The Bush Twins Live Very Different Lives

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Fraternal twin sisters Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush Coyne grew up together in the public eye — first as the young granddaughters of former President George H.W. Bush in the late 1980s and early 1990s, then as the daughters of former President George W. Bush in the early 2000s. The twins were in college during their father's presidency, which thrust them into a life of public scrutiny. During those days, the sisters (more often Jenna) had their college underage drinking exploits plastered all over the tabloids. It couldn't have been easy being a regular college student and having your every move watched!

In the years since, both sisters have grown up, built impressive careers for themselves, gotten married, and started families of their own. These days, it's clear the two are just as close as ever, even teaming up several times to write books — first, for their 2017 memoir "Sisters First," then for their children's books, "2019's "Sisters First" and 2022's "The Superpower Sisterhood."

While the two, in some ways, share much in common, in other ways, they are quite different, having lived very different lives.

Jenna got married in 2008 and soon started a family

Jenna Bush Hager appeared to shed her party girl image in 2004 when she began dating Henry Hager, and, in 2008, married her longtime love, who worked as the deputy operations manager for her father's re-election campaign. The couple celebrated their marriage along with 200 close family members and friends at the Bush family ranch in Crawford, Texas. Just ahead of the wedding, the former U.S. president shared the news on his weekly radio show (via People), saying, "This is a joyous occasion for our family, as we celebrate the happy life ahead of (Jenna) and her husband, Henry. It's also a special time for Laura, who this Mother's Day weekend will watch a young woman we raised together walk down the aisle."

For her big day, the bride wore a lovely Oscar de la Renta wedding gown and was escorted down the aisle by her father before exchanging vows with her then-fiancé in a ceremony by the lake. Dinner and dancing followed under the tents. Afterwards, the two lived together in their new townhouse outside of Baltimore where the groom worked for an energy company after finishing business school at the University of Virginia.

In April 2013, the couple welcomed their first child, a daughter they named Margaret Laura "Mila." Next came another daughter, Poppy Louise, in August 2015 and then a son, Henry Harold "Hal," in August 2019.

Barbara got married and embarked on motherhood a decade after her sister

Jenna Bush Hager's twin sister, Barbara Bush Coyne, experienced a very different path to marriage and motherhood. Barbara did not find her forever person until November 2017 when mutual friends set her up with screenwriter and actor Craig Coyne. The two managed to keep their romance quiet until their secret October 2018 wedding (which soon became not-so-secret) at her family's oceanside compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. Six months later, the newlyweds celebrated again with a larger, more traditional-style wedding in Texas. Jenna served as Barbara's matron of honor, and Jenna's two daughters were the flower girls. In September 2021, the couple announced the birth of their first child, a baby girl named Cora Georgia Coyne.

On Hoda Kotb's podcast, "Making Space" (via People), Jenna opened up about the sisters' very different paths. "We had a really shared history because we were the same age. So it's interesting how adulthood happens and how I just met Henry and that she didn't meet somebody," she said, explaining that Barbara did have many boyfriends over the years but no relationships that led to marriage.

Jenna added how it was "disheartening" and "painful" when her sister would be asked over the years why she hadn't yet married and had children. She also shared that Barbara had discussed with their grandmother her plans to freeze her eggs and have a baby on her own if she didn't meet someone soon. 

Jenna attended college in her home state of Texas

For college, Jenna Bush Hager stayed close to home, attending the University of Texas at Austin, a campus of over 50,000 students. There, she studied English and took courses in creative writing, poetry, and literature. Pamela Nelson, Jenna's former art instructor, shared in "Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait of the First Lady" that Jenna picked the school "because she was so connected in Austin, and she wanted to have her friends and not lose them."

Jenna focused on having a typical college experience and was able to blend in because of the university's size. Then-campus newspaper managing editor Erin Keck told the Plainview Herald in 2004, "I think she is able to hide better because it's such a large campus." Explained Vice President for Legal Affairs Patricia Ohlendorf, "She wants to be as regular a student as possible," adding that Jenna had done "very well" in school.

However, Jenna's escapades at school didn't go totally unnoticed by the press. In April 2001, she was cited for alcohol possession, fined $51.25, and ordered to undergo eight hours of community service and six hours of alcohol-awareness classes. The next month, she was cited again for using a fake ID to order alcohol while out with her sister and friends. Her second offense, Jenna received a $609 fine, a one-month driver's license suspension, and 36 additional hours of community service (her sister was also cited but received a lesser penalty, being her first offense).

Barbara earned an Ivy League education on the east coast

Instead of staying close to home, Barbara Bush Coyne attended Yale, becoming the fourth generation in her family to attend the Ivy League university. She even lived in Davenport College, the same residential college as her famous dad. Of her decision, Pamela Nelson, former art instructor to the twins, was quoted in "Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait of the First Lady" as saying, "I think [Barbara] went to Yale for the adventure. Her father and her grandfather went there." And adventures she had, including one random road trip she took to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, without the Secret Service knowing.

A design lover, Barbara studied architecture and obtained an internship with the designer fashion label Proenza Schouler before discovering an interest in a humanities and nonprofit career and subsequently switching her major from architecture to humanities (more on why soon). Like her mother and sister, Barbara joined the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and was supposedly a member of Skull and Bones, a secret society for Yale seniors, like her father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

Barbara was intent on being a regular college student at the 5,000-student, liberal-leaning campus, though it wasn't always easy. She enrolled in the fall of 2000, during her father's tense presidential re-election campaign and highly disputed election. Of Barbara, former classmate Sabrina Sedique told the Plainview Herald in 2004, "She seems like a lovely person. She's very down to earth — a very grounded and well-rounded person."

Jenna pursued a career in education and journalism

Jenna Bush Hager pursued a career in literacy education, teaching third grade at a Washington, D.C., charter school and then working as a reading specialist in Maryland and co-writing a children's book called "Our Great Big Backyard" with her mother, former First Lady Laura Bush. Then, in 2009, she landed an exciting role as a "Today" show correspondent and contributor focusing primarily on education-focused segments. She also serves as an editor-at-large for Southern Living.

Of her foray into broadcast journalism, Jenna told People in 2010, "I loved the idea that I could tell stories." Jenna was slightly worried about her parents' opinion due to their not-so-positive relationship with the media, but her parents, it turned out, were supportive, though, she added, "If they had said, 'You shouldn't do that,' I probably would have done it anyway."

In 2019, Hager took her TV career to the next level when she was named Kathie Lee Gifford's permanent replacement alongside Hoda Kotb for the fourth hour of "Today" after having served as a guest host for years. "To take it to the next level is awe-inducing and I can't believe it," Hager told People in a later interview. "But it feels organic and it feels right, which I don't know if I would do it if it didn't. They probably wouldn't have asked me to do it if it didn't. But it just feels like the right time for me."

While Barbara pursued a career in the nonprofit world

Barbara Bush Coyne has a very different career than she intended. She developed a love of making clothing at age 12 after getting a sewing machine for her birthday. This inspired her to pursue a career in design. However, she became interested in nonprofit work and subsequently switched her major from architecture to humanities upon returning from a trip to Africa with her parents where they launched the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

For Barbara, the trip was life-changing. "Seeing literally like thousands of people lining the street waiting for drugs that they needed to live, that we had in the United States, was something that was very hard for me to wrap my brain around. The lack of justice in that," she told Elle in 2013. "I was much more intrigued thinking about these issues and figuring out ways that you can make sure that that's not the norm ... I did believe that you can change so much in the world."

After graduation, she worked with pediatric AIDS patients in Europe and Africa through a program sponsored by the Baylor College of Medicine's International Pediatrics AIDS Initiative. In 2008, Barbara co-founded Global Health Corps (GHC) with her sister, Jenna Bush Hager, and served as president and CEO. She led GHC's fellows program, providing fellowships to individuals interested in performing public health work in America and overseas, before announcing her decision in 2018 to transition to board chair.

The sisters have lived in different states and environments

While twin sisters Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush Coyne did live close to one another in New York City for some time, the sisters have also experienced living away from each other in different states. This is in addition to their college years, during which time Jenna stayed in Texas while Barbara studied at Yale in Massachusetts.

For example, after getting married, Jenna and husband Henry Hager lived together in Baltimore while he completed business school. Barbara spent time in Boston for graduate school, and, during the pandemic, she and husband Craig Coyne stayed with her parents at their massive Texas ranch before welcoming their daughter. "That's a big step, moving out of your parents' house when you've moved back in, in your 30s, but we're doing it," Barbara said during a joint interview for People with her sister. She added, "We thought it would be for a handful of weeks. We didn't anticipate that it would be for the majority of a year. But it's time that we never otherwise would've had."

These days, Barbara and Craig reside in New York City with their young daughter, while Jenna, Henry, and their three children left the city for a quieter suburban life in Connecticut. Jenna even shared photos of their new family home with the Daily Mail for a February 2023 feature.

Jenna keeps her political views private but is very much in the public eye

Of the two Bush sisters, Jenna Bush Hager was always known as the more playful, outgoing one who lived her life more in the public eye, especially since becoming a broadcast journalist and landing a highly-coveted spot as the co-host of the fourth hour of "Today." She also loves sharing various aspects of her life on social media. Because of her job, however, she must be more private when it comes to her political views, something she has shared in the past.

Both she and her sister, Barbara Bush Coyne, never had any interest in pursuing a political career, despite the opinion of their grandfather, the late former President George H.W. Bush. "Never," Jenna once told People. Regardless, her grandfather was still proud. "When we see them, they're kidding and joking," he told the magazine, "but they're very serious girls in what they're doing."

Despite this lack of interest in pursuing politics as a career, Jenna told People, "We're both very independent thinkers" after Barbara explained to the magazine that neither sister is affiliated with any specific political party. For a 2013 profile on her sister with Elle, Jenna explained, "Our parents raised us to be open-minded. Barbara and I both are not interested in traditional American politics, ironically, since we come from a political family. We're interested more in policy."

Barbara is outspoken about her political views but stays away from social media

Unlike her sister, Jenna Bush Hager, Barbara Bush Coyne prefers to live a lower profile. It appears she also stays off of social media, as we could not find her on either Twitter or Instagram. A reporter for Elle, who wrote a profile on Barbara in 2013, shared that those close to the Bush twin described her as "a great storyteller, sarcastic and fun," though one source said she was "super private in such a way that she moves through people a little if she feels like they ask too many questions." Despite this, Barbara has been quite vocal regarding her political views, telling People in a 2010 joint interview with her sister, "I don't really label myself as Republican or Democrat."

That said, Barbara does seem to have more liberal-leaning views. In 2011, she showed her support for LGBTQ+ rights by participating in a video with the Human Rights Campaign which promoted the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York. In 2013, she shared her support for a future presidential bid from Hillary Clinton, calling her "unbelievably accomplished" (via People). In 2016, Barbara was seen at a Paris fundraising event for the former U.S. secretary of state, New York senator, and first lady. And, in 2017, Barbara showed her support for Planned Parenthood when she gave the keynote speech at a fundraising event for the organization.