The Stunning Transformation Of Maria Shriver

Most people know Maria Shriver for being a majorly accomplished journalist and the wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but there's more to her than meets the eye. Shriver thought she had found her niche in the world of journalism, but it was when she stepped into the political arena did she finally come into her own.

"I thought I was defined by my family and growing up as a Kennedy. As a journalist, I was a messenger of other people's truths. As first lady, I had to define my own. These last seven years have allowed me to come into my own voice," she told the Daily Beast. From November 2003 to January 2011, Shriver served as the first lady of California. The major contributions she's made along the way include reshaping The Women's Conference, which has turned into the world's largest iconic destination for women of all walks of life to "share perspectives, find common ground, undergo transformative experiences and create lasting legacies." Another significant achievement in her time in office was the Minerva Award, which is handed out yearly during the Conference in Long Beach, California, to recognize and honor a deserving woman for their excellence.

Like all women, Shriver has many roles and has effortlessly worn many hats throughout her life: sister, daughter, journalist, wife, activist, and mother. Here's a look into the journey of a woman born into an illustrious family who's creating her own legacy and has become a well-known and beloved person in America all on her own.

Maria Shriver was born into a prominent family

On November 6, 1955, Maria Shriver was born to Robert Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Growing up in a well-known political family, she was the only girl amongst four brothers. Her father played a major role in the founding of the Peace Corps, as noted by The New York Times, and Shriver's mother, sister to John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, instituted the Special Olympics.

In a 2008 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Shriver discussed what it was like growing up in her household. She stated, "When you grow up in a political family, you're trotted out a lot, and you're never exactly clear what you're doing." She noted, "I was conscious of being in a large family with a hierarchy," adding, "The most terrifying thing of all for me was to just sit with myself. I didn't know how to be alone."

For Shriver, part of being alone was realizing she was enough. She also told Winfrey, "I thought my journey was about keeping my family's legacy going — and that is still part of my job. I'm very proud of my family and what it stands for. But I'm also trying to create a legacy as a mother, a wife, and a woman, and as Maria, separate from all those things." We believe she's done that already.

She spent a few years living in France before pursuing journalism

Following the assassination of Maria Shriver's uncle and the country's president John F. Kennedy, Vice President Linden B. Johnson took over as commander-in-chief in 1963. While it was heavily frowned upon amongst the Kennedys, her father stayed on as part of Johnson's administration as head of the Office of Economic Opportunity (via The New York Times). He later became the U.S. ambassador to France in 1968. 

In an article titled "Growing Up Kennedy," published in a 1986 edition of Vanity Fair, Shriver recalled her time in France, sharing, "We lived in the vast marble embassy, where my bedroom looked out to the Eiffel Tower ... My father threw me into a school where nobody spoke a word of English, and I had to learn how to adapt myself pretty fast."

Shriver attended Georgetown University, and instead of going into politics, she carved out her own path with a successful career as a journalist. She once told Oprah Winfrey that she wanted to do her own thing and not be known for just being a Kennedy. "You can get lost in it," she disclosed. "I thought [as] I grew up and everybody would say, 'Which one are you? Which Kennedy are you?' I was determined that I would go out and become successful on my own."

Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger married and started a family

Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger met while attending the Robert F. Kennedy Tennis Tournament in 1977. After dating for nine years, the couple tied the knot in a ceremony on April 26, 1986, in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, as noted by People. In 1989, Shriver gave birth to their first child, Katherine Schwarzenegger, and then two years later, the pair expanded their family again when Shriver gave birth to another girl, Christina. Their oldest son, Patrick, was born in September 1993, and then four years later, they welcomed the youngest of the brood, another son named Christopher.

Shriver penned a personal essay in 2018 about being a mother and celebrating Mother's Day that was published by Today. In a section in which she reflected about being a mom, she wrote, "Once you commit to motherhood, you are always in mother-mode. You are always on the line and always on-call. And, that's fine with me, as I find motherhood endlessly fascinating, endlessly challenging, endlessly fun, and endlessly fulfilling."

Unfortunately, the mother of four would divorce her husband in 2011.

Maria Shriver followed in her mother's footsteps as an activist

Maria Shriver eventually returned to her journalism career and became a special anchor for NBC in 2013. Her new role was to report on women's issues in America. Shriver, who is a two-time Emmy winner and a recipient of the distinguished Peabody Award, announced (via TVNewser), "I'm excited to be reporting along with all of you about women's evolving experiences in the United States as parents, caregivers, care takers. There is so much going on."

And like her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Maria Shriver is a champion of the people and a trailblazer of equality. "I'm a person who is interested in the empowerment of men and women. I'm interested in the conversation bridging. ... I'm interested in elevating all of us," she told Elle in 2014. In 2019, in conjunction with the Center for American Progress, she produced "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changed Everything," a groundbreaking report that took a comprehensive look into gender equality when it comes to women's role not only in society but also in the workplace.

Family is everything to Maria Shriver

One would think that because Maria Shriver grew up in such a famous and powerful household that maybe the family dynamics weren't that strong, but it was quite the opposite. And when her parents fell ill, she was a caregiver for both of them. When Sargent Shriver was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2003, she not only cared for her dad but worked tirelessly as an advocate for progressing the research and finding a cure for the brain disorder (via Brain & Life). Even after Shriver's father died in 2011 (via People), she continued her fight and established the Women's Alzheimer's Movement.

In 2017, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alzheimer's Association for bringing awareness to women about having a higher risk for Alzheimer's and educating them on preventive measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing the disease.

When Shriver isn't trying to conquer the world, she spends time with her family. She has family dinners with her children and their spouses every Sunday. She wants them to remember that their connection as a family means everything and that social media should not take precedence when it comes to bonding and having meaningful conversations when they spend time together. She told CNN in 2019, "They know when they come for Sunday dinner, they don't have the phone. It's down in the kitchen. And if I see it, I say 'phone' and they put it away."

Maria Shriver worked her way up the journalism ladder

After graduating from Georgetown University in 1977, Maria Shriver began her career in journalism as a writer and reporter for local news station KYW in Philadelphia, which led to her producing the news in nearby Baltimore, Maryland, for the television show Evening Magazine in 1978 (via Britannica). 

According to Shriver's website, this career path was right up her alley. She states, "I've always been deeply curious about everything, so a career in journalism seemed like the perfect fit for me." Working her way up the broadcasting ranks, Shriver went on to CBS, becoming a correspondent for CBS News in 1983 and later co-anchored on the CBS's morning news. 

Shriver would end up leaving CBS for NBC News, becoming not only one of their correspondents but a contributor to "Dateline," interviewing everyone from kings, presidents, CEOs, and humanitarians. Shriver revealed in a Facebook post that her interview with Fidel Castro was "One of the most challenging and fascinating interviews" of her career. While the Peabody and Emmy award-winning journalist was fired from the network after becoming first lady, she did return after her duties ended. Today, Shriver still has a home at NBC but has gone on to celebrate, educate, and inspire the world through journalism and her many other endeavors (via The Skimm).

She made the most out of her first lady role

While Maria Shriver did her best to stay away from the world of politics, it seemed she just couldn't escape it. In August 2003, Shriver took a leave of absence from being an NBC news correspondent, and a contributing author for the network's news magazine as her husband Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for governor of California in the gubernatorial recall election (via the New York Post). 

On October 7, 2003, despite his inexperience, Schwarzenegger was elected as the Governor of California and Shriver became the first lady (via History). She took on various official projects, including revamping the California Museum in downtown Sacramento. Throughout her tenure as the first lady from 2003-2011, she threw herself into countless cultures, including encouraging the state to volunteer, and being an inspiration and a champion for women everywhere (via the Los Angeles Times).

During an interview with The Daily Beast, Shriver reminisced about her time as the first lady and shared that her role had utterly changed her life. "I thought I was defined by my family and growing up as a Kennedy. As a journalist, I was a messenger of other people's truths. As first lady, I had to define my own." Shriver went on to say that being the first lady allowed her to finally find her own voice.

She filed for divorce after discovering her husband's infidelity

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver were married for 25 years before Shriver filed for divorce (via the Los Angeles Times). The cause to end their marriage came when Schwarzenegger revealed to Shriver that he fathered a child with a member of their household staff years. In the Hollywood actor's memoir, "Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story," he wrote, "The minute we sat down, the therapist turned to me and said, 'Maria wanted to come here today and to ask about a child — whether you fathered a child with your housekeeper Mildred [Baena].'" After denying it for so long, Schwarzenegger came clean that day and told Shriver and their therapist it was true (via the New York Daily News).

In 1996, Shriver and Baena were pregnant at the same time, and both gave birth to their sons in 1997 (via the New York Post). Shriver moved out of the home she and Schwarzenegger shared before the news broke that he had fathered a son: Joseph, Baena. Joseph recalled the day his paternal identity was publicly revealed while speaking with Men's Health. He was in the eighth grade and had been pulled out of class when his mother showed up at his school. Joseph recalls his mother saying,"'We gotta go — everyone is finding out about you and who your father is.'" Shriver and Schwarzenegger's divorce was finalized in 2021.

Shriver and Schwarzenegger remain on good terms amid divorce

Since Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver didn't have a prenup when Shriver filed for divorce in 2011, it took years for their divorce to be finalized (via TMZ). Even before Shriver's marriage was terminated, she and Schwarzenegger were both able to move on and start the next phase of their relationships as friends (via USA Today). Despite everything, they've been able to even spend time together as a family and have maintained to support one another during birthdays and holidays. 

Back in 2020, Maria Shriver took to Instagram on Father's Day to celebrate her father, the father of children, and all fathers in the world. Along with a carousel of pictures with her dad and her family together, including one with Schwarzenegger, in which she wrote, "Happy Father's Day, Daddy! Even though you are up in heaven, you're still very much alive within me. Happy Father's Day to all the dads here on earth who father day in and day out, and to you, Arnold. We all wish you the happiest Father's Day!"

She started her own book imprint to to 'inform, ignite, inspire'

Maria Shriver first had the idea for a book imprint when she was still the First Lady of California. Whenever she met someone who inspired her, she thought, "Their vision — their story — should be shared in a book." In January 2021, she announced that she was partnering with publishing company Penguin Life to bring her idea to fruition. 

During an interview with Oprah Daily, the author discussed her imprint, "The Open Field" and shared it would "commission and publish voices from all walks of life and areas of human endeavor that seek to inform, ignite, inspire, and move humanity forward — one person at a time." President and publisher of Penguin Life, Viking, and Penguin Books stated that he was happy to continue working with Shriver and has always been impressed with her talents in all facets of the publishing world. Tart also remarked that their collaboration was a logical step because "it allows us to inspire more readers to be their best" (via Penguin Random House).

Since it's inception, two books have been published and set to be released  is a collection of essays from the former model-author Paulina Porizkova. Porizkova book is "a series of intimate, introspective, and enlightening essays about the complexities of womanhood at every age" and was "honored and grateful to be able to contribute to her mission of uniting all the lights she finds."

She does not dread getting older any longer

In February 2022, Maria Shriver sat down to speak with Prevention magazine about getting older, and said that she wanted readers to know she has embraced her age fully and added that recognizing her age allowed her to look at things from a different perspective. Shriver told the publication,"It helps me see that in fact, the opportunities available to me now are way better than the ones I had when I was in my 20s. It allows me to embrace that while age may just be a number, there is no time to waste." 

Shriver added that nobody should dread getting older and its essential that everyone should believe that the best days aren't behind them but in front of them. She recalled chatting with award-winning actress Jamie Lee Curtis and Curtis told her she was "pro-aging" and she wasn't going hide getting older from anyone like it's a bad thing and now Shriver has stopped using the word "anti-aging." She went on to say that's she not into looking young forever, but just wants to "look and feel vibrant as she fulfills her goal "to age with curiosity about the process — and do it in a way that inspires me."

Maria Shriver is in the process of building a brain health brand

In September 2021, Maria Shriver and her son Patrick Schwarzenegger launched the company MOSH, a "a mission-driven brand aimed at maintaining brain health. During Brain Health Awareness Month in June of 2022 Shriver and Schwarzenegger chatted with CNN via a zoom call about the company. The first product the mother-son team created was a line of brain healthy protein bars. They come in flavors like peanut butter chocolate crunch and chocolate crunch, which contain multiple vitamins such as Omega-3s, Ashwagandha, collagen and superfoods.

MOSH, which is an abbreviation for Maria Owings Shriver Health, holds a special place in Shriver's heart, as her father, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2003. She told the network that her dad had passed away in 2011 and shared that her father's mind deteriorated so much that he could even feed himself at one point, and wanted to figure a way to prevent this from happening to others. 

She stated "We're really trying to kind of do a whole holistic approach to helping people think about their brain and their body," and added, "That's why we always say, you know, our bar is not a one all be all fix. We have ways [on our site] for you to learn about different tactics. We have ways for you to play different brain games, kind of brain puzzles." Shriver and her son are donating a portion of the proceeds to help Women's Alzheimer's Movement research.