When Mika Brzezinski—author, TV anchor, and co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe—published Knowing Your Value in 2011, she was a little bit nervous. After all, she wanted the book to show women in any industry that even the most successful people they knew had made big career mistakes; that she, too, had made mistakes. But because the book focused on her own missteps, the famously candid Brzezinski felt a little anxious. “I released the book and thought, Wow, I really just told the whole world what a loser I am and how long it took me—decades—to figure out how to get to the step that I should have been on when my career began,” she tells MarieClaire.com.
She shouldn’t have feared: That frankness, not only about the landscape women face in the workplace but about how she’s encountered it in her own life, helped the book become a national bestseller. Even seven years later, she says, women come up to her to tell her that the advice in Knowing Your Value—from Brzezinski as well as Senator Elizabeth Warren, Valerie Jarrett, Tina Brown, Susie Essman, Arianna Huffington, and the late Nora Ephron, among others—helped them get the raise they wanted, or level-up in their jobs, or even make a career change.
The release of the first edition was practically a lifetime ago for Brzezinski, who has since gotten engaged to her Morning Joe co-star Joe Scarborough, gracefully handled a few very insulting tweets from the President of the United States, and seen women from all walks of life share their #MeToo stories. While the message and advice in Knowing Your Value was as relevant as ever, the first edition didn’t cover any of those sweeping personal and cultural changes.
Plus, it included quotes from a then-civilian Donald Trump about how much he values women—an especially ironic turn given what he would tweet about Brzezinski a few years later.
Oh, and the first edition’s publisher was Harvey Weinstein. Seriously. (Brzezinski handled that gracefully, too: When the #MeToo allegations against Weinstein came out, she took to Twitter to announce she wouldn’t go forward with the three-book deal she’d signed with Hachette unless Weinstein resigned.)
Given everything, Brzezinski decided to revisit and rework her book. That new edition hits stands this week with a tweaked title, Know Your Value, though it remains as candid and illuminating as the original. Not only is Know Your Value full of truly relatable experiences from Brzezinski and her friends, but it offers the kind of no-holds-barred, brutally honest advice that any woman with a job will find useful. Any woman. Any job.
Brzezinski made time to talk with MarieClaire.com about the book, that infamous @realDonaldTrump tweet, and how the lessons of #MeToo should change workplaces.
On why she decided to revisit Knowing Your Value:
“By the time a certain number of years [had passed] and a presidency had changed, I thought, My gosh I love this book, I stand by the message—every word of it—but I want to build upon it. Should I do another one? Know Your Value Two? No, because everything that I had to offer was what I had written in the original Knowing Your Value. But I could add more robust thinking to it, maybe some insight into how I handled situations when the book came out.
“And also things have changed in American politics that reflect on women in many ways. We're being inspired, we're being maligned, we're being challenged in ways that we've never been before. It felt better to re-release the book, update it, and draw out the advice in real time and apply it to real scenarios and what has happened, even to me in my life, since then. There were a lot of reasons to update it and re-release it, and we feel like it's going to move the message forward and perhaps even be able to help more women.”
On feeling motivated, not discouraged, by other women succeeding.
“Some women are successful despite the challenges. They've broken through, but they have all these same vulnerabilities that everyone does. And honestly, a lot of women speak at events and conferences, and you see these women onstage and you're like, Well I'll never get there. I just paid $500 to feel even farther away from where I would ever dream of being. And my point is to literally fill that gap that you feel between me and you with information, techniques, advice, and absolute sisterhood. The ‘I've been there, I'm still where you are’ feeling, but including ‘this is what I'm doing about it, and you can do it too.’”
On how she feels a year after President Trump’s infamous body-shaming tweet about her:
“There’s not one thing I would have done differently in terms of handling that tweet, including my tweet back.
“I'm so transparent with my friends about stuff that I do in terms of my appearance. Number one, because I've really struggled with that, and I share in my book Obsessed that I’ve had times in my life where that was an over-emphasis for me, and I was really stressed out by it. I don't think any woman would be surprised to hear about something like that. I'm really transparent because the parts of my journey that have to do with those things are painful, and I don't want anyone else to go through that. And I feel like putting it out there is like throwing it away. Put in its proper context, it’s no big deal. Come on, we all struggle.
“But the president tweeted about it and I thought, Oh my God, a full autopsy of exactly what happened to show, first of all, how mean he is. What we learn from him is not only that he lies, but he's a really mean-spirited, horrible guy who was trying to face-shame me? And you saw the reaction: I didn't care. But gosh, everyone else did. Republicans, Democrats, world leaders—that tweet got around the world. I won't say I didn't see that coming. I was really surprised how many people jumped to my defense. In the grand scheme of things, it was very small compared to things that I was dealing with. A stupid tweet from a very small person who is mean to people shouldn't be that big a deal. I wanted women who feel the pressure of being treated badly for what they look like to know that I was okay, that I was confident. And, quite frankly, I thought I looked pretty good.”
On threatening to leave her book deal unless Harvey Weinstein resigned from the publishing company:
“[Before the #MeToo movement], I felt he was overly aggressive about me and Joe. Sometimes he’d want to be on the show and we’d say, ‘No.’ And then there’d be times where I’d be talking about the book and the release date and [the publishing team] would say, ‘Oh, Harvey wants to break that.’ And I’m like, ‘What do you mean break it? I’m doing a tool book for women, that’s not breaking news.’ And then all of a sudden it’d be in Page Six: ‘Harvey Weinstein Signs Mega Book Deal With Mika Brzezinski on Helping Women.’
“God, it all came together that he was fighting, apparently, a lot of inside battles and he was using stuff like this as basically cover. I felt gross about the whole thing, but he was always a little aggressive and a little intense. I didn’t really deal with him, but I would just hear stuff like.
“And then when the [#MeToo] stories came out, a lot made sense. I’m not into the Hollywood world, I had not heard the rumors. I wasn’t that clued into why I felt uncomfortable, it was just kind of a feeling.”
On where #MeToo should go next:
“I have concerns about the #MeToo movement because I want it to prevail so badly. Sometimes I think those concerns are misunderstood, like ‘Mika doesn't support women.’ My God, all I want to do is see women get lifted up, especially in the #MeToo arena, in terms of having a voice, sending off sexual harassment and having a fair, safe work culture.
“I said on the air that I believe the women who are speaking out about their stories, especially when they speak to a pattern. These voices need to be heard and the culture needs to be changed. But I think the change in the culture is broader than making sure we ‘get rid’ of these men. And I put that in quotes because I'm not sure we should be doing that with every single one. But I understand that you do not want to be working with sexual harassers. Period, end of story.
“But cultures need to change and cultures involve men and women and the way men and women behave. You want companies that hire really talented men and women, the best at what they do. Now, I think in order to help #MeToo bear out, we've got to hire really talented and really good men and women. People who have a sense of rightness, people who play fair, people who clearly don't put their sexuality first and don't speak about women cruelly, or don’t make fun of men, or capitalize on their weaknesses.
"We're human: We want to make our workplace better, we want to evolve as a society. I think #MeToo can be an incredible moment that can make the future better for our daughters and our sons by requiring that good people are a part of the corporate culture—not just really talented people.”
Know Your Value is available September 25 from Hachette. You can buy it here.