Louise Linton wasn’t long for Washington.
The wife of Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin has decided the nation’s capital, and its rituals and traditions of politics and protocol, are simply not for her.
“I love my husband and I wanted to support him, but the transition to Washington has been my hardest experience. I felt very lonely and isolated,” Linton told Los Angeles Magazine in an interview about her life inside, and now far outside, the Beltway.
“I didn’t have any friends there. I never got much guidance. You know that movie ‘The Princess Diaries,’ where a mentor held her hand saying, ‘Walk this way. Talk this way. Do this; don’t do that’? Well, I didn’t have anyone like that. No one hands you a guidebook when you get off the plane in DC,” she said.
Being the wife of a Cabinet secretary in the Trump administration is “like walking a tightrope of dental floss in high heels.”
(Even though Linton may have sought more guidance, somehow other Washington newbies have found ways to navigate the capital by raising fewer eyebrows.)
Linton now spends at least half the year ensconced in the couple’s sprawling Los Angeles home.
In the first two years of the Trump presidency, Linton has seen the highs — a wedding officiated by Vice President Mike Pence — and the lows — a very high-profile fall from grace after media scrutiny of a now-infamous social media post and, later, an over-the-top photo at the Bureau of Engraving holding cash in leather gloves.
Linton, who now splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington, spoke candidly about her early missteps, saying she was “deeply depressed” in the wake of the criticism.
“It sucks being perceived as a person that you’re not; it sucks being hated. Most people know me for the gloves or the plane or that awful Instagram post,” she said.
Linton continued: “I made some rookie mistakes. I understand why people are angry about me getting off that government plane tagging fashion brands. It was a stupid thing to do. I get why everyone rolled their eyes at the opera gloves.”
“But this caricature of me is the opposite of the girl I actually am. I run a business; I have several movies coming out. I can’t hide out for another five years,” she added.
Linton also said she’s apologized “ad nauseam” for her Instagram post.
And back to that “guidance” she wished — likely as other new-to-Washington spouses of powerful political transplants — Linton could probably teach the class after what she’s experienced.
Her advice now: “Run, don’t walk, straight to the Office of Government Ethics and ask them to take you through their lists of guidelines and rules. There’s thousands of obscure do’s and don’ts you need to be aware of. And find someone who understands all the rules for foreign travel. In the beginning I went on trips with Steven, though I always paid for my seat. I no longer go on any government trips at all because the optics are awful.”
And, she added, “tone down your wardrobe.”
“Don’t think that you can go to Washington and dress as an individual. If you want to avoid criticism, you need to be a twin-set-sweater-and-pearls type of girl,” she said, adding that she dresses “much more conservatively now.”
Since the 2017 drama, Linton has kept a relatively low profile, but recently resurfaced in front of the cameras, joining her husband during the President’s official State Visit to Buckingham Palace last week.
As for her Washington social life, she says she and Mnuchin hang out with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife, Susan, and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Ivanka, she said, is “like a movie star.”
“I see them as people, not politicians. Why is it that we perceive people who are in politics as caricatures?” she said.
When the interview responded that those she referred to are making life-and-death decisions about the future of the country, Linton reportedly paused.
“Right. Well, I’m not making decisions that impact the country,” she said.
In her spare time, Linton is an avowed animal rights and gay rights activist, which, she candidly said, puts her “between a rock and a hard place” with the administration’s policies.
“Either I can express my beliefs and be at odds with my husband and his boss and get in trouble that way, or I can decline to comment and be in hot water with everyone else. Sucks either way. I very much respect my husband and the president of the United States, but I am an individual with my own beliefs and views,” Linton said.
Linton said she was “upset” by the administration’s policy ending some Obama-era restrictions on importing trophies of elephants and lions on a case-by-case basis.
Confronted with Donald Trump Jr.’s big game hunting advocacy, Linton was asked whether she’d feel uncomfortable going to dinner with him.
“Yes, I feel uncomfortable,” she said. “Look, I do what I can. I was involved in a couple of meetings at the White House, one of them was a Pets for Vets thing.”
For now, Linton is promoting a new movie, which she described as a “funny and campy and over the top … female version of American Psycho.”
And, she added, she’s “already at work on my next screenplay.”
“It’s loosely based on my own life, the working title is ‘Celebrity.’ It’s gonna be a fun sort of ‘Kill Bill,’ Tarantino-esque, revenge story about a young actress who has a psychotic break and ends up going out for revenge on all of the meanie reporters and trolls that stalk her on the internet. It’ll be a comedy of course,” she joked.