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How Arianna Huffington Became a Household Name

By Anna Bradley-Smith

Last updated: Feb 15, 2023

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Learn how Arianna Huffington became a household name and how she primed her career as a media mogul.

Credit: John Sciulli / Stringer for Getty Images.
Credit: John Sciulli / Stringer for Getty Images.

Who is Arianna Huffington?

Huffington is a central name in the American media landscape, and that’s thanks to one woman: Arianna Huffington.

The Greek American businesswoman, author and columnist is most well-known as the co-founder of The Huffington Post, now known as HuffPost, a news website and blog owned by BuzzFeed. Huffington left the media outlet to start Thrive Global, an-anti burnout resource, where she serves as CEO.

Throughout her career, Huffington has written 15 books with more recent works focusing on using wellness as a tool for a meaningful and successful life. And she has been recognized for her vast output: Huffington has been listed on Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people worldwide, and Forbes lists of most powerful women list and its inaugural 50 over the age of 50 list.

Arianna Huffington’s background

Huffington was born in Athens, Greece and moved to the UK at 16 to study economics at Girton College, where she became the first foreign and third female president of the Cambridge Union.

While in the UK, she started working for BBC, an employer she kept on her move to the US in 1980. Before her trip across the Atlantic Ocean, Huffington released her first book, The Female Women, attacking the women’s liberation movement.

Once in the US, she left the BBC and dove into her writing career. Her early work included several articles for the National Review, a biography of Maria Callas and another of Pablo Picasso.

She married Republican Congressman Michael Huffington and became a popular conservative commentator through the 1990s, ultimately becoming more liberal and running as an independent in the California governor’s race in 2003. She also became a common name in the media during that time, appearing on a weekly radio show and in TV shows. Then, in 2005, she launched The Huffington Post.

The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post was launched by Huffington, Andrew Breitbart, Kenneth Lerer and Jonah Peretti as a news, commentary and blog website, mixing the work of reporters and bloggers on one platform.

The site quickly became a hit and was widely-read, linked to and shared. In 2011, the site was bought by AOL for $315 million and Huffington took on the role of editor-in-chief. In 2012, during her time as EIC, The Huffington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting – the first commercially run digital media business to do so.

Huffington announced in 2016 that she was stepping down from the company to focus on her new startup, Thrive Global.

Thrive Global

Huffington started the health and wellness startup Thrive Global to address high rates of stress and burnout in the workplace, which she experienced firsthand.

In 2007, while home on the phone and checking emails, Huffington passed out, fell over and woke up in a pool of her own blood. She had cut her forehead above her eye and broken her cheekbone.

After numerous tests and doctors’ visits, she was told the issue was exhaustion. At the time, Huffington said she was working 18-hour workdays at the Huffington Post.

The fall was a wakeup call that she said changed her life.

“That was really the beginning of reevaluating my life and recognizing that I, like millions of other people around the world, had been suffering from the delusion that in order to succeed, we have to burn out,” she told CNBC. “And yet all the latest science disproves that. It actually proves that we need time to recharge, to sleep, to unplug from technology, and I became such a passionate evangelist for this message.”

Thrive Global, which gives science-based solutions to stress and burnout, has two podcasts. The first is Meditative Story, which pairs first person stories with meditation prompts and original music to create a mindfulness experience.

Huffington says the podcast is a “response to a deep cultural need in our hyper sped up world to have a moment to recharge. The podcast is a tool-set for wellness combining intimate storytelling, that we’re all hardwired to respond to, plus moments of reflection." The second is Thrive Global, which is hosted by Huffington and aired on iHeartRadio.

Words of wisdom

Throughout her time at Huffington Post and while working as CEO at Thrive Global, Huffington has kept writing and publishing books – bringing her total tally of published books to 15.

Her two latest, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder and The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time, both became instant international bestsellers.

Speaking to CNBC, Huffington said her best piece of advice was to make sure that entrepreneurs connect with their own wisdom and creativity, adding “that’s becoming harder and harder because we are so addicted to technology.”

“Seventy percent of people sleep with their phones by their beds; we are constantly engaging in notifications, social media, texts, emails. And yet the most creative moments come when we put all that aside. That’s why sometimes people’s best ideas come in the shower. So as an entrepreneur, make time for that reflection, ability to connect with your best ideas, and not to be constantly distracted.”

Huffington also shares her experience and ideas as a member of the board of directors for Onex Corporation and the B Team, amongst others.

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