What You Never Knew About Dana Perino

The press world may be a small environment occupied by industry-familiar names, with one being Dana Perino (who also made our list of news anchors who are unrecognizable without makeup). The former White House press secretary-turned-Fox News host has made herself known on both the national and international stages due to her no-nonsense persona, commitment to the job, and unabashed commentary. She is, without question, one of the most well-known news figures alongside the likes of Rachel Maddow, Chris Cuomo, and David Muir, and it seems as if we've only witnessed a small portion of her professional talents.

Given Perino's prominence in the media, you'd think that her personal life, upbringing, education, and philanthropic efforts would be common knowledge. As it turns out, there's a lot about the Fox News star that has slipped under the radar, but we did our homework to find out everything there is to know about her. So, sit back and get ready to learn more about Dana Perino.

Dana Perino's calming persona is due to her idyllic childhood in Wyoming and Colorado

When we think about Washington, D.C., politics and news, the word chaos typically comes to mind. The center of U.S. politics is often accompanied with the hustle and bustle of lawmakers and journalists alike — with that said, you may think that Dana Perino, who made a name for herself within that charged environment, comes from a political background. As it turns out, Perino was born in Wyoming and raised in Colorado — both states which gave her an idyllic childhood that was "positive and calm," as she told Fox News (via Business Insider).

Of her rather low-key and nature-oriented childhood, Perino shared with the outlet that spending summers with her grandfather on his Wyoming ranch helped her understand the impact of a positive mindset — which likely has contributed to her on-air persona as "the voice of reason" and "a voice of calm," per Business Insider. "Ranchers, by their nature, have to be optimistic," Perino explained. "They have to believe that the cattle will survive the winter and that the crops are going to grow — so I think I have a sunny disposition naturally." Her experience certainly impacted her professional life, too, as she later released a book entitled "And the Good News Is... Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side."

The news anchor studied communication and political science in college

Dana Perino knew from an early age that she wanted to pursue a career in news, so when it came to vet college options, she knew what she wanted to study. Where she was hung up, however, was what kind of school she wanted to attend. Perino recalled her initially wanting the big college campus experience, full of football games and social opportunities. But, at her dad's request, she took a tour of the University of Southern Colorado and moped the entire way there. "I pouted the entire way," Perino shared with CSU Pueblo Today. "I just looked out the window. I couldn't even meet his eyes. I was so upset that he was making me go look at that school."

But, all it took for her was one step onto the campus, and Perino was hooked. She told the publication that she met many professors on that initial tour and quickly realized it was the university for her. She went on to earn a degree in mass communication with minors in Spanish and political science. From there, Perino pursued her master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield (per her website).

The news anchor got her start in Colorado politics

When Dana Perino wrapped up her time at the University of Illinois-Springfield, she was convinced she'd jump into a journalism career right away — it was what she had studied, and it seemed like the obvious path. But, in a sit-down interview with Cosmopolitan, the former press secretary shared that she explored a career in politics at the recommendation of a professor. And, so, she pursued an internship at the Colorado state capitol. "I got accepted, and I got the CBS affiliate internship," Perino shared. "While I was there, I started to think I wasn't sure if this was right for me."

What made Perino question her professional path? She shared with Cosmo that there "wasn't much diversity in news" at the time, and she quickly realized that, if she really wanted to succeed in broadcast, she'd "have to crawl [her] way through local markets." That wasn't for her, so Perino shifted gears and began working for Colorado politicians, including Scott McInnis and Dan Schaefer. As noted on her website, she later worked in public relations in California, before making the move to Washington, D.C.

She was the first-ever Republican woman to serve as White House press secretary

When we think about White House press secretaries, names like Jen Psaki, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Sean Spicer come to mind, but did you know that Dana Perino was not only a White House press secretary, but that her appointment was historic? As noted by George W. Bush's archives, Perino worked as press secretary as well as assistant to the president, proving she had rather unmatched access to the then-commander-in-chief. Before landing the coveted position, she worked as the associate director of communications for the Council on Environmental Quality at the White House, a job that, no doubt, helped her nab the press secretary position.

So, why was Perino's appointment to the job so unique? As noted on her website, Perino was the first Republican woman to be chosen as the White House's press secretary, a position that, before her, had only been occupied by men. In the early 2000s, this appointment was not only historic, but incredibly symbolic for women in journalism and politics. In total, Perino spent seven years working for the Bush administration, and her contributions are a standout of her career.

Dana Perino was inspired to move her career to Washington, D.C., after the 9/11 terrorist attacks

While Dana Perino seemed to be on track to work in Colorado state politics, she ventured out west to California to work in public relations. However, her entire career and personal motivations changed after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. In an interview with Colorado Politics, Perino recalled the infamous day, sharing that she quickly called a friend in Washington, D.C., Mindy Tucker, during the chaos. During their call, Tucker — who, at the time, worked alongside then-Attorney General John Ashcroft — asked Perino to relocate to D.C. "in the aftermath of all of this." Perino said she started packing up her San Diego home while she was still on the phone. "And I left. I never went back to that house in San Diego," Perino shared of the whirlwind experience that followed the awful events of 9/11.

As soon as she hit D.C., Perino got to work in the Justice Department before joining the White House staff. "I remember Andy Card [George W. Bush's chief of staff] talking about integrity and reminding me that we didn't just work for George W. Bush," Perino recalled. "We worked for the people of the United States."

Her father encouraged her to see both sides of every story

Dana Perino may be known for her more conservative-leaning politics, but what you may not know is that she was encouraged from a young age to always look at both sides of the story. As she told Newsmax, her father, Leo Perino, encouraged her to stay up-to-date with world events and even expected Dana to debate him over dinner. "I tried to develop the idea that there are always two sides to each story," Leo explained, describing himself as a conservative. "We would each argue with our own biases, and then I wanted [Dana] to each take the other side just as vehemently. That helps you understand where the other side is coming from, and I think it developed a love of what is going on all around us."

Dana and her father were often joined by her sister, Angie Nour (née Perino), and, while she, too, was encouraged to take part in the debates, she often sat back and watched her dad and sister go at it. "I was younger and mainly watched and listened," she explained.

Dana Perino met her husband on a flight

A little-known fact about Dana Perino is that, in 1997, she was on a flight from Denver to Chicago when she sat next to a cute guy without a ring on his finger. She told Yahoo! Life that, at the time, she was taking a short hiatus from Washington, D.C., because "things ... were pretty gross," and we can't imagine the dating scene being much better. But, all of that changed when she sat next to a Brit named Peter McMahon, and the two hit it off immediately.

Perino wasn't the only one instantly love struck. McMahon told Yahoo! Life that he had noticed Perino before they even boarded the flight, and he was hopeful that their paths would cross. "I was walking down the jetway behind this cute little blonde with her ponytail swinging, and I thought, I hope I sit beside her," McMahon said. Of her future husband, Perino recalled thinking, "Oh, he's cute, and he's not wearing a wedding ring, and he has a British accent."

After her time in the Bush administration came to an end, Dana Perino decided to give back

George W. Bush was in office for two terms, and it's safe to say that those who worked in his administration got used to their daily lives as government employees. Dana Perino was one such professional, and when Bush's time in office was coming to a close, many people asked her what she planned to do next. In a column for The Washington Times, Perino disclosed that, for a long period of time, she "had no answer." A period of enlightenment came in February 2008 when she joined Bush on a trip to Africa, visiting the countries of Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, and Liberia. It was on that trip that Perino found her next calling, and she went back shortly after her time as press secretary ended.

Perino and her husband, Peter McMahon, spent two weeks in Africa, volunteering for the faith-based organization Living Hope. There, Perino committed herself to working with those impacted by HIV and AIDS. Of her time in Africa, Perino shared, "The rewards are immeasurable — for those I may have helped, but even more so for me."

The Fox News host once worked as a disc jockey

You may be surprised to learn that, before she was the poised, polished woman behind the press secretary podium, Dana Perino worked as a disc jockey! Yes, we're serious. She shared on her website that the gig was "one of her most unique jobs," as she covered the country music genre on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. — Perino also shared the No. 1 song of the time she worked as a deejay: Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky Heart."

Of her time working as a deejay, Perino told Cosmopolitan that she balanced the gig with waiting tables and called the work "exhausting." "Back then, you had to have some experience in radio," she said, explaining the requirements to be a viable candidate in journalism at the time. While Perino certainly didn't make a career out of country music hits, the job did help her launch a media career. After graduating early, she worked on a show called "Capitol Journal" — her big break. "It was small-ball, junior-bear-cub reporting," she said. "But they gave me a chance."

The political commentator was once at the center of a bipartisan appointment

While Dana Perino squarely established herself as a Republican thinker and figure, she surprisingly became the central figure of one of former President Barack Obama's bipartisan appointments. As noted by HuffPost, Senator Mitch McConnell urged Obama to appoint Perino to the Broadcasting Board of Governors — despite their political differences, Obama agreed and appointed Perino to the role. "I'm honored by the president's announcement and I'm looking forward to serving on the bipartisan board, if I'm confirmed," Perino said at the time, solidifying her place in influential media and political circles.

HuffPost explained that Perino's appointment was not only a bipartisan display, but it was also in conjunction with the board's requirements. As is law, only four of the eight board members can be affiliated with the political party of the president in office, and Perino certainly fit the bill as a qualified nominee. It's safe to say that some were surprised Perino took the gig, as she had been vocally opposed to some of Obama's choices while in office. However, she did refer to him as a "phenomenal candidate." Her appointment was certainly a win for bipartisanship.

The Fox News host competed on a special episode of Jeopardy!

While you most likely know Dana Perino for her appearances behind the podium or her role on Fox News programming, you might not know that she also appeared on the famed quiz show "Jeopardy!" as a contestant during the series' "Power Players Week." As noted by Politico, in addition to Perino, "Jeopardy!" enlisted the likes of Chris Wallace, Anderson Cooper, Chuck Todd, and basketball icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to compete against one another in the syndicated series. You'd think that spending all that time behind the press podium would've made Perino a standout winner, but she shared of the experience, "With the press, usually I could guess the questions."

During her round on the show, Perino faced Abdul-Jabbar, who was remarkably confident before the taping. "I'm pretty up to date with what's going on," he said when asked about questions regarding political and current events. "I read the paper every day." Similar to other game shows featuring celebrity tournaments, instead of competing for money, Perino and her fellow contestants battled it out for a $50,000 donation to the charity of their choice.

She was injured while working for former President George W. Bush

Some of us often think of politics as a dangerous field of employment, but, for Dana Perino, a day on the job actually left her with a black eye. As NPR reported, Perino joined then-President George W. Bush on a trip to Baghdad within the last six weeks of his second term in office. There, he attended a press conference with Iraqi reporters, and, as far as Perino recalled, things were going well. "I had just said to my colleague Ed Gillespie, 'Look at all these [Iraqi] reporters. This is amazing. They never thought when they were little kids that they would grow up to be journalists and have the chance to ask their leader a question, let alone the leader of the free world.'" However, she may have spoken too soon.

As Perino recalled, one of the "so-called journalists" in attendance threw two shoes at Bush's head, leading the Secret Service to jump in and protect the president. The agent "lunged forward" to intercept the shoes and, while doing so, hit the "steel arm of a boom mic" that the interpreter was holding. The arm "swung around and popped [Perino] right in the eye socket," she told NPR. Ouch.

Dana Perino returned to her mentoring roots and started her own foundation

Dana Perino has certainly balanced her professional life with philanthropic efforts, and some may not know that she is the brains behind the Minute Mentoring organization. In 2009, Perino joined forces with policy expert Dee Martin and public relations professional Jamie Zuieback to develop a foundation that focuses on mentoring young women, training them for the workforce while also giving them access to role models and professional advice. The unique premise of the organization, however, is that the connections and mentorship sessions are accomplished "in just minutes," likened to "speed dating for women leaders and young women rising stars."

Perino and her colleagues set up the organization to allow women across the country to host minute-long mentorship sessions of their own, and the organization's website lays out exactly what needs to happen to host such an event. According to the site, "Past Mentors have included U.S. Senators and Representatives, top corporate women, and high-profile women in media." No matter where your politics fall, there is nothing quite like women supporting women.

Sean Hannity helped Dana Perino land her Fox News gig

Dana Perino is certainly no stranger within the news and media industries, but, after she left the White House, she, of course, didn't grace the C-SPAN screen nearly as often as she once had. In a sit-down with Cosmopolitan, Perino explained that she returned to television when Fox News host Sean Hannity began having her on his show as a guest commentator — from there, Hannity was adamant that Perino needed a permanent gig at the network. "[Hannity] told everyone he thought I was different, and he wanted me to come on board," Perino shared. "And then I got more requests to be on other shows. I also got a chance to guest host 'Fox & Friends,' and so I really had to come out of my shell."

After Fox News figure Glenn Beck left the network, producers had the 5 p.m. hour to fill, and that's when Perino's current gig, "The Five," debuted. Perino even made headlines one time after she shared a secret on air that wasn't hers to tell. Of the role, Perino shared, "Before 'The Five,' I'd never given my own opinion in public — I'd always spoken on behalf of someone else. I've made the career transition, and I feel like I've found my voice and am the fullest expression of myself now."