Clarissa Ward, 37, is a senior international correspondent for CNN. In her 15 year career she has reported from the most dangerous places in the world, including Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Georgia. She reported from the ground the bombing of Aleppo in Syria and in 2016 gave evidence to the UN Security Council – it is profoundly affecting and you can watch it here. She speaks six languages (she says to “wildly different levels”) and has won awards including two George Foster Peabody awards and four Emmys. She also recently interviewed Elmo from Sesame Street; witness the insane cuteness here. She is married and lives in London.
1 There is a huge amount of travel in your work – as well as your passport, phone, wallet and keys, when you are heading out of the door what do you always take with you?
I cannot leave the house without a notebook and a pen and under eye concealer. But mainly under eye concealer because I can use my phone in lieu of a pad but without concealer I look positively cadaverous. Other essentials include tissues, headphones, bottled water, a portable charger, hairspray and powder.
2 You have seen some horrible things and I know you were friends with James Foley [the American journalist who was killed by ISIS]. It must be very hard not to replay traumatic events – let alone let go of those times when you personally have been very scared. Is it possible to tune out the worst of it when you need to?
I love novels. I studied Russian literature at university and am still a huge fan. I just finished Resurrection which is a highly underrated Tolstoy masterpiece. I also read an inordinate amount about Islam in an effort to better understand one of the most broadly misunderstood religions in the world. Oh and I recently read an amazing novel by a Brit called “In the Light of What We Know” which is just jaw dropping.
4 You are a Londoner but also a New Yorker; New York women have a reputation as being much smarter or more groomed than Londoners. (I’d agree with that.) Do you think that is true? Do you think it matters?
5 Do you have a method for learning a language? I have in my mind that once you have a critical mass of languages adding a new one is easier than learning just one extra one from scratch. Or is that nonsense.
I am obsessed with a French series called The Bureau which is about the DGSE (French CIA) and which overlaps with parts of my work life. I also loved the Handmaid’s Tale, though it was a lot of rape to sit through. And Big Little Lies was kind of fun, mindless fare with great performances.
8 What are you having for dinner tonight?
Love this. What a woman. New hero. Elaine x
Very interesting, thought-provoking interview. Makes such a change to have interesting questions asked, rather than “which designers do you wear?” Thanks Esther for producing something I want to read and for interviewing such a fascinating lady.
Literally my first question was “Which designers do you wear?” but I then crossed it out
Tales from the middle ages says
I am quite humbled by what she’s achieved in her life. There’s so many inspiring people out there doing amazing things we just never hear about. Great interview (and I watched the clips too) I like how diverse you are making the Spike!
That’s a super interview- the answer about trauma was especially insightful. Thank you!
yes I think it can apply to all of us, in varying degrees
Fab interview! x
Congratulations for eliciting the most wonderful description of how trauma/stress works, Esther. Please tell me you did ask what she wears anyway…
Miss Eil says
Scoop (as in the novel) and for pulling off this coup – congrats! Loved reading this; great questions and a terrific interview. How amazing is Clarissa Ward? *When I grow up I want to be…* territory. Frivolously, I bet CW rocks a mean capsule wardrobe, all the way.
Goodness, that is exactly how trauma works. And well done Esther!
Really enjoyed this, what a great woman. The question and answer on trauma was very thoughtful and thought provoking.
This is amazing. I re-read and re-read the answer on trauma, it felt so honest & brilliantly expressed. Also loved the mix of the serious and the superficial.
So great to read an intelligent interview that gets to the heart of things but is also accessible. Really enjoyed it