BRATTLEBORO — If you ask Leah McGrath Goodman, Arianna Huffington might be considered the original influencer.
“Arianna Huffington: Media Visionary and Wellness Evangelist” written by Goodman, an author and investigative journalist who lives in Brattleboro, was published in the United States earlier this month. The book explores the many facets of Huffington’s life.
“When I first interviewed Arianna, I was really just hearing about her because of the Huffington Post,” Goodman said during a virtual event for the book hosted by Everyone’s Books of Brattleboro and Commons reporter Olga Peters. “That’s what made her a household name.”
Huffington didn’t launch the website until she was 54, Goodman said, describing it as the “very first internet paper” that gave legacy newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post a run for their money. She found Huffington’s story fascinating, learning how she went from being deeply conservative to very politically liberal and all the other events along the way.
Huffington’s mother, who helped hide Jewish people from German soldiers in the 1940s, served as a big influence on her.
“I think Arianna felt if she can do that, I can do anything,” Goodman said.
Huffington was born in Greece and attended the University of Cambridge. She wrote books early in her career and also was a socialite, Goodman said.
Goodman described Huffington as being very introverted as a child then trying different things to get a sense of who she was.
“She kept jumping into new environments,” Goodman said.
Huffington’s first book was a bestseller and served as a counterpoint to the female liberation movement, Goodman said, as it promoted traditional values of being a woman and mother.
Huffington married and divorced Michael Huffington, whose family was rich from the oil business. She was involved in his political career and ran for governor of California herself in 2003.
Even though Huffington lost the race, Goodman said, “the name recognition she got was huge. And she used the internet to raise funds, to do messaging. I don’t know how much interneting she was doing herself.”
“Her team got a lot of mileage from the internet and she started to pick up the pieces after the race,” Goodman said. “She started writing again. It was always this safe harbor for her — picking up the pen, going back to writing.”
Goodman said Huffington began posting her writing online, getting comments and experimenting with the internet. The Huffington Post launched in 2005 and was sold to AOL in 2011 for more than $300 million.
At the age of 26 or 27, Huffington had a midlife crisis that led her to deciding she needed what Goodman called “a deeper truth to find something more spiritual to renew her sense of purpose.” Over the years, Huffington had a few spiritual gurus.
Goodman said she had never written a biography before and would like to write another one.