Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco On Democratic Candidates…. & Bachelor In Paradise

Serving from 2011-2014 in the Obama White House as Deputy Chief of Staff — the youngest woman to ever hold that position — Alyssa Mastromonaco ran the nomination of cabinet secretaries, the White House Military Office (i.e. anything pertaining to Camp David, Air Force One, or the White House grounds) and coordinated the President’s foreign visits, among other duties. She’s written two bestselling memoirs, Who Thought This Was A Good Idea? and this past March’s So Here’s the Thing. She’s also a Contributing Editor at Marie Claire.

As serious and impressive as all that sounds (and is), Mastromonaco still has opinions on other stuff. Like My So-Called Life, Jared Leto, Frances McDormand (huge fan), Law & Order: SVU, lost ‘80s show Greatest American Hero, The Wire (never seen it)...and Bachelor in Paradise.

Yes, the right-hand woman to the former leader of the Free World is a BiP fan, and she’s not ashamed. “I have always found Bachelor franchise to be a real barometer for what's going on in America,” Mastromonaco says on this week’s UnStyled podcast. “This season, Demi came out as bisexual on the show, and everyone on the show applauded her, the whole cast. And I was like, A Democrat's gonna win! Because if Bachelor in Paradise is letting this storyline unfold, then the gut of America has shifted.”

But, as Mastromonaco tells Refinery29’s global editor-in-chief and cofounder Christene Barberich, not everyone applauded her tweets about ABC’s reality juggernaut. “The number of people who tweeted at me like ‘You’re smarter than this.’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m not.’ Everyone’s gotta be mad about something.”

She’s also gotten feedback — of the positive sort — for her work with Obama, as she described in Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? In fact, admirers, particularly women, have stopped Mastromonaco in the street to tell her “‘You book changed my life. I got into public service because of your book. I am involved in politics,’” she reveals. But not everyone has capsized their lives to contribute, she says. “Part of what I wanted people to understand about being involved in politics: You don’t have to quit your job and go work on a campaign to be involved in politics. You don’t have to quit your job to help change the world. The most important thing any of us can do is support ourselves and be financially independent, and make sure that we have the flexibility to make those changes when we want to. Go every Monday night from 7 to 8 to volunteer. Make people start to see how reliable you are, how engaged you are, and that they can count on you." 

The 2020 election is understandably top of mind of this political insider, who worked for Bernie Sanders in the ‘90s and has interacted with many of those in the still-crowded Democratic field. If Mastromonaco is endorsing any of them yet, she’s not telling.

“I wanna support someone I know is gonna just run into fire for me,” she says. “If that was your litmus test: Who would save me in a burning building? I know Barack Obama would've. I know Hillary would've. Donald Trump certainly wasn't going to.”

Of Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden et al, she hopes the contenders can stay civil during primary season: “I was sworn in minutes after the President took the oath of office; and when he came and addressed the staff, either later that day or the next morning, his message was that we serve the American people, all the American people. ‘We are not here for ourselves, we are here for them,’ I believe it.”
Hear the rest of Mastromonaco and Barberich’s chat by listening to UnStyled and subscribing via Apple Podcasts today.

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