Twin sisters Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush have shared almost everything for all of their 35 years, from their grandfather’s inauguration to their special relationship with President Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia. And yet, when they were asked Tuesday during an interview at Build Series NYC to promote their new book, Sisters First: Stories From Our Wild and Wonderful Life, if they’d ever been competitive, they said no.
One of the reasons is that they are actually quite different. Jenna, a correspondent on Today, is the more social of the two, while Barbara is the more studious. She founded the nonprofit Global Health Corps in 2008.
“We were never good at the same things, so we couldn’t be competitive,” Barbara said. “We were always kind of mediocre at everything…”
Jenna cut in at that last part — as siblings everywhere have been known to do — to point out that her sister is a math whiz.
“Barbara missed two problems on her math SAT … or one,” Jenna said, before demanding to know which was correct.
“I mean, one,” said Barbara, who graduated from Yale University in 2004, just as her sister was graduating from the University of Texas at Austin.
“She was, like, on the math team,” Jenna added.
Barbara demurred before recalling that she had won a math competition in fourth grade.
It was a true sister moment.
Another reason they never saw each other as competition? Their parents never pitted them against each other, which is something that Jenna, mom to daughters Mila, 4, and 2-year-old Poppy, is trying to teach her girls.
The sisters also recalled attending the inauguration of their grandfather, George H.W. Bush, at age 7. At the time, they just thought everyone’s grandfather had an inauguration.
They were, of course, teens when their father, George W. Bush, was in the White House, and Jenna remembered that he had a surprising reaction when she was cited for trying to buy alcohol with a fake ID in Austin. (Barbara was cited for being a minor in possession of alcohol in the same 2001 incident.)
“When we got into trouble, I called my dad and I apologized because I felt like I had embarrassed him or let him down, and he cut me off and said, ‘I apologize,’” Jenna said. “‘I’m sorry, because I told you you could be like anybody else, and you can’t. And there’s going to be restraint and discipline that comes with that.’ I think we were all a little naive, frankly, but I also am so proud to have parents like that, because they didn’t care about their image or what people thought about them. Or what people thought about us. Because I’m sure it’s not easy to see nasty headlines about your teenage daughters on the cover of People magazine. They allowed us to be ourselves and to make mistakes.”
She added that she was thankful social media wasn’t around at the time.
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