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Who's Talking to Chris Wallace
Chris Wallace talks to Gloria Estefan, Anita Hill and Malcolm Gladwell. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 04, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LISA LING, CNN HOST, "THIS IS LIFE": Not raise them and breed them in captivity. But I would ask you to think about babies. You know, what kind of baby born in prison and live its entire life in prison, you might say, well, at least it was born, right? But it's not the way for a wild animal to live.
BROWN: Yes, absolutely. Lisa Ling, thank you.
Be sure to tune in to all new episodes of "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING," airs tonight beginning at 9:00 p.m. Only on CNN.
Thank you so much for joining me this evening. I'm Pamela Brown, and I'll see you again next weekend. "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE?" up next.
CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST: Welcome back to WHO'S TALKING. My guests tonight are all trailblazers. Each has changed the cultural fabric of America in their own way. Starting with perhaps the most successful Latin crossover artist in music history. Gloria Estefan opens up about her song, her heritage, and her deeply moving family story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Well, I got to ask you, though, Gloria.
GLORIA ESTEFAN, SINGER: Yes.
WALLACE: Why? I mean, why share all of this in public?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Then, the country got to know her in the most raw and vulnerable moment of her life. Now, more than 30 years later, Anita Hill reflects on the impact that's had on her. And how it helped start a national conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANITA HILL, AUTHOR AND PROFESSOR: When I testified, people didn't even -- had never heard of the word sexual harassment. They didn't know what it meant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: And later, a sage for our times. Author Malcolm Gladwell on his unique ability to get us to think about how the world works in brand-new ways.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: You realize there are people out there having heart attacks now.
MALCOLM GLADWELL, AUTHOR AND PODCAST HOST: I know. Fine, call 911.
WALLACE: You've had a few clunkers in recent year.
GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: You think?
WALLACE: That's not perception. That's reality.
SHANIA TWAIN, SINGER: I've been feeling stronger than ever now in my life.
WALLACE: How would you rate yourself as a chef?
TYLER PERRY, COMEDIAN: Wow, I'm not doing that with you, Christopher Wallace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Gloria Estefan left her hometown of Cuba as a toddler and has never gone back. I wanted to find out what it would take for her to return and why after decades of turning her up tempo Cuba in rhythms into pop music hits, she's decided to try something new.
WALLACE: Let's talk about you got a new album out called "Estefan Family Christmas," in which you and your daughter Emily and your grandson Sasha sing, and I want to talk specifically about a song that the three of you wrote a song called "Thankful." Here it is.
(VIDEO OF "THANKFUL")
WALLACE: They all got the voice, don't they?
ESTEFAN: And the tambour, right? Sometimes we couldn't tell who was doing which harmony after we mix the record. Wait a minute, was that you? Was it me? Each in their own right. And my daughter who's mind- blowingly talented, I wish I could do what she's doing on a good day.
WALLACE: But where did the idea for the album and for that song come from?
ESTEFAN: 2019 Thanksgiving. Ever since Sasha was a baby we would put together a little show because he sings. It came with him. And Emily, him and I put together music to play for the family during -- after dinner. We do a lot of Beatles stuff because we love, all three of us love the Beatles. So I said to them, let's -- this time let's write a little original chorus, just a little snippet, so that then, Sasha, you can go around with the mic and everybody can say what they're thankful for. '19 it was great. 2020 no Thanksgiving. '21 we do it again and then we were getting ready, our Christmas show for Christmas Eve, and Sasha says to me, Tutu, you know what? When I try to go to the high note, something is different, something is changing. I go, oh, my god, here's comes the puberty train.
WALLACE: It's called puberty. Yes.
ESTEFAN: Yes. And I went to him and said, what do you think if we immortalize our little show? But professionally for a Christmas album. They loved the idea. We three chose the songs. We picked the stylings we wanted to do, and said we have to do this now if we're going to have it out by Christmas because if we don't do it now, Sasha is going to sound completely different. And it all just --
WALLACE: Could be a baritone.
ESTEFAN: Exactly. And it all turned out so perfectly as things tend to do when they're done organically.
WALLACE: I got to tell you, Estefan Thanksgiving sound better than most people's Thanksgiving.
ESTEFAN: There are a lot of music, a lot of dancing, a lot of food. Both American. That's my favorite meal, Thanksgiving.
If I could pick one American meal to eat, it would be the turkey, the mashed potatoes, and the sweet potatoes and all that, and then of course all the Cuban stuff that we threw in regardless. So it's a party.
WALLACE: Well, you talk about Cuban. You have -- are widely considered the most successful Latin crossover artist in history, 100 million records sold. 11 top 10 hits. Seven Grammys. How do you explain it?
ESTEFAN: How do I explain it? We did it for love. I sing since I talk. It's something that was my lifeline through very tough times. I had a rough childhood first being here with my mother and my father went to Bay of Pigs, he was a political prisoner two years. He came back. He joined the U.S. Army. He went to Vietnam. He came back with Agent Orange poisoning. And all through this, music was my savior. I would lock myself in my room with my guitar.
I started playing at about 8 years old, I took lessons, and I would just sing and cry, and so my mom wouldn't see cracks in the armor and it's the reason we do music.
WALLACE: You talk about your heritage. You were born in Cuba. Your father participated in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and spent a year in a half in Fidel Castro's prisons before he was allowed to come to the United States.
WALLACE: How strong is your emotional connection to your birth place?
ESTEFAN: It's very strong because my mother made it so. They thought they were going back so it was exceedingly important that we keep our culture alive. Then when they saw that it wasn't happening, it became even more important that we not forget. But the Cuba that I know is the nostalgic Cuba of my mother's life. I was 2 when I left so I really didn't know Cuba and it's very different, I think, from the Cuba that is now in existence after 63 years of -- after the revolution and but I still have that --
WALLACE: And the regime of the Castro.
ESTEFAN: Of the Castro.
WALLACE: Well, I want to pick up on that. Because even after President Obama resumed diplomatic relations, a few years ago, you said you would not go back to perform. What would it take for you to go back to Cuba?
ESTEFAN: A free Cuba. An actual free Cuba. You can have all the diplomatic relations you want but for me to go -- and I've been invited. I was invited by Pope John Paul.
ESTEFAN: To go with him in '97. And I respectfully declined. I explained to him it was important that he go but my presence would be a very political one because I've been very vocal against the regime and he understood that I'm Cuban. I can't stand in the Plaza de la Revolucion in front of a Che Guevara and Fidel Castro portrait after what my father went through knowing that when I leave those people are going to be in the same difficult situation they're in.
I won't feel free to say what I want to say there. I don't want to cause violence and I don't want to cause a problem. So for me, it would be very difficult. I would love to celebrate the day that the Cuban people are actually free to vote for who they want, to live the lives they want, to choose the careers they want and to be able to express themselves like we do in this country.
WALLACE: This year, you did a remake of the classic film "Father of the Bride" along with Andy Garcia, and this version had a good deal of Cuban culture in it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY GARCIA, ACTOR: What's cooking?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just trying to fix the (INAUDIBLE). She added too much onion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It smells delicious. GARCIA: Tio Walter is here. (Speaking in foreign language). Tio, why
don't you stay for dinner?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd love that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: I'm curious, why did you all decide to do that, to have a lot of the Cuban culture in it? And was there any pushback from the producers or whatever, saying, you know, this might not play as well in middle America?
ESTEFAN: You know what, on the contrary, the writers and producers of the film were Cuban and when Plan B, Brad Pitt's company, got involved, they wanted it to be very legit. It was -- Andy Garcia, a good friend of mine for over 30 years, was one of the executive producer, and it was incredibly important to all of us to be very culturally sensitive, to stay away from stereotypes and laugh with each other, instead of at each other, and portray a more realistic view of what the Cuban from Miami has become after so many years.
So when I got that script, I go, oh, my god, "Father of the Bride." This is like iconic. We can seriously mess this up if we do the wrong thing.
WALLACE: We're talking Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor.
WALLACE: We're talking Steve Martin.
ESTEFAN: Yes, indeed. And we go, we have to be real because -- and people get that honesty. They really love that it did great and we were thrilled and plus to hang with Andy, although I have to say the kissing part was a little tough because we're friends. I guess it's better than kissing someone I don't know but we've been friends for so long. I shipped my husband out, not out of the studio, out of state for that scene.
ESTEFAN: Because -- but he was lovely and it was very natural. We have a great chemistry, him and I.
WALLACE: Up next, we hit play on some of Gloria's biggest songs including one of her chart topping hits that almost had a scary title. And we get personal about why her daughter called her out over something very sensitive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ESTEFAN: In the Latin community, a lot of these subjects aren't touched. They're taboo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Gloria Estefan has sold more than 100 million records, had 11 songs reached the top 10, and won more than a half dozen Grammy. But her road to success has been anything but smooth or painless.
WALLACE: You started in the 1970s with the group called the Miami Sound Machine and here is one of your signature songs.
ESTEFAN: Oh, boy, here we go.
(MUSIC VIDEO OF "RHYTHM IS GOING TO GET YOU")
ESTEFAN: Yes, indeed. That's a big one.
WALLACE: Is it true that the original name of that song was "Bogeyman is Going to Get You"?
ESTEFAN: Absolutely. My drummer had come to me with the idea of the hook, I co-wrote it with him because I go, I have a small child. I am not singing the bogeyman is going to get you. This is insane. So one night when we were in a little hotel, I think it was somewhere near Chicago on tour and I kept thinking what can we do that's not the bogeyman? And I thought, what our music does, the rhythm.
It's going to get you because wherever we went, whatever language they spoke, they were able to appreciate the rhythm and I changed it, thank the Lord, because --
WALLACE: I'm not sure "Bogeyman is Going Get You" would be a classic song.
ESTEFAN: Unless it was for a horror movie which happened to be a buff. But you know that that song is one of only 611 songs that have been saved in the National Archives in some vault or something because the Library of Congress said that it has changed the cultural fabric of the nation and they choose songs that they put away for posterity.
WALLACE: It's a classic.
ESTEFAN: It's a big honor. What it is for me. Because imagine, an immigrant that came to this country to have one of our songs forever protected is --
WALLACE: Well, it's a nation of immigrants. So in 1989 you released your first solo album and you have another hit.
(MUSIC VIDEO OF "GET ON YOUR FEET")
WALLACE: So by this point, you have a booming career. You now have a family. You must have thought we're on our way.
ESTEFAN: Absolutely. And you know, we never really set back to look because we were always working, working, working. We were on tour or writing and then going into the studio and producing, but I didn't even want him to add my name to the band name. I go it's working. Why do you need to put my name? He goes, your name has to be up front. He goes, you're the front man. It's got to be you. And we were just getting so much success worldwide. But loving every minute. We never released back to think, hey, we're doing it.
WALLACE: And then it comes all crashing down.
ESTEFAN: Oh, boy, literally.
WALLACE: March 20th, 1990, you're on your tour bus in Pennsylvania. What happened?
ESTEFAN: I was taking a nap in the front of the tour bus on the couch, and at that moment we got rear-ended by a fully loaded 18-wheeler. We had stopped because it was a seven-mile backup accident and we were pushed into another truck in front of us and I broke my back. I was paralyzed. I couldn't get up from the floor of the bus. And I knew. My dad had gone through a lot of spinal issues so I was very clear. I clung to the hope that I hadn't severed the chord because I was in so much pain. But I knew I've broken my back.
WALLACE: You at one point were told that you might never be able to walk again, right?
ESTEFAN: Exactly. There was a lot of damage. Two of the vertebras had been separated from my spine and pushed in. I remember coming back to Miami and you have that adrenaline taking you through the really difficult portions and the initial injury, then when I got home and saw that I couldn't do anything, I couldn't sit up, I couldn't lay down, I couldn't flip over, I got, you know, you have to face that depression. You have to grieve, your body and what you've lost.
I did that and then I said, OK. Enough. You got to pull yourself up by the bootstraps. I took tiny steps each day, one or two more steps than the day before until it took a good year, I got back on stage 20 days shy of a year of that accident and my doctor couldn't believe it. He was crying in the audience.
He says, had I operated on you, I don't understand how you're doing what you're doing right now but I put in six to seven hours a day of rehab at least.
WALLACE: All right. You've got a show called "Red Table Talk: The Estefans," and in one episode, you're shake your head, your daughter.
WALLACE: In fact calls you out about the fact that she is gay and she says that you were reluctant to let her tell her grandmother that she had come out before her grandmother passed away. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMILY ESTEFAN, DAUGHTER: The things that I was facing in the moment were so crippling that I couldn't see anything but the hurt.
ESTEFAN: I understand that.
E. ESTEFAN: You know?
ESTEFAN: And I hate to know that I was part of that hurt but I was just trying for you to have abuela to know, Jen, before -- you know, so that it could become a part of her life before somebody came and threw it -- and said to her, look, like, you know.
E. ESTEFAN: Well, and she passed and I never got to tell her.
ESTEFAN: She knows. You know what? I bet you she knows more than anybody.
E. ESTEFAN: But I did it for everybody else, you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: That's pretty raw.
ESTEFAN: It was completely raw. We didn't discuss anything before the table talks because we wanted it to be that way.
WALLACE: I got to ask you, though, Gloria.
WALLACE: Why? I mean, why share all of this in public?
ESTEFAN: In the Latin community, a lot of these subjects aren't touched. They're taboo. People see but they don't want to talk about it, they don't want to see it, and the whole point of us doing those 20 episodes was, I have all these people that have loved me through the years and supported, and I want them to realize that we're all just families trying to get through the difficult moments in life.
Emily I thought would feel comfortable coming out to me. We've been very, very open about the support for the LGBT community our entire lives and at the same time I had a mother with ulcerative colitis that even if I brought up a bill or something that was not even important, would get very upset and would get sick. So all I told them but she was hearing it through the difficulties that she was experiencing.
I told her just do it slowly. Do it. Don't just sit her down and say, boom. Give her a minute to process. I kept thinking, had you sat your grandma down and told her this, what would you be thinking now after she passed away, that had nothing to do with your message to her or the delivery of that. So, yes, and life is complicated. Life is tough. And we wanted to
share those things with people so they would realize these are conversations we need to have and it really was wonderful the response.
WALLACE: Coming up, author and out-of-the-box thinker Malcolm Gladwell tells me about his idea to use get (INAUDIBLE) to get more vaccines into arms. And a true lightning rod. Anita Hill on what it was like to testify against Clarence Thomas while the whole world was watching.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: It was surreal. It was absolutely surreal, and the fact that I didn't really have any models for this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Welcome back to WHO'S TALKING. Her testimony in front of Congress and the nation was a watershed moment in the movement against sexual harassment. Anita Hill came forward and testified against Clarance Thomas and without knowing it at the time jumpstarted a national dialogue about how women are treated in the workplace. We began our conversation with that moment in 1991 and how it has changed her life.
WALLACE: I'm not going to ask you if you regret having testified or were where the journey has gone over the last 30 plus years. What I'm curious about, though, is do you at all resent the degree to which Clarence Thomas ended up changing everything for you these last 30 years?
HILL: You know, I have worked very hard over the last 30 years to have a good life and a meaningful life and in many ways I've been successful, so I'm not resentful. Yes, it was difficult at times for me realizing that I was going to have to chart a new life but I felt like the world and history and my parents and my entire family had given me the skills and the wisdom that I needed to do that.
WALLACE: You're out with the paperback edition of your book called "Believing: Our 30-year Journey to End Gender Violence," and the question I have is, how are we doing? Where over these 30 years have we made progress and where haven't we?
HILL: Culturally I think we have evolved tremendously. I think we've evolved in terms of knowledge tremendously. You know, in 1991 when I testified there -- people didn't even -- had never heard of the words sexual harassment. They didn't know what it meant. They didn't know if they knew what it meant that it was against the law, and then even if it was against the law, they didn't know how to protect themselves or what to do with it.
So that I think we have really moved forward and we're now with a generation of young people, and I teach young people, who have entirely different expectations. They expect everybody to have heard of the term, expect everybody to understand it.
And they expect that things will change. That's kind of a cultural shift.
CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST, "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE": Let's go back to 1991, and your decision to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee against Clarence Thomas, in his confirmation hearing, and I've got to say, a lot of the people watching out there, a lot of them, because this was 30-plus years ago are too young to know what a huge event this was.
I mean, I remember it vividly, that we were sitting, watching it on TV, and we had people around, and it sparked conversations to your lives, you know, have you -- has that happened to you? And for folks who don't know, you had worked for Clarence Thomas, first at the Education Department, and then at the ironically Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and you testified that he had conducted terrible workplace sexual harassment against you. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films, involving such matters as women having sex with animals, and film showing group sex or rape scenes.
One of the oddest episodes I remember, was an occasion in which Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office. He got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and ask, who has put pubic hair on my Coke?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: When you look at that -- when you look at that young woman, what's your first thought?
HILL: It was surreal. It was absolutely surreal. And the fact that I didn't really have any models for this. We didn't have lawyers who actually had experience with bringing these kinds of cases forward. We now have that.
WALLACE: No, it was the first -- you were the trailblazer. This was the first one.
HILL: And so it was all new, but inside of me was the reality or the realization that you know, look, you what happened. This is an important position. This is an important moment that we're in where the Court is deciding to put someone who, by the way, both education and -- that he will Thomas was charged with enforcing anti-harassment rules. WALLACE: Right.
HILL: So here is a man who had behaved or engaged in behavior that I believe and others have said, would have violated the rules that were in place that he was supposed to be enforcing. And now he is up for the Supreme Court.
WALLACE: I want to turn the conversation a bit. Here we are 30-plus years later, and in this last term of the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas provided the fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, and take back a woman's right to abortion.
Does that decision by him make it even harder for you to reconcile Justice Thomas and his years on the Court?
HILL: First of all, the Dobbs decision is about a shrinking of rights. This in particular was abortion rights, reproductive healthcare and reproduction rights. That was the subject.
I think, if you read Thomas' opinion in Dobbs case, you will find that he wants to start looking at contraception. He want to look at you know, perhaps the whole idea of protecting people based on gender identity.
I think this is where we are in the country. And yes, Thomas seems to be out in the front with it, but he is not the only one.
WALLACE: In 2010, nineteen years after you testify on the hearing, Ginni Thomas, Clarence Thomas' wife calls you. You're not there, she leaves a voicemail where she basically says, now, it's time for you to apologize for what you said about her husband.
Take us back to that moment. When you come home, I assume you just push the button, and you listen to the voicemail.
HILL: I was shocked, but I actually thought it was a prank. I thought, oh, this is somebody pretending to be Ginni Thomas. This is a joke, or is it? I don't know for sure. So I waited until I actually went physically back to the office and that let me see what's on the caller ID, and there was, I got the name and the number on the caller ID, so not knowing what to make of it, I call my campus security and said is there any way we can find out who this and what they're doing, so they don't do it again. I am not interested in this.
HILL: So I guess I was -- I was surprised, maybe shocked that it, in fact, was Ginni Thomas. I had really no idea what to make of it, but I knew this, I knew that I did not want to entertain that kind of call, either on the voicemail or face-to-face, that it was not something that clearly I was not going to apologize for 1991, and I didn't in fact believe that the call was a sincere attempt to reconcile anything, and that I was going to do what I needed to do to stop it from happening.
WALLACE: And what do you make of the fact that we've now learned that Ginni Thomas has been deeply involved both with the Trump White House and with several States with trying to overturn the 2020 election?
HILL: You know, I think we need to know everything and we don't know everything about that involvement. I think everybody who has been involved with trying to turn over at that election, really has put all of us at risk, but more particularly, put our democracy at risk.
And so yes, that should be fully investigated, and the people who have are found to be involved ought to be held accountable, and it doesn't matter who they are or who they're married to.
WALLACE: There is a James Taylor song. And in it, there's a line "Wondering of where I've been is worth the things I've been through." Is where you've been worth the things you've been through?
HILL: So far, and I've --
WALLACE: I am talking about the last 30 years.
HILL: Wait a minute, but I was going to say, I want to continue to make it even more worth the things that I've been through.
My journey is 30 years long in this arena, but I have no intention of ending it.
WALLACE: Coming up, Malcolm Gladwell's work has made such an impact on pop culture, it is now an adjective. We'll talk about that, and that hair that helped make him sane.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Has been good for your brand that you look like the eccentric, brainy professor?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Author, Malcolm Gladwell has a unique way of explaining the why and he has made a career out of clever and profound insights into our everyday lives. His unconventional thinking has attracted millions of readers and podcast listener, and has turned his name into an adjective -- Gladwellian.
MALCOLM GLADWELL, AUTHOR AND PODCAST HOST: I mean, it's enormously flattering, I suppose to have an adjective named after you. I don't know if there's anything terribly distinctive about what I do that deserves its own...
WALLACE: Oh, please.
GLADWELL: ... adjective like that.
WALLACE: Yes. No, no, no, because all right, I'll start to describe it, but I want you to run with it.
WALLACE: Because I think what people mean is that you create a story, a narrative that is meshed with behavioral research analysis to help explain why people behave the way they do, why the world works they do. Would you say that --
GLADWELL: I guess. I mean, I remember years ago, when I spent a good 10 years working for "The New Yorker," and when I got to "The New Yorker," that was the kind of story that I wanted to tell. I was enamored of social science and economics, all those kinds of disciplines, and frustrated at how much difficulty they were having and telling and sharing their insights with the rest of the world.
And so I thought, oh, I can -- I'm a trained journalist, I can occupy this middle ground between this fountain of ideas over here and the public over here.
And so I guess, Gladwellian describes someone who wants to walk that down the middle between the public and the world of ideas and science.
WALLACE: A good example of that is what you're doing right now. You have a podcast called "Revisionist History" and as the title would indicate, you kind of want to take a look back, and did we get it right? Did we get it wrong? And in season seven, you focus on experiments, real or imagined.
And one of the ones that you posit has to do with the issue of the reluctance of people to get the COVID vaccine, and you also share with that the fact that a quarter of Americans, which is an astonishing number, are afraid of needles. Take a look at how you set this up.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GLADWELL: I say it's the anti-COVID supplement that I'm sticking in your salt. So, we've now -- we're not using the word vaccine at all. Because vaccine for most people is associated with a thing that you get in a needle. Right?
My question is, does moving the COVID vaccine from the vaccine category to the nutritional supplement category help us with the skeptic?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WALLACE: So what's your conclusion? In other words, if you didn't get COVID in a shot in your arm, but instead, it was as you say, nutritional and it is just suffused somehow in your salt, would people now say, I'm not doing salt because I don't want the COVID vaccine. GLADWELL: The analogy I used was the iodine. The reason there's
iodine in your salt is that we need iodine to prevent goiter, which are these huge growths that were very common up until the beginning of the 20th Century and we all -- everyone put iodine in the salt, it goes away and no one thinks twice about that today.
GLADWELL: So I sort of tongue-in-cheek wondered, if we would have put the vaccine in salt and just say it is a nutritional supplement that'll help you fight this terrible disease.
WALLACE: But you know it is COVID vaccine.
GLADWELL: Well, we're not going to use the word vaccine because the vaccine sets off -- that word sets off all kinds of people's -- so my experiment is, to what extent is vaccine skepticism, in other words, both a marketing problem and a delivery problem?
So we think of it as an ideological problem, but I'm saying, if we call it a supplement, we stuck it in your salt, maybe people wouldn't care so much. Right?
WALLACE: You agree? I mean, do you think that's true?
GLADWELL: I would love to do the experiment. I think it would make a difference with some -- I think, you know, as I said, in that clip, some significant portion of Americans are terrified of needles.
So there is a portion of the people who are vaccine skeptics or hesitant, who are simply that way, because they don't like getting a needle. They don't want the needle.
WALLACE: Let me ask you a question, which is, I laugh at this because I've been getting vaccines and boosts and all of that. When somebody gives you a shot in your arm, can you look at it? Or do you have to look away?
GLADWELL: Okay. And I am -- listen, but I'm at the opposite end of --
WALLACE: I don't, I'm not scared of needles, but I ain't looking at it.
Let's look back at your really remarkable work over the course of the last 20 years. "The Tipping Point: How Ideas or Products Reach Critical Mass and Spread Like Viruses." "Blink: How First Impressions Are Generally Reliable." "Outliers" which suggest the key to success is less about talent and more about practice. You've talked about 10,000 hours of practice.
Why do you think it is that people are so intrigued by your work, by these popularization of these concepts?
GLADWELL: Most of us are experience rich and theory poor. So, we have lots and lots of things happen in our lives, but we don't have good ways of making sense of them, and one of the things my books do are give people, ways of making sense of their own experience. So, they can sit step back, and they can say, oh, that, you know, oh, that sort of ties it all together. Oh, that explains why this happened or this happened.
So that's the kind of role that I saw. I saw a need for that role in the kind of reading public. I also think it helps to be someone who is not ideologically aligned.
I'm someone who is -- I'm not an American, I'm Canadian. I've sort of -- particularly recently, I feel like there is a real hunger for someone who isn't immersed in the kind of destructive political games that go on in this country.
WALLACE: Well, that doesn't mean you don't arouse some opposition because to quote an axiom that you didn't come up with, "Nothing fails like success," and there is something of a cottage industry these days that kind of knock you down a peg or two in "The Atlantic." "... the Gladwell formula is at last exhausted."
In "The New Republic," "... a perfect anecdote proves a fatuous rule."
How do you respond?
GLADWELL: I love that. It's great. I mean, look if you don't have critics, or don't have people who are looking at you and dragging you down, it means you're not doing anything that's attracting or getting any attention.
So I always read those with a great deal of -- with a little sort of twinkle in my eye. Because also, I remember when I was a young journalist starting out, I used to write those reviews about people like me.
So it's like, I'm just getting -- I'm getting a dose of what I dished out when I was an upstart 25-year-old journalist.
WALLACE: Really? No offense?
GLADWELL: No, I mean, I'm not thin-skinned. I have other things to worry about. I don't -- that kind of stuff doesn't bother me.
WALLACE: All right, I want to make an abrupt change. I want to talk about your hair.
GLADWELL: All right.
WALLACE: because earlier in your career, you looked like that, but at some point, you grow it out to what looks like today. And I guess my question is, has it been good for your brand that you look like the eccentric, brainy processor?
GLADWELL: Well, I don't know. It makes be more so recognizable. So I just cut my hair last week.
WALLACE: I was actually a little disappointed that you didn't -- GLADWELL: Yes, I was --
WALLACE: I wanted it to be a little bit fuller.
GLADWELL: I had the full on 'fro, and I have noticed that when the 'fro is full on, it's just easier for people to recognize me on the street. So there's a lot more of the, "Hey, you're Malcolm." That --
WALLACE: Do you like that?
GLADWELL: Yes, I mean, the people who recognize me on the street are people who tend to like -- you know the haters never...
WALLACE: Right. Right.
GLADWELL: It's your fans, so it's like it's really fun. You know, so you want to photograph or like some...
WALLACE: And I said, do you like? I was surprised to hear you say, "It doesn't suck."
GLADWELL: My favorite, favorite time ever of this is I was going for a run on -- in Santa Monica along the beach, and there is a guy in a tricked out BMW with like, you know and he is incredibly handsome, buffed out guy, and he sees me and he stands up straight outside of the sunroof in his car, puts his fist in the air and says, "I love you, bro."
WALLACE: Still to come, Malcolm Gladwell tells me about the accomplishment he cherishes most. I promise, it will surprise you.
WALLACE: As popular as Malcolm Gladwell's work and insights are for millions of people, his personal life is quite the mystery.
We continued our conversation exploring parts of his story you may not know about.
WALLACE: I must say that before I prepared for this interview, I never knew that you were the offspring of an interracial marriage.
WALLACE: Your father was a White mathematician from England and your mom was a psychotherapist from Jamaica, which raised the question to me, which I never thought I'd ask you, but what are your feelings about race and identity when it comes to you?
[19:55:06] GLADWELL: Well, I've written a lot in my books about race, partly
for that reason, it's an interest -- it is a subject of personal interest to me. And you know, it's funny, neither of my parents, the reason they were able to get married in 1958, was that neither of them took their identity that seriously.
My father, if you prodded him wouldn't have said he was -- if you asked him to describe the top five words that describe you, he would not have been in the top five.
If you asked my mother the same question in those years, she would have said, well, I'm a Christian. I'm interested in psychology. You know, she would have come up with -- the fact that she was Black would have been low on the list.
So I come from a family that exists because we didn't foreground those issues. So, it's always a tricky question for me. I sort of feel the same way. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what my own identity is, because it's so -- it's such a mess. It's like Canada and England and Jamaica. I was at the world track and field championships and I don't even know who to cheer for.
WALLACE: Just when I thought I had to figure it out, I also found out that -- and then maybe a lot of people know this, I didn't -- that you were and are a very good runner, that you won 1,500-meter championships as a kid and take a look at this.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's starting to look a little bit too much at his feet as Malcolm is pulling away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gladwell has opened up a gap on Chavez.
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WALLACE: Last year, you ran a mile race and at age 57 beat competitors half your age.
WALLACE: So how proud are you of this?
GLADWELL: This is maybe the achievement that I'm proudest of in my entire life. Yes, I take running very seriously. I was a very good high school runner, and then I kind of stopped racing for 30 years, and then I returned to the fray and I've been enjoying myself tremendously.
And it's an alternate world. It's a world where none of the things that I've been doing for the last 30 years matter, and so it is incredibly freeing.
So runners don't relate to me as Malcolm Gladwell, the writer or podcaster, they relate to me as Malcolm Gladwell, the runner, you know, which is -- I mean, the idea of having -- WALLACE: They know that they can beat you or you can beat them.
GLADWELL: Yes. That's all --
WALLACE: And it is as simple as that.
GLADWELL: And they care about how many miles I ran last week, or how good a workout I had and that is -- I have been alerted to the sort of joys of having another dimension in your life.
WALLACE: So I want to end on one more Gladwellian debate, because I read that, and this, honestly, seems -- I've related to this debate, because we're older people. I'm considerably older than you, the relative merits of peak performance versus longevity.
WALLACE: And that you the relative merits in this particular case on the "Rolling Stones" and Paul Simon.
WALLACE: So make the case for us old guys.
GLADWELL: I did this audio book with Paul Simon, where we interviewed him for 50 hours and produced something called "Miracle and Wonder." So I got to know him very well, and I became convinced that he is an infinitely greater value in the history of music than the "Rolling Stones," for example, because he is --
WALLACE: You realize there are people out there having heart attacks.
GLADWELL: I know, fine, just call 9-1-1. Paul Simon was relevant in the -- he had his first hit in the 1950s. He is at the center of the musical conversation in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and some would argue their favorite Paul Simon album is an album he does in the OTS. So this man is relevant for basically the last 50 or 60 years. He's been in the conversation in music.
The "Rolling Stones" are relevant for a tiny window in the late 60s and early 70s and I have become convinced that --
WALLACE: And they were pretty damn big in the --
GLADWELL: Absolutely, but this is an argument. So we have two models here. How high is your greatest peak? And how long is span of very good performances? Right? And I think that as a society, we overvalue the peak and undervalue people who have a high level of activity over a long period of time.
Paul Simon would be the quintessential example of the latter and he has, I believe, wrongly been denied his place as the greatest American musician of our generation, certainly.
WALLACE: I wanted to see how you'd finish that sentence. So let me just simply say that all of you people out there who love Mick Jagger in the stones, Malcolm Gladwell --
WALLACE: Malcolm Gladwell's podcast, "Revisionist History," just wrapped up at seventh season. It you can find it wherever you get your podcasts.
And you can catch my full interview with Malcolm as well as our sit downs with Anita Hill and Gloria Estefan anytime you want on HBO Max.
Thank you for watching and please join us here on CNN every Sunday night to find out WHO'S TALKING next.