Minutes before the day’s briefing, Psaki pulls a blow-dryer from under her desk and straightens her hair, then does her makeup while looking into a wall mirror. The Trump administration had a hair-and-makeup person on the payroll, but Psaki is a one-woman operation. She owes much of her current regimen—black eyeliner, simple lipstick—to a CNN makeup artist who has texted her tips. (Psaki has worked as a commentator for the network.) When it comes to her wardrobe, Psaki has a few long-standing preferences—bright colors, chunky necklaces—but she’s open to suggestions. “I have friends who know a lot more about fashion than I do who will text me and be like, ‘This dress would look great on you.’ Or ‘I’m going to drop off some dresses I’m not wearing anymore,’ ” she says. She’s not changing the straight red bob, though. “I couldn’t operate a curling iron to save my life,” she says. She opens a desk drawer full of barrettes, sent to the White House by older ladies who are apparently horrified to see her brushing her hair out of her face on television.
As she does her makeup, Psaki reflects, “On your best days, you think through the things that you want to proactively communicate.” She runs down the list: multiple paths forward on infrastructure. Positive jobs report. A shipment of vaccines on its way to South Korea. In the end, the moments from the briefing that go viral aren’t topics that she prepped—they’re what Psaki would call “wrestling with alligators.” She’s asked about Facebook’s decision to suspend President Trump until 2023. (Psaki: “It feels pretty unlikely that the zebra is going to change his stripes over the next two years. We’ll see.”) And she has an amusing exchange with Fox’s Doocy over his network’s current obsession, Dr. Anthony Fauci’s newly released emails. Doocy asks of Fauci, “Can you imagine any circumstance where President Biden would ever fire him?” Psaki replies with a curt “No.” Twitter lights up: #PsakiBomb.
That night, Psaki leaves the White House a few hours earlier than usual and drives home for pizza night, a weekly ritual with her family and her middle sister, Stephanie, a senior adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services. Stephanie is married to Adam Frankel, a former Obama speechwriter, and their two children are the same ages as Psaki’s. The families formed a bubble during the pandemic, and Psaki has said their weekly pizza nights have been psychological ballast, helping her to manage the time she spends away from home.