What You Never Knew About Maria Shriver

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Maria Shriver is a member of the famous Kennedy family, but she is also a well-known figure in her own right. Per Britannica, her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was the sister of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Her father, Robert Sargent Shriver Jr. was a diplomat and politician. As such, Shriver grew up surrounded by politics, but decided to pursue a career in journalism instead. 

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Shriver is recognizable for her work on NBC's "Today" and "Dateline," and grew to even greater prominence through her marriage to bodybuilder and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, becoming the first lady of California when he was elected governor of the state in 2003. Her extended family includes her cousin Caroline Kennedy and son-in-law Chris Pratt, who is married to her daughter, Katherine Schwarzenegger.

Shriver's life has been lived in the public eye, but that doesn't mean that you know everything there is to know about the Emmy winner and author. In fact, there is a lot that you probably never knew about the fascinating life she has lived.

She grew up in the shadow of her family's legacy

The Kennedys are a close-knit clan, and Maria Shriver said her childhood was quite happy. "Even though it was tumultuous at times, there is a very tight relationship between all of us," she told O, The Oprah Magazine (via Oprah.com). "My cousins are like siblings and best friends. Not only do I talk to my brothers almost daily, but I talk to several of my cousins weekly. We're very connected."

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In spite of this closeness, Shriver still felt the weight of her family's legacy and was often overshadowed by their fame. Not only were there the heartbreaking losses of her uncles — John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, followed by Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 — but she was also constantly asked "Which Kennedy are you?" she recalled to On Being. Shriver recounted having to explain who she was and being asked about her cousins, leaving her insecure. "I grew up with this, like, 'I am Maria' wasn't sufficient," she said.

Her family pressured her to make the world a better place

Maria Shriver grew up not only feeling the need to prove herself to the public, but she also felt extraordinary pressure to prove herself to her family. Her father, Robert Sargent Shriver, was the first director of the Peace Corps and ran for vice president in the 70s, while her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics.

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Shriver told O, The Oprah Magazine (via Oprah.com) that her parents were constantly urging her to have an impact on the world. When she told them about a friend whose "serene and peaceful" home made him "feel like I'm on a honeymoon with myself," her parents replied, "What is the point of that? What are you doing to make the world a better place by going on a honeymoon with yourself?"

In an interview with Winfrey for her show "Super Soul" (via Instagram), Shriver called her mother "a huge force" who "had no interest in anybody unless you were changing the world."

It's no wonder, then, that Shriver has always felt a certain anxiety to succeed, never satisfied with her latest achievement. "When you come from a family that has achieved so much, you're left with the challenge of either making peace with that or finding some way to do what you want to do," she confessed (via Oprah.com). "It's impossible to compete with that level of accomplishment."

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Maria Shriver is BFFs with Oprah Winfrey

Maria Shriver's friendship with Oprah Winfrey might not be too surprising, considering they are contemporaries who have both been working in media for most of their lives, but their enduring friendship — Shriver once called Winfrey her "best friend" in an interview with Vanity Fair — is one of the constants in Shriver's life. 

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On Hoda Kotb's podcast, "Making Space" (via the Daily Mail), Winfrey and Shriver revealed that they met at work, bumping into each other in the bathroom. "We started a conversation," said Winfrey. "And I forever think that was, like, a divine moment that happened, because she was one of my true, grounded friendships that carried me through my entire career."

They've been close friends ever since, with Shriver being one of the few people Winfrey has allowed in her inner circle. Shriver and Winfrey have supported each other through a lot in their decades-long friendship. Shriver said of her friend, "There's so few people you can really talk to honestly, and that you feel safe [with] ... In my darkest moments, she was right there, sitting right next to me, holding space."

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She never expected to become the first lady of California

Coming from a political family, Maria Shriver was well aware of the frustrations of that lifestyle and worked hard to build a career as a journalist. She never expected that when she got involved with a young bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger, he would end up becoming a politician himself. As she explained to O, The Oprah Magazine (via Oprah.com), when her husband announced he was running for governor of California in 2003, she was working for NBC. The network forced her off-air during the campaign, worried that "there could be a perception of a conflict of interest between my news job and Arnold's becoming governor."

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Shriver expected to "return to reporting when the campaign was over," but after Schwarzenegger's win, NBC let her go, and she found herself navigating life as the Democratic wife of a Republican governor. "I was elated about Arnold's win, but I didn't want to be involved; I just wanted to go back to my job," she admitted.

Schwarzenegger later revealed in his memoir, "Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story" that his wife had asked him not to run for office, only relenting when her mother told her, "We women in our family always support the men when they want to do something." Schwarzenegger wrote that his mother-in-law warned Shriver that if she didn't back him in his bid for governor, he would "be angry for the rest of his life," prompting her change of heart.

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Her father inspired her Alzheimer's advocacy

Maria Shriver has worked to raise awareness about Alzheimer's disease for many years. She is the founder of the Women's Alzheimer's Movement, which, per its website, was "created to raise awareness around Alzheimer's as a disease that discriminates against women, since two out of every three brains that develop Alzheimer's belong to women — with women of color at even higher risk." She's also written books on the topic, including "Alzheimer's In America" and "What's Happening to Grandpa?"

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Shriver became involved with Alzheimer's awareness after her father was diagnosed with the disease in 2003. As she explained to Feminist.com, her father's diagnosis made her realize how little she knew about the illness, inspiring her to educate others and also work toward combating the disease and gathering resources for those impacted by it. "I am not trying to be competitive with other diseases — this disease needs more money, more conversation, more adjustments by all of these institutions, than perhaps any other in American life," she said.

Maria Shriver's faith keeps her grounded

The Kennedy family is known for their Catholic faith; the official website of the White House notes that John F. Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic to be elected to the U.S. presidency. It's a religious tradition that Maria Shriver has upheld, although she is critical of some of the church's stances, such as its views on divorce and homosexuality. "Even though I consider myself a Catholic in good standing, I disagree with a lot of the teachings of the Church," she admitted to The Washington Post (via the National Catholic Register). 

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Shriver affirmed her support for the LGBTQIA+ community, adding that she is also pro-choice and believes that women should be allowed to become priests. "I think I'm probably a cafeteria Catholic," she said.

In spite of her disagreement with many Catholic teachings, Shriver takes comfort in her faith. She told Jean Trebek in a discussion for Inside Wink that she begins every day "thank[ing] God for allowing me to wake up." Shriver's faith is a cornerstone of her life and continues to shape her choices. "My life is very grounded in my relationship with God, in my prayer life, in my belief that I'm here for a purpose and that I want to make my life matter," she explained. "I reassure myself of that on an ongoing basis — a daily basis, actually."

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She's no longer a Democrat

The Kennedy family is known for being Democratic, and Maria Shriver was raised deeply entrenched in the party. When her then-husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, ran for governor of California as a Republican, she remained loyal to her family's political beliefs, remaining a staunch Democrat even as her Kennedy relatives in office at the time refused to endorse him. That's why it was such a shock when she announced in 2021 that she had shifted her political allegiance, telling Extra, "I am a registered independent. I served as a Democratic first lady in a Republican administration here in California. I saw good people on both sides ... And I felt that by becoming an independent, it was just easier to have conversations with people on both ends of the spectrum."

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The move was a bold one, but Shriver had hinted at her moderate leanings before. In a 2005 profile on her and Schwarzenegger for Vanity Fair, she said, "People say to me, 'I can't vote for a Republican,' but I say, 'Why not?' People get so caught up with labels."

Shriver's tolerance for the GOP doesn't go as far as supporting Donald Trump, though. She's tweeted her condemnation for him on more than one occasion, calling him "an emotional abuser" and stating he "can never run again ... nor can any of his enablers."

Maria Shriver went through an incredibly long divorce

Per Newsweek, Maria Shriver first met Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1977. The couple tied the knot on April 26, 1986 and had four children together: Katherine, Christina, Patrick, and Christopher. The relationship seemed solid for decades, weathering media scrutiny, career changes, and the challenges of living in a bipartisan household when Schwarzenegger became governor of California.

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Their long run as one of the nation's most recognizable power couples came to a crashing halt in 2011 when the news broke that Schwarzenegger had cheated on Shriver with their former housekeeper, Mildred Baena, and fathered a child with her. "It was the biggest mistake I ever made," the bodybuilder told Howard Stern (via Fox 4).

While the two remained on good terms following their separation, working together to co-parent their children (via ET), it took a decade to finalize what TMZ said may have been "the most drawn-out divorce in Hollywood history." Per Us Weekly, Shriver's divorce settlement was a hefty one, with the journalist reportedly receiving as much as half of what Schwarzenegger earned during their 25-year marriage. Celebrity Net Worth notes that Shriver now has a jaw-dropping fortune of $200 million.

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She loves being a grandma

Maria Shriver became a grandmother in 2020 with the arrival of Lyla, born to Shriver's daughter, Katherine Schwarzenegger, and her husband, Chris Pratt. Shriver told Today that she had trouble imagining herself as a grandmother, saying, "I thought of my own grandmother, who was really strict and kind of formidable."

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Shriver is definitely formidable, but somehow we can't imagine her being strict. She doesn't even want to be called "Grandma," telling ET ahead of the baby's birth, "I'm not embracing that name exactly. I'm gonna come up with my own name. I'll just be Mama. No, I can't do that. ... I'll figure it out."

Pratt later revealed to Today that his mother-in-law is instead known as "Mama G." It's only fitting that Lyla's middle name, Maria, pays tribute to her grandmother, who adores spending time with the little one. Per People, Schwarzenegger and Pratt welcomed a second child, Eloise Christina, in June 2022.

While Shriver may not want to be called "Grandma," she loves being around children and had been looking forward to becoming a grandmother for some time. "[My daughter] Christina says that when she has kids, she's going to give them to me!" she told AARP in 2013. "I'm counting on that! If not, I'll probably take someone else's kids! I might start a daycare center! Who knows?"

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She's finally accepted that she's enough

Self-acceptance can be a difficult journey, even for someone as beautiful and successful as Maria Shriver. It took her a long time to stop comparing herself to her famous relatives, but she finally accepted that it is enough simply to be, and that she is worthy. "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," she told O, The Oprah Magazine (via Oprah.com). "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." Shriver added that she is happy with herself — "even if I never accomplish another thing."

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It's an attitude she now helps others to embrace, wanting them to join her on the path to self-love. "No doubt you have many in your life who tell you what you could or should be doing more of," she wrote in her newsletter, Maria Shriver's Sunday Paper. "But I've come to discover that there isn't anything you should be doing for someone else. You are lovable as you are."

Maria Shriver treasures the simple things in life

Maria Shriver has gone from one career high to the next. While it may look like she's too goal-oriented to find time to unwind, she does make a point of prioritizing her mental health. "Having practices that support your mental, emotional, and physical well-being is critical," she told Parade.

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In her downtime, Shriver likes to spend time with her family — which, although famous, is just a family like any other. "I go for walks or hikes with my kids," she said of how she likes to relax. "I play Uno. I have family night on Sunday night. I like pickleball. I love playing games, charades, watching rom-coms, dancing, being in nature, and walking." 

It's the simple things in life that matter the most to Shriver. She may have been in the limelight for her entire life, but she's more interested in quality time with those she loves than living a life of glitz and glamour. "I'm at my happiest when I'm with friends and family at a table with lots of laughter and great conversation," Shriver said.

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It's a simplicity she urges others to seek in inspiring social media posts that fill her Twitter and Instagram feeds. "Relax into the way you felt as a child, running, carefree into the playground," she once tweeted. "Let's capture that feeling, and make that be the way we always feel — joyful, carefree, and ready to conquer the world!"

She views getting older as a gift

Getting old can be a frightening concept for many people, but Maria Shriver is leaning into the aging process — and even embracing it. In a 2022 article for Prevention written not long after her 66th birthday, she wrote about society's obsession with stopping the signs of aging. "Getting older is not only a fact of life, it's a gift!" she wrote. "You're lucky if you get to age, and even luckier if you get to age with good health. Why do we talk about it like it's something we shouldn't want to do or something we should fear?"

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As far as Shriver is concerned, life is a journey and she's having fun on the ride. Instead of fearing getting older, she's working on "saying 'yes' to things that scare me," "learning how to sit with grief," "working on things that bring me joy and give me purpose," and meditating to help her stay "grounded."

Shriver still has a lot to accomplish, and she's not going to let age stop her. As she told Parade, "People always say you get to your 60s, you retire and it's over. But that's not what I'm experiencing at all."

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