My first reaction to some of the pictures (not this one) was, "That's kinda weird." It must be the type of magazine... It could also be my taste, which runs strictly in the t-shirt and jeans department. Oh, and we've got those same bumper stickers on our cars. :)
Anyway, the Palin teens go glam in this piece by the Harper's Bazaar on Bristol. There's a video on the article, so check it out:
It's a Saturday afternoon in Anchorage, and the only sign of spring is the gentle drip of melting snowdrifts. Parked under leafless trees behind Bristol Palin's three-story gray townhouse is a cluster of giant SUVs and pickup trucks. I didn't vote for this Obamanation, reads one bumper sticker. Another features a photo of the former Alaskan governor: Don't blame me, I voted for Sarah Palin.
Inside, the real live Sarah Palin is taking a break from her Tea Partying tour of the country to celebrate the second birthday of her son Trig, who has Down syndrome, with the entire extended Palin clan. She's just jetted in from Minnesota and is wearing an ensemble that reads off-duty celebrity — all black with an army-green newsboy cap pulled low over her eyes. Under her makeup, she looks a little tired, but her Alaskan charm is in full effect.
"Have some cake," she trills, standing next to a happy-birthday sign hand-lettered by Bristol, who is watching her 15-month-old son, Tripp, play with Trig, his two-year-old uncle. We have entrée into this cozy family scene because Bristol herself texted an invite. No flacks, no lawyers, no managers — it's a world away from the media glare of the 2008 presidential campaign, when the McCain-Palin ticket dropped the bombshell that the then high school senior was five months pregnant.
Later, the rosy-cheeked 19-year-old, dressed down in cropped cargo pants and a maroon pullover, says she remembers that moment all too clearly. "It was kind of humiliating," she sighs as she clears boxes of pizza and bowls of Doritos and Skittles. "Great, I'm 17 years old, I'm 40 pounds overweight with a big belly on me, all my friends are at school watching this on the news. This kind of sucks."
Bristol never expected to find herself here: waking up at 5:00 a.m. to fix Tripp's breakfast (usually eggs), get herself ready — "It takes me so much longer with a baby, it's not even funny" — then head to work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. as a medical assistant in a dermatologist's office. "I thought I would be somewhere warm at college with my friends," she says. "But that was definitely not possible with having Tripp."
This workaday life is interrupted when Bristol steps into her other shoes, as an ambassador for the Candie's Foundation, which combats teenage pregnancy. (She has been compensated for some appearances.) One day she might be shopping at Costco, and the next marketing abstinence on Oprah, Good Morning America, or the Today show.
But Bristol is hardly unhappy, despite her hectic schedule and lack of sleep. "I love my baby more than anything," she says, which is obvious from the cuddles he gets. "He's like a Gerber baby. He's the cutest baby in the whole world."
She's also fiercely proud of her newly purchased condo. (Before she bought it, she and Tripp were living at home in Wasilla, an hour and a half away.) Though her mother's earnings have been widely reported at $12 million since she stepped down as governor last July, largely due to her book, Going Rogue, and her TV deals, it's Bristol who has picked out and paid for everything: the big leather couches, the flat-screen TVs, Tripp's toddler-size bed (though he sleeps with his mother), and the Subaru wagon in the garage. "I'm on my own," she says, in between constant texting on her BlackBerry. "I'm really proud of it. I'm a hard worker."
Her older brother Track's girlfriend, Britta, currently lives in the third bedroom, and her 15-year-old sister, Willow, often sleeps over. "I was scared to live by myself," Bristol explains. She has a point. Her neighborhood is not the picturesque wilderness many associate with Alaska; it's a modest cluster of homes halfway between Ted Stevens International Airport and the Great Alaskan Bush Company, where the wildlife accepts tips.
Not that Bristol goes out much, besides taking Tripp for walks. "I don't ever have time for friends or anything like that," she sighs. "It's just like, Right, crap, there is a hockey game tonight that I want to go to but I can't. Or, I do have to go to work today, because I've got bills to pay."
Despite her grown-up responsibilities, evidence of teenagerdom abounds. She and Willow giggle over Willow's prom pics. (To one prom she wore a minidress that some mothers would block at the front door. "Mom wasn't there!" laughs Willow. "She saw pictures, though.") Bristol's bathroom is strewn with makeup, earrings, and a hair iron; her closet is filled with more than 30 pairs of jeans; and she has pink kitchen utensils and a pink KitchenAid mixer that was a 19th-birthday present from her mother.
The townhouse's decor is similarly youthful. There is a leopard-print carpet in the upstairs hallway, and the living-room rug features purple and black swirls. Both choices seem to bemuse her mother.
"You don't like it," Bristol teases.
"Noooooooo, I love your carpet," Sarah protests, announcing, "This is so Bristol. She is a free spirit, a fun spirit."
Absent, of course, is Tripp's father, 20-year-old Levi Johnston, whose engagement to Bristol was announced to much fanfare. But two months after Tripp's birth in December 2008, she and Johnston split, and he's spent his time posing for Playgirl, battling Bristol over custody, and denouncing her mother to anyone who will listen.
"I just ignore it. He is a stranger to me," she says, visibly rattled by the mention of Johnston's name, though she refrains from saying more. "I don't want to get into it. It's just dirty laundry." She is not seeing anyone at the moment: "I'm in no rush. One day I'll find a nice guy."
At the time Bristol discovered she was pregnant, she had been dating Johnston since she was a freshman. Prompted by an aching back and a missed period, she took a pregnancy test. It came out positive. "I was like, What am I going to do?" she says quietly. They decided to tell her parents when she was six weeks along.
"I remember sitting on the couch with one of my best friends and Levi, and I just couldn't spit it out. I was like, 'Mom, Mom.' I was bawling my eyes out. She was like, 'What's wrong?' And I was like, 'I'm pregnant.' And she was like" — Bristol stops and mimics a gasp — "Oh my God. Holy crap. But once that part was over with and Tripp was here, it was just like, this baby is a blessing."
Though Bristol was well-informed about sex education, "it's not like we sat down and were like, 'All right, here's the birds and the bees.' Truly, my parents just assumed that I wasn't doing anything. And it was a shock for us all."
Such a shock that "it didn't hit me that I was going to be a parent until Tripp was like four months old. And I was like, 'Oh yeah, this is reality. I haven't slept in a week and I'm exhausted.'"
In May of 2009, she began working with the Candie's Foundation, which approached her after her frank interview with Fox News's Greta Van Susteren. Bristol now preaches abstinence as "the only 100 percent foolproof way you can prevent pregnancy."
Detractors have been quick to pounce, but "I don't think it's hypocritical at all," Bristol responds. "Like, if you get lung cancer from smoking, why wouldn't you want to tell people, 'Hey, look, don't smoke.' Why wouldn't you want to be productive and share your story and do something positive with it?"
She's not worried that Tripp himself might one day read her words and take them the wrong way. "He knows that I love him," she says, shaking her head. There's no doubt that he is a happy baby, making a few cooing complaints only when it nears nap time. He is learning basic sign language to communicate with Trig, including stop, which Trig signs when Tripp tackles him.
Bristol says that as the oldest girl in a family of three sisters and two brothers, maternal instincts came easily to her. Both parents gave advice, including her father, Todd, who used to braid her hair every morning before school. "He taught me how to swaddle, which is the best trick in the world. I swaddled Tripp for like the first eight months." In a community-college speech class she took as part of the business degree she's chipping away at, she did a PowerPoint presentation titled "How to Swaddle a Baby."
Despite the ways her life differs from those of her classmates, Bristol is hardly a world-weary soul. Instead of limitations, she sees a wealth of possibilities. "I want to pursue the opportunities I have now. I want to do public speaking and cause campaigning. I want to write a book." (Before interviews, her mother advises, "Just smile, be positive, be confident.")
Her parents seem impressed with their determined daughter. "We're very proud of her for taking responsibility. It's not an easy road, but it's the right road," says Sarah. "Decisions were made, and we can't unwind those decisions. Consequences are being dealt with. I'm sincerely proud of her."
Indeed, if the campaign spotlight finds Bristol again, version 2.0 will be tougher. "There's been so much misreporting and lying about me and my family, it makes me sick," she says. "It proves a lot of reporters just report lies and rumors, so I'd push for more accountability." Meanwhile, she and the rest of the world are speculating about Palin 2012. "I don't know if my mom will run, but she should."
Unsurprisingly, she's no Obama fan. "I think he is making more Americans become dependent on government, and he's acting like government can and should take care of everyone. That is completely contrary to what made America a great nation. We should be expected to take responsibility for ourselves."
After all, though Bristol is finding her own path, she is still her mother's daughter: "I just want Tripp to be happy and healthy. But it would be fun if he was an athlete," she says, before picking him up and giving him a hug. "I know I'll be a hockey mom."
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