The stunning transformation of Audrey and Charlotte Pence

Audrey and Charlotte Pence are two of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's three children. You may not know much about them, as they don't generate nearly as much media attention as President Donald Trump's kids — Ivanka, Eric, Donald Jr., Tiffany, and Barron. But while they might not get as much time in the spotlight, that doesn't mean that they aren't worthy of it. Though all three of Pence's kids hit the campaign trail with him, it's his two daughters, Audrey and Charlotte, who have really changed since their dad took office. The oldest Pence kid, Michael, was 24 and already established in his career in the Marine Corps when Trump/Pence won the 2016 election. Charlotte and Audrey were a few years younger at 22 and 21. Audrey was still in college when Pence became the VP, and Charlotte had just graduated.

Being in your early 20s can be pretty intense, especially for fresh and soon-to-be college grads, but the Pence women took their dad's new position in stride. They've changed quite a bit since their dad became VP, maturing gracefully and establishing themselves as formidable young women. Here's a closer look at how these ladies have transformed in front of our eyes. 

The Pence kids grew up on the campaign trail

The Pence sisters were prepared for their dad being elected VP because they were used to him being a public figure. Pence spent 12 years as a congressman before being elected as governor of Indiana in 2012, so Audrey and Charlotte Pence — along with their brother, Michael — pretty much grew up on the campaign trail. Being the kids of a career politician wasn't as stressful as you might expect, though. "Frankly, we've had a pretty normal childhood," Michael told 13 WTHR.

The Pence kids weren't just along for the ride. According to the vice president himself, they have had a hands-on role in his career. "This has always been a family affair for us, from the very first campaign headed out to county fairs, while Karen and I would be shaking hands at the Republican tent, the kids would be standing out in front of the tent, handing out flyers and shaking hands," said Pence.

Charlotte has broken out of her middle child shell

All of the Pence siblings are close in age. Michael is just two years older than Charlotte, and Audrey is only one year younger. She's the classic middle child, and Charlotte thinks it impacted her growing up. "I've always been quintessentially in the middle, I think," she told C-SPAN. "My family will call me the glue … the go-between between different people." She went on, "Being in the middle and being kind of an introvert, I was kind of the one that was kind of in the background, that was kind of watching."

The introvert may have been used to taking a backseat growing up, but she has truly emerged from her shell since her dad's name became nationally recognized. Today, she's the most visible of the three Pence kids. Far from being resentful, though, Charlotte is grateful to her siblings for being role models. "My brother was very successful and still is and was just very driven," she said. "My sister's very driven and very successful, and I kind of got to watch both of them and, over time, they really encouraged me to find my own voice and to follow my dreams of being a writer."

Charlotte moved home after graduation to support her dad

Like many new college grads, Charlotte Pence moved back home after getting her diploma. What was unique about her situation, though, was that "home" for her is the U.S. Naval Observatory, the official residence of the VP. Charlotte had already landed a job with a production company in Washington D.C., but she wanted to be with her family as her dad took on the vice presidency. "My family's always been very, very close," she told her college newspaper, The DePaulia. "I think that this experience does bring you closer together though, just traveling and being on the campaign trail physically with them."

She added that a strong family bond is something the Pence and Trump families share. "They're such a close family that I think that's just the most important thing for them and it's the most important thing for us to have those people and those relationships close to you no matter what you're going through," she said.

From the campaign trail to published author

Moving home after college and working for a production company didn't mean that Charlotte gave up on her author dreams. Late in 2018, a book she wrote about her dad was released. Where You Go: Life Lessons from My Father is a touching tribute to the vice president, with a forward by Mike Pence himself.

The book isn't just a profile of an influential man, or even the manifestation of Charlotte's writing dreams — the book is also a testament to Charlotte's upbringing. According to Charlotte, Vice President Pence has always encouraged her to live her dreams. "I think that over the years and growing up my parents saw me as a storyteller from a very young age, so they always encouraged me to not only speak my dreams but also they were kind of speaking them to me," she told C-SPAN. "They did encourage me to have friends and community that also encouraged me in my dreams, too."

Audrey isn't afraid to oppose her dad's political views

With the Pence kids having grown up in a conservative family, you might expect them to share their family's political views — at least publicly. Audrey has opinions of her own, though, and she's not afraid to share them. Back in 2013, when Pence became governor of Indiana, Audrey caused a bit of a stir by saying that she considers herself to be a politically independent social liberal. The then-18-yea-old had voted for her dad, but did so on a split ticket, with her dad's support. "Probably the person I get the most respect from is my dad on that and he has always… he tells me so many times, 'I am proud of you for having your own opinions and looking into things,'" Audrey told 13 WTHR.

Her dad's approval doesn't mean that Audrey is offering her blind support, though. "He proved himself to me," she said of her decision to support her dad's bid for governor.

Charlotte wrote a children's book for charity

Where You Go: Life Lessons from My Father wasn't Charlotte's first foray into the world of book writing. Earlier in 2018, she came out with Marlon Bundo's A Day in the Life of the Vice President. The book features the family's pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo, as he hops around Washington D.C. following "Grampa" Pence. Like many things in the Pence family, Marlon Bundo's A Day in the Life of the Vice President was a family effort. Second Lady Karen Pence provided watercolor illustrations for the book.

"We worked on it closely together, traded ideas and, for the most part, were on the same page," Charlotte said at a book signing (via the Los Angeles Times). "We think Marlon has a lot more adventures to go on, and we'd love to do something for a sequel."

The book was a success, and it transformed Charlotte from a recent college grad into a New York Times bestselling author. The best part? Proceeds from the book's sales went to the A21 Campaign, a nonprofit fighting human trafficking, and Tracy's Kids, a program offering art therapy for children who've been diagnosed with cancer.

Charlotte even supported a parody of the book

When TV host John Oliver came out with a parody version of Marlon Bundo's A Day in the Life of the Vice President called A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, Charlotte reacted gracefully. The book, co-created with Jill Twiss, features a gay bunny who falls in love with another male bunny. Proceeds went to organizations that support the LGBTQ community.

Charlotte took the parody in stride, and she even gave the book her support. "I mean, I think you know, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery in a way," she told Fox Business. "But also, in all seriousness, his book is contributing to charities that I think we can all get behind. We have two books giving to charities, that are about bunnies, so I'm all for it, really."

Charlotte wasn't just being diplomatic, either. She supported the parody version of her book by buying a copy of her own.

Audrey has been published by CNN

Charlotte isn't the only literary wunderkind in the Pence family. Audrey also has some serious writing chops. The Trump administration might not approve of so-called "fake news" outlet CNN, but Audrey has a reason to approve of the media company. Before President Trump and CNN were at odds with one another, CNN gave Audrey a byline. The then-college student co-penned a piece with veteran journalist Christina Asquith that was published on the site back in 2015 called Why Turkey won't say the G-word when it comes to the Armenians.

The piece was written during Audrey's co-op at a Turkish nonprofit news organization, the Fuller Project for International Reporting. As part of the co-op, Audrey wrote several pieces on site in Turkey and got a hands-on look at what it's like to be a freelance journalist. Audrey told News @ Northeastern that the shared byline "was really exciting."

She added, "It's interesting to see as a freelancer that your story has to fit into someone else's mold instead of you creating your own mold while being part of an establishment."

Audrey's career path is more traditional than you might expect

Since she seems to be distancing herself from the conservative stances of the rest of the Pence family, you might expect Audrey to be something of a rebel. While she doesn't have the same political views as her dad, she does share his interest in the law. Her sister has taken a creative career route, but Audrey is following in her dad's footsteps by pursuing a law career.

Could the degree from Yale she's pursuing be a prelude to a political future? After all, her dad attended the Indiana University School of Law before entering politics. Audrey hasn't announced any ambitions to be a politician, but she did tell News @ Northeastern that she would like to work in a U.S. embassy or consulate. "I've talked to a lot of people who are foreign officers and seen the work they do and many have said they are all very much generalists rather than specialists, which is something I really identify with; being able to take different lessons from all around the world and applying them," she said.

Charlotte is moderate, but her friends are liberal

Maybe the Pence family is proof that politics doesn't have to be divisive. While it's possible that they're only okay with Audrey's liberal views because they're family, the more conservative Charlotte also has a lot of liberal friends, which shows that she's tolerant of opposite viewpoints. "I would say that most of my friends are not very political or if they are, they're very liberal," she told The DePaulia.

Although Charlotte isn't liberal, she doesn't consider herself to be totally conservative, either, and she reportedly doesn't always agree with the Trump administration's policies. "I'm not really a political person," she said. "I think I have views that go across the board, I'd say that I'm more of a moderate or independent than really have specific-aligned views. And I think that's something that's really been encouraged by my parents since I was really little. I mean, just to have your own opinions about things and your own ideas…"

Charlotte is quick to defend attacks on her dad

Their politics may not always align, but Charlotte is going to defend her dad no matter what. Family loyalty runs deep with the Pences. Charlotte talked to The View (via ABC News) about her dad, and she was quick to affirm that her dad is a good person who, contrary to what many may think, is not filled with "animosity or hatred." She stated, "He's a conservative, he's in public politics, obviously public life and he's called to that. But he doesn't have a bad feeling towards anyone despite his actual strong-held beliefs."

In another interview, this time with Fox News, Charlotte said that her father believes his critics are proof that "the system is working." She said, "My parents really taught us from a very young age that when people are speaking out against elected officials, when they disagree with them, that actually is a good thing … That is how America is supposed to look."

Audrey's fiance might have a future in politics

From journalism to law, Audrey has a lot of experience that will serve her well if she ever decides to pursue a political career. For now, though, she seems focused on getting her law degree, although that's not all that's keeping her attention. She's also being kept busy planning a wedding. Early in 2019, Audrey announced her engagement to her longtime boyfriend, Daniel Tomanelli. "Of course I said yes, and then we got caught in a rainstorm!" she wrote in an Instagram post. "Rain or shine, I'm so glad you'll always be by my side."

Tomanelli's career trajectory, like Audrey's, could lend itself well to a political future, whether as a politician's husband or as a politician himself. According to a Facebook post from his fraternity, the Xi Beta Chapter of Kappa Sigma of Northeastern, Tomanelli majored in political science and international affairs, and minored in Arabic.

From public transportation to a presidential motorcade

They might have been used to their dad being a public figure, but the Pence sisters weren't used to being public figures themselves when Pence became vice president. Most politicians' kids, after all, don't get a Secret Service detail. Charlotte wrote in Glamour that she "went from taking public transit in Chicago to riding in a presidential motorcade in the span of just a few months."

That's a dizzying change, but one that Charlotte is determined not to let rule her life. "I'd like to think I approach life the same way, striving each day to live in a way that others can admire," she said.

Living your life in a way that others will look up to is something Charlotte thinks we can all do. "Whether your story is seen daily by millions of people or just a few, remember that it's important in ways you may not even realize — and so are you," she said.

One thing that hasn't changed is Charlotte's faith

Things may have changed a lot for the Pence family over the past few years, but one thing has remained consistent for Charlotte: her faith. In 2014, she wrote a piece for Thought Catalog called Believing In God And Other 21st Century Burdens. The piece centered on her deep faith. "I cannot accept a humanity that does not possess any kind of curiosity about God, because with curiosity, then at least we were getting somewhere," she wrote.

Charlotte still appears to hold the same convictions that she had as a college student. While she briefly struggled with her faith, it's now stronger than ever. "I have always wanted to be a writer. I want to be a storyteller. I want to connect people. I also want to help facilitate conversations about religion and faith," she told The Christian Post. She noted, "I would love to start that conversation because I think a lot of people are very curious about religion and faith even though it's not talked about."

Clearly, both Audrey and Charlotte Pence have a lot they want to do in life.