the actor, who would later become her boss’ No. 1 public tormentor, led to a job with Matthew Hiltzik, a powerful NYC public relations expert who represented Baldwin and who also happened to work for the Trump Organization.
Through her gig with Hiltzik, Hicks found herself assigned to none other than Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who at the time was developing a fashion line, according to GQ. Hicks and Ivanka grew close, which in turn put Hicks onto Donald’s radar. It didn’t take long for The Apprentice star to "poach" Hicks from Hiltzik, hiring her to work directly for him at Trump Tower. "I thought Hope was outstanding," Donald told GQ during a profile about Hope (for which she declined to comment, yet sat in the room while he spoke about her).
It was perhaps this deference towards her famous boss, combined with an apparent savvy about how to retain control of one’s image from intrusive media outlets, that led to Hope becoming a pivotal figure in Donald’s presidential campaign.
Trump enlisted Hope Hicks to work on the campaign
According to Politico, President Donald Trump has become so fond of Hope Hicks that he calls her "Hopie" or "Hopester," so it’s no surprise that when he decided to run for the presidential election, he didn’t really offer her a choice in whether or not she would join him on the campaign trail. "Mr. Trump sat her down and said, ‘This is your new job,’" according to her mother, Caye Cavender Hicks, who also told The New York Times, "It was a shocker."
So, why was the "least credentialed press secretary in the modern history of presidential politics" handpicked for such an important job? Simple. "Her most important role is her bond with the candidate," Republican adviser (former campaign manager and now-convicted felon) Paul Manafort said back in 2016. "She totally understands him." Ivanka Trump added: "My father makes people earn his trust. She’s earned his trust."
However, Hope was reluctant to take the offer to become a campaign press secretary — she even declined it when then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told her she had to choose between working on the campaign and working for the Trump Organization. It was reportedly the urging of The Donald himself that convinced her to get on board.
Hope Hicks helped orchestrate Trump’s presidential candidacy announcement
Given the ensuing fervor over the controversial remarks Donald Trump made during his presidential candidacy announcement, it may be hard to believe that the event was carefully curated by a public relations expert and a political strategist. According to New York Magazine, this was exactly the case as Hope Hicks and Corey Lewandowski "worked into the early hours of the morning prepping for Trump’s campaign announcement in the lobby of Trump Tower."
"We had to build the stage, make sure the flags hung perfectly; the eagles faced out; the carpet was red, and he would wear a red tie," Lewandowski said, but the crafting of Trump’s image quickly took a backseat, as Hicks realized that it was Trump’s celebrity — even over the substance of his speeches — that drew his followers.
"Mr. Trump is the star," she told New York Magazine, describing the bare-bones campaign tactic of just putting Trump in front of a huge crowd and letting him rip as opposed to staging expensive photo-ops. "Look at the rally we did in Mesa, Arizona, December 16th," Hicks cited as an example. "That was the first one when we pulled the plane in and ‘Air Force One’ [the theme song of the 1997 movie starring Harrison Ford] was playing. It’s efficient. It’s for branding, and we don’t have to pay for the cars."
Hope Hicks helped Trump compose his tweets
Although Donald Trump proudly boasts that he mans his own Twitter account, a reporter for The Washington Post traveling with his campaign observed him dictating his tweets to Hope Hicks, who then sent them to other staffers, who physically tapped out the 140 characters. Considering the content of Trump’s tweets, Hicks’ former boss, Democratic PR operative Matthew Hiltzik, gave a little insight into why Hicks once served as Trump’s social media middle woman.
"There has always been a very strong connection between politics and entertainment," Hiltzik said. "Hope has a very good sensibility … She worked in situations that required the same attention to detail and sensitivities that a political campaign would, so it wasn’t much of a stretch for her to make that transition."
It’s not uncommon for businesses to retain social media managers. In fact, aside from Hicks, there is another staffer, White House Social Media Director Don Scavino Jr., who enjoys a large degree of control over Trump’s Twitter. According to Wired, it has now become almost impossible to tell if it’s Trump himself or Scavino posting the tweet bombs that regularly dominate the headlines. It’s unclear if Hicks is still involved in Trump’s social media assembly line, considering her promotions within the Trump administration sound like 24/7 gigs — ones that she sacrificed her personal life for on the campaign trail.
Hope Hicks basically gave up her life for the Trump campaign
In an extremely rare interview, Hope Hicks spoke in surprisingly candid terms about Donald Trump’s expectations of his political staffers and the grueling nature of a political campaign.
"There was a moment [the week before] the New Hampshire primary when we were in the office and somebody wanted to go home at like 11:30 p.m. And the campaign manager said, ‘My boss [Trump] is working harder than you. That’s not right. You need to stay and do what you’re supposed to do,’" she told Marie Claire. "This is Mr. Trump’s time away from his family, and frankly, it’s his money. He’s spent millions, and the thing we can do is work to the best of our ability as hard as possible. The pressure and the long hours — it’s all relative to what he’s putting in, which is everything."
Hicks’ slavish devotion to the campaign even caused her mother to fret. Speaking with The New York Times, Cavender Hicks said, "She doesn’t really talk to anybody anymore, she has no life," adding, "I can’t actually let her know how worried I am." GQ even alleged that the "demands of her schedule led to a breakup with her boyfriend of six years." Whether that’s true or not, the experience of joining the Trump Train has obviously been an emotional one for Hicks, who even felt the need to passionately defend her boss when she overheard guests at a wedding she was attending expressing dismay about his election victory, reported Politico. "I promise, he’s a good person!" she allegedly told the Trump detractors.
The wedding incident, as innocuous as it was, was one of only two times Hicks has ever been caught off-script to date. The other incident involved an alleged shouting match on an NYC street.
Hope Hicks got into a public fight with a former Trump staffer
In a rare misstep for Hope Hicks, she was allegedly caught by onlookers "having a public screaming match on the street in Manhattan" with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in May 2016, according to Page Six. A witness to the alleged tiff told the tabloid, "Hope was screaming at Corey, ‘I am done with you!’ It was ugly, she was doubled over with her fists clenched. He stood there looking shocked with his hands on his head."
Though Hicks and Lewandowski both "declined to comment" on the incident, something had clearly gone wrong between them, which other sources with knowledge of the Trump campaign speculated was over the handling of the announcement that Paul Manafort "would be taking an even larger role" in the campaign.
Though the street corner shouting match was viewed as a rare chink in Hicks’ otherwise spotless armor, she seemed to suffer no lasting consequences for it. A month later, Lewandowski, who was already at the tail end of a string of embarrassing public incidents, was fired and replaced by Manafort as campaign manager, according to NBC News.
Hope Hicks was the youngest White House communications director in history
At 28 years old, Hope Hicks became the youngest person to ever serve as White House communications director, according to ABC News. She stepped into the role most previously vacated by Anthony Scaramucci, who left the gig after a spectacularly disastrous 10 days that included a profanity-laced interview with The New Yorker.
Hicks was the fifth communications director to serve in Trump’s White House within the first year of the administration. "Jason Miller (two days), Sean Spicer (55 days), Mike Dubke (90 days), and Spicer again (64 days)" all preceded Scaramucci in the role, according to The Washington Post.
Given the high turnover rate for the position, many began questioning if Hicks — or anyone — could succeed in the role. However, considering all she needed to do to raise the bar is stick around for more than three months and manage to not shout expletives at a reporter, we felt pretty good about her chances.
Hope Hicks became known as a ‘Trump Whisperer’
Though it’s clear by now that Donald Trump doesn’t pay much attention to his handlers, Hope Hicks apparently has something of a magic touch when it comes to penetrating the president’s steadfast independence. According to a Politico profile, "She has become something of a Trump whisperer — other aides rely on Hicks’ judgment to gauge when is a good time to speak to the president."
To that end, her strategy when it comes to managing Trump’s communications may focus less on what he says to the press and more on how she communicates with him, which her colleagues told Politico is akin to how Trump’s daughter communicates with him, meaning "she can express her disagreements to the president privately, but ultimately supports his decisions unquestioningly." Hicks reportedly helps to soften Trump’s email outbursts towards journalists who have displeased him by politely signing them "Best, Hope," and she apparently knows to steer clear of him when he’s indisposed with other important duties, like "watching a major golf tournament," according to The New York Times.
In other words: Hicks cracked the elusive code to communicating with Trump by never questioning his authority, serving up his rebukes with a smile, and not bugging him when he’s watching TV. That… doesn’t seem like it should have been that hard to figure out.
Hope Hicks’ ‘white lies’ reveal and resignation
During the multiple investigations into Donald Trump’s connections with Russia, Hope Hicks found herself a central figure. She was interviewed for two days by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and a few months later, she sat for "more than eight hours of private testimony" before the House Intelligence Committee to discuss Russian interference into the 2016 election (via The New York Times). With lawyers by her side, Hicks refused to answer most questions about her time on the campaign or in the administration, in a move Representative Adam B. Schiff called "executive stonewalling."
The thing she did reveal? That Trump apparently often asked to her tell "white lies" during her time as the administration’s communications director. The report also stated that Hicks was "involved in the firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director," and when Donald Trump Jr. was in contact with Russians to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Hicks allegedly said his emails attempting to schedule the infamous Trump Tower meeting would "never get out."
A day after her February 2018 meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, Hicks announced her plans to resign. "Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years," President Trump stated, per The New York Times. "She is as smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person. I will miss having her by my side, but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future."
Hope Hicks goes Hollywood
Roughly eight months after her resignation, Hope Hicks was named the VP and chief communications officer for New Fox, a restructuring of the Fox Corporation after Disney purchased 21st Century Fox. In a statement to Variety, Fox’s chief legal and policy officer Viet Dinh hailed Hicks and fellow hire Danny O’Brien as "proven leaders and world-class public affairs professionals" who "will define and project Fox’s voice to our relevant communities."
However, critics saw the move as Fox "further [aligning]" itself with Donald Trump’s agenda and his reelection campaign. "Hope Hicks’ presence at Fox will further align the Trump communications apparatus with the Fox News propaganda machine," president of the watchdog group Media Matters for America, Angelo Carusone, said.
Meanwhile, Trump’s press secretary at the time, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, praised the hire. "FOX won’t find anyone smarter or more talented than Hope Hicks. So happy for my friend. They are beyond lucky to have you and the East Coast misses you already," Sanders tweeted (Kayleigh McEnany has since taken over the account).
Hicks has never publicly commented on her role at Fox, and there’s not a lot of information detailing her time there. But here’s what we do know: she didn’t stay in the job long…
Hope Hicks returns to the White House
Almost two years after leaving the White House for Hollywood, Hope Hicks returned to accept her third role in the Trump administration: a "counselor to the president" who reports directly to senior adviser Jared Kushner (via The New York Times). According to the February 2020 report, Donald Trump was "superstitious" and wanted to recreate the team that propelled him to the Oval Office in 2016. "There is no one more devoted to implementing President Trump’s agenda than Hope Hicks," Kushner said in a statement. "We are excited to have her back on the team."
According to a financial report released later that year (via CBNBC), Hicks left the White House with "a bank account valued up to $15,000 as her sole asset" and returned with "a bank account that is valued at up to $1 million." So, why did Hicks leave such a lucrative gig to take another job with the Trump administration? "She didn’t find it exciting," a White House official claimed to Vanity Fair. "She was bored."
Another potential reason is that her brand of politics reportedly didn’t play well in Tinseltown. A source alleged to Vanity Fair that Hicks would find herself defending Trump at Hollywood dinner parties and "never felt super welcome" in that world. Returning to a familiar place is just human nature. "It’ll be two minutes before Trump’s calling her into the Oval asking her what she thinks about things," one of her White House colleagues said.
Hope Hicks ‘hatched a plan’ that turned into a PR disaster
Upon Hope Hicks’ return to the White House, expectations were high. "She understands the president is the message. It cannot be outsourced to anyone," former assistant secretary of the Treasury and aide to Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Tony Sayegh, said (via Politico). "He is at his strongest when he is communicating directly with the public. Her instincts are impeccable and lead to good decisions."
However, five months into her new position, America saw a wave of protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police. After spending the weekend secured in a bunker while protestors marched and stormed the White House gates, Hicks "hatched a plan": have Trump and several aides (including her) walk to St. John’s Church and pose with a Bible (via The New York Times).
The only problem with that plan was that they cleared his path by instructing D.C. police to hit the peaceful protestors with tear gas and flash-bang grenades. When Trump reached the church, a reporter asked if that was his personal Bible. "It’s a Bible," Trump replied. According to the Daily Mail, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was "shocked" by the display. Amid social media backlash against the Trump administration, Mariann Budde, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said she was "outraged" by the stunt and called it "antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and God of justice."
Hope Hicks is reportedly ‘frustrated’ with Trump
On Oct. 1, 2020, it was announced that Hope Hicks had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. According to Bloomberg, Hicks was symptomatic while traveling aboard Air Force One with Donald Trump. "Hope Hicks, who has been working so hard without even taking a small break, has just tested positive for COVID 19," President Trump tweeted. "Terrible! The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process!"
Three days later, Trump was in Walter Reed Army Medical Center receiving treatment for COVID-19 himself. During a press conference on Oct. 4, POTUS’ medical team stated that he was on a steroid therapy and had to be administered oxygen (via NBC News). Per Vanity Fair, Hicks experienced a "high fever and a cough" and "lost her sense of smell." However, her friends stated that she was "frustrated" with the Trump administration’s "cavalier approach" to the pandemic.
According to the report, Hicks was the only one to wear a mask during West Wing meetings and was routinely "made fun of" by people in the room. She was also allegedly upset at the media for suggesting she was the one who infected the president. "It’s so unfair she’s sort of being blamed," her friend said. At the time of this writing, at least 11 people who attended the White House Rose Garden to announce Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s SCOTUS nominee have contracted COVID-19.