World affairs have been a constant presence in Mika Brzezinski's life since she was a young girl. Her father, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was the powerful National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter. She spent her young adulthood behind or in front of TV cameras, working her way up as a broadcaster on ABC, Fox and CBS, where she worked as an anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent. In 2006, however, she was unceremoniously (and very publicly) let go for reasons she says she still doesn't understand. Brzezinski is currently the co-host of the MSNBC show Morning Joe, with Joe Scarborough. Her new memoir, All Things at Once (Weinstein Books), is out now. TIME senior reporter Andrea Sachs reached Mika between news sets:
You were born into a high-powered family. How old were you when you first went to the White House?
Ten. It was an amazing experience. I remember going there at Christmastime and going to Easter-egg rolls and going there to play with Amy [Carter] and knowing that this was something I'd remember forever.
Your father at that point was National Security Adviser. How much did you understand about that?
I understood he had one of the most important positions in the country when it came to the security of our country and the direction of our country. But beyond that, I was just a kid trying to grow up. It did become the norm that our time together and I put that in quotes would be on Air Force One, or in Tunisia, or in China, or at Camp David, because he was so incredibly busy. I mean, this was a man who left the house at 5 a.m., and stayed at work until 11 at night, for four years. And that was when he was in the United States. Our time together was defined differently than other families'.
You knew early that you wanted to be on TV. How old were you when that first occurred to you?
Between the ages of 14 and 16, I started catching the news bug. I had watched my father get interviewed on television and always found it to be fascinating. Not necessarily what he was saying, which I think he assumed I was, but by the process. I just knew it was what I was going to do.
It was very important for you to get married and have kids as well. Why do you think you wanted everything at the same time?
I knew that at a very young age too. To me, what is a brilliant career, what is an interesting job or an interesting assignment if you don't have someone at home to share it all with?
You write that when you're talking to young women, you advocate that they have their children early. Why?
If you want to have children, then you work on that as hard as your career. Because if children are that important to you, why would you put it off? Why would you put off the potential that it would happen? Why would you put off the potential that you could do it at your healthiest time in life? And why would you put off the search for the correct partner in which to collaborate on the most important thing in life? That means when you're in your 20s, look for a partner. Look around. Don't just assume that when you're 30, 35 or 40 that you are going to just snap your fingers and find that person.
You had a very traumatic event that you write about. You were in an accident going down the steps with your baby daughter, who broke her thighbone. What was it like going through that?
It was a living hell, and it's all my fault. I hated the fact that my baby went through so much pain because I wasn't managing my time and my sleep well. You know what? You can't do it all. You cannot do it all. If you're working overnights and you're only sleeping two hours a day, something bad is going to happen.
Your experience at CBS was very public, both on the way up and on the way down.
Yup, in this business, if you've been around long enough, you start realizing that Kool-Aid is just full of all sorts of bad toxins that can make you really, really high and really, really low. I will admit I drank it to an extent. This is the first job that I've had, ever in my life, where I don't want to go anywhere else. I don't want to move up. I'm not looking to be on the Today show or anywhere else at NBC. I'm right where I want to be, and that's a very liberating feeling.
Your show, Morning Joe, has been a success. So you enjoy it, obviously?
Oh, I love it! I could not get up at this hour if we didn't absolutely, positively love what we do.
What time do you wake up?
I wake up at 3:30. It's so awful!
Tell me about your relationship with Joe Scarborough.
We have a great time. It feels just like growing up with my brothers, because we enjoy the same things, like a really good conversation. Once in a while, though, it gets a little rough. When the show started, we had not met each other. We pretty much got to know each other on the air. We are fighting we're getting into it and kind of discovering whatever friction exists over certain stories and throwing it all out there on the table for better or for worse.
You write about the importance of looks for women on TV. Is that a hard thing to deal with?
Yeah, it is. You know what? It's an age-old problem in this business. You can get bitter, and you can get angry, and you can be mad about the reality, but it exists and I do my best to sort of take as good care of myself as I can. I'm 42 years old, and there are certain things I can't control. The challenge is to try and look great, yes, but also to try and transcend the problem and bring other facets of my personality to the table and hope they stick. But again, this is TV, so what are my chances? I'm doing my best hanging in there.