Suze Orman takes compliments well. For instance, when she showed up to the National Press Club this week for a presser with TV commentator Tavis Smiley and Prof. Cornel West, Tony Gallo, who heads up the newsmaker program, told her she looks much better in person. Her reaction? “Thank God.” Another compliment came during an elevator ride to the first floor where she was doing an interview for CNN. This one was on her hairdo. “We did it ourselves,” Orman boasted. “We’re trying it.” By “we” she means she and her life and business partner, K.T., who was along for the ride. “I can’t tell other people to save money and not do it myself. I saved myself $200.”
As charming in real life as her SNL impersonator, Orman was just what you’d imagine her to be: blonde and chatty with spanking white teeth, and in your face about your finances. Case in point: Suze wasn’t in the building 10 seconds when a woman recognized her in the elevator and began sharing her financial woes. This scenario would repeat itself for hours as complete strangers poured out their pain. The woman said she avoids reading her column in O Magazine because she “can’t face her truth.” Suze started asking her why not, what’s stopping you… and then the woman got off on the 10th floor.
The press conference involved poverty and Orman unveiling her new prepaid card — the Approved Card — which she’s hoping will revolutionize how people experience their money. “We barely have the heart to look in the mirror and tell ourselves how we’re doing,” she told a packed room of media and ordinary people who came to share their hard luck stories. “The one fascinating thing about money is you can’t look at someone and know they’re poor,” she said, instructing an unemployed woman in a black suit to stand and be the poster child for poverty. “There should be no face of poverty in the United States,” Suze stressed, making her point. As for her new card, she said emphatically, “This card is to give people a viable alternative. I have put my name on it. I have put my reputation on it. And no financial institution or blogger is going to stop me.”
At the end of the presser, Gallo concluded: “I judge each event by how many people fall asleep and how many leave early. We had absolutely zero — the highest possible score.”
I trailed Suze and K.T. to her interview with CNN. Not surprisingly, behind the scenes Suze is no-nonsense and doesn’t like annoying surprises — so she’s a tad irked that the CNN spot wasn’t better planned. “She hates lipstick and she hates makeup,” remarked K.T. “So we argue — it’s the only time we do.”
“She’s not a prima donna at all,” said CNN Commentator Hilary Rosen, whose firm, SKDKnickerbocker, is handling Suze’s press for the card.
Finally we gathered in a quiet conference room on the first floor of the building for five questions with Suze and discovered one thing for certain: She knows her way around a Fishbowl metaphor.