The former MSNBC host, who walked off the set of her own show earlier this year following a public rift with executives at parent company NBC, is at the Republican National Convention on behalf of BET News, where she is a special correspondent, and Elle Magazine, where she recently was named editor at large for Elle.com. She is also in town with a group of students from Wake Forest University, where she serves as a professor.
She is outspoken about her views on gender and race in America, yet thoughtful and measured in how she talks about what’s happening in politics and culture today.
One might assume Harris-Perry, who pushed to explore topics outside of the race to the White House, which ultimately led to her departure, wouldn’t revel in the environment typically found at a Republican convention — but that would be wrong.
“This is fascinating,” said Harris-Perry said as she gawked at conservative pundit Ann Coulter, who entered the convention hall to greet a group of middle-aged white men in navy blazers.
“I want to have a camera in my brain. I want to have on Google Glass right now,” she said, her eyes glued to the meeting before her. “I enjoy this. Fascinating. This never is going to happen at the DNC [Democratic National Convention].”
What she meant was the impromptu meetings between known personalities without the gaze of the camera. There’s a homespun feeling or lack of pretension at this convention where the biggest celebrities — outside of nominee Donald Trump and his family — include Scott Baio, Don King and Antonio Sabato Jr. Next week in Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention, celebrities expected to mingle at parties while Lady Gaga, Lenny Kravitz and Fergie are slated to perform at different events.
Harris-Perry turned to Trump’s nomination before speaking more broadly about the general election.
“Democracy should be messy and complicated and contested. I’m into that,” she said. “I do not think that choosing a president is unlike choosing a spouse…You pick a partner who shares your values, who you’ve had some time with and who you’ve heard [of] from others, and who you watch and go through some times and you think has made some good decisions.”
Harris-Perry was interrupted again, but this time by a former MSNBC coworker, who is now working for Fusion. She joked with the young journalist, who is staying outside of the city in a house with fellow Fusion staffers.
“Are you guys going to have a Fusion house party? Can BET come and can we invite the OWN Network? That seems right,” she said.
Harris-Perry relayed that MSNBC has taken over the same hotel where she’s staying, which has made for some awkward encounters.
“I can’t even go to the bar,” she said. “I have to drink in my room. I’m going to be an alcoholic by Thursday.”
She lamented the fact that she wouldn’t be able to document her experience covering the conventions through broadcast as her former colleague headed out. “In the midst of a really important year when it would have mattered to speak to these issues in broadcast — I don’t really have a place to do it,” she offered. “That said, I love writing…it’s been fun to be able to write again. Elle has been insane in terms of their willingness to write about anything.”
She admired the fact that the editors of Elle allowed her to critique its August cover of FKA Twigs that featured a cover line that read: “Becky Who? It’s Going to Be You With the Good Hair!” It set off alarms across social media as being racially insensitive. The magazine asked Harris-Perry to give her take, something she longed to do on air.
Although print may be a challenged sector, Harris-Perry believes cable news is worse off as Millennials are eschewing television altogether.
“Cable news is going to die. A very long death, but cable revenues are like this. [Makes a slumping gesture]. Millennials are not going to watch cable news,” she said. “Millennials are going to buy makeup and jewelry and apparently they are going to read about the Kardashians until the end of time…They may not buy a print magazine, but they are going to look at embedded Tiffany commercials and they are going to want to know how Kylie Jenner’s lips got like that until the end of time.”
She turned to work with the Hearst-owned glossy, Elle. “I read Elle when I was angry and 23,” she said. “I’m reading all the print and the digital. I’m reading all of the Hearst properties and all of the Condé Nast properties. Who knew feminism was alive and well and getting published every month? There’s a whole thing happening that could get big in a moment…The integration of print, digital and broadcast, man I’m telling you — whether Trump wins, the appetite for feminist reporting simultaneously with feminine consumption is about to be, like, maddeningly fabulous. Whoever can figure that out is like — whoa!”