The Profile: The woman helping the world’s most powerful navigate crisis
This week's edition of The Profile features Risa Heller, Nic Askew, Stefon Diggs, Rebecca Black, and more.
Good morning, friends!
I’ve been writing this newsletter for six years. If you’ve been with me this entire time, that means that you started reading The Profile when:
Prince Harry got engaged to Meghan Markle
The New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl
A 16-year-old used Twitter to ask Wendy's for free chicken nuggets for a year — and it worked.
In spite of all of those remarkable news events grabbing your attention, you may have somehow found your way to my simple, straight-to-the-point tweet, and signed up for my teeny newsletter:
But given the fact that only 47 people liked that tweet, I highly doubt you’re here because of that. In six years, The Profile has grown into a beast of an email that I love writing just as much as I did in the very beginning. (ChatGPT, you’re going to have to pry this newsletter out of my cold, dead hands.)
In the last year, I interviewed Bridgewater co-CEO Mark Bertolini, UFC Champion Francis Ngannou, war photographer Lynsey Addario, author Robert Hoge, and restaurateur Danny Meyer. (You can hear these conversations in podcast form here.)
The month of February is a special one for me, because not only does it mark The Profile’s anniversary, but it also marks the inception of my book Hidden Genius. And in a very real way, if I wasn’t writing The Profile week after week, year after year, this book would never exist.
On February 16 of 2022, an editor named Chris Parker at the publisher Harriman House saw my Profile Dossier on entrepreneur Melanie Perkins and liked my writing, so he sent me a quick message: “I really enjoyed your thread on Canva and Melanie Perkins and am hugely impressed with what you're building at The Profile! If your thoughts ever turn to writing a book, we'd love to chat with you.”
That quick message evolved into a phone call which evolved into a book proposal which evolved into a whole damn book. The first physical copies of the book arrived last week, and I could not be more excited.
The biggest lesson I learned over the last year is that serendipity is always lurking. Everything that you put out into the world can land in the most unexpected places (or inboxes) and be seen by the most unlikely people.
“The great moments of your life won’t necessarily be the things you do, but they’ll also be the things that happen to you. Now, I’m not saying you can’t take action to affect the outcome of your life. You have to take action — and you will. But never forget that on any day, you can step out the front door, and your whole life can change forever.”
🎉 HELP ME CELEBRATE 🎉
It would mean the world to me if you helped me celebrate The Profile’s six-year anniversary by pre-ordering my book HIDDEN GENIUS:
Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I appreciate your support, and I hope I get to do this for the rest of my life.
PODCAST REC: Last week, I recorded a podcast with Danielle Newnham. We talked about why the definition of success is so personal and we dissect practical techniques from some of the people I’ve included in the book. I really enjoyed the conversation. You can listen to it here.
— The woman helping the world’s most powerful navigate crisis [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The coach behind the only all-Black team in college swimming
— The man who fixes the world’s finest violins
— The NFL team captain holding it together
— The singer reinventing herself
— The drug company that gamed the U.S. patent system
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The woman helping the world’s most powerful navigate crisis: When the world’s most powerful people are in trouble, they call Risa Heller. She helped Anthony Weiner survive his first scandal. The chef Mario Batali hit up Heller after he was accused of groping women. A Goldman Sachs banker who was arrested on rape charges in the Hamptons brought her in (he was later found not guilty). The list goes on. Right now, Heller is representing Sam Bankman-Fried’s law-professor parents, who have seen their reputations damaged by association with his. “If a story is knotty, I always want to work on it,” she says. A fascinating profile of a fascinating woman. (The New York Magazine; reply to this email if you can’t access the article)
“Is there anybody who has stepped in shit who does not call her to clean their shoes?”
The coach behind the only all-Black team in college swimming: Nic Askew, 44, took over Howard University’s once-moribund program eight years ago. The former Howard swimmer has created arguably the most electric collegiate swimming environment in the U.S. He’s pulled recruits from across the country, from Canada and the Caribbean, and developed a team now on the cusp of winning the Northeast Conference title. The nation’s only historically Black school with a swim program is now showing out in this predominantly white, country club sport. (Sports Illustrated)
“Nobody in America can offer what we have in our pool.”
The man who fixes the world’s finest violins: John Becker trusted to repair some of the world’s most fabled — and expensive — instruments. People travel from all over the globe to hand-deliver their instruments to Becker’s office. Becker spends most of the day in his chair, hovering over a violin, and takes only two breaks: at noon for lunch and at 3 for a snack. At 4:45, he packs up and leaves to catch a 5:20 p.m. train home. Meet John Becker, the famed violin doctor. (Chicago Magazine)
“He’s like a great surgeon. His work is so meticulous. It’s like constructing a sailboat inside a bottle.”
The NFL team captain holding it together: After Damar Hamlin’s health scare and recovery, Buffalo Bills’ Stefon Diggs says he’s feeling grateful and committed to the NFL: “I still love the game. I still love everything that comes with the game.” As a team captain, Diggs had to lead his teammates through many days of fear and uncertainty. “I just tried to do my best to pull us all together, keep us all on the same front, keep the love, and I prayed to move forward at bedtime,” Diggs said. (WSJ)
“It became a little more real, though, really having an appreciation for my health and God is trying to protect us all out there.”
The singer reinventing herself: It’s been 12 years since the release of “Friday,” the accidentally viral hit sung by pop performer Rebecca Black. At the time, Black was 13 years old and completely overwhelmed by the public response. The music video received 1.2 million downvotes on YouTube, surpassing Justin Bieber’s “Baby” as the most disliked video on the platform. Combined with a maelstrom of internet trolling, the backlash made Black feel, as she stated in a heartbreaking 2020 tweet, “ashamed of herself and afraid of the world.” Now 25, the singer has come into her own, reinventing herself as an artist on her incendiary debut album Let Her Burn after coming out as queer in 2020. (Them)
“I’m not here just to redeem myself.”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
The drug company that gamed the U.S. patent system: AbbVie for years delayed competition for its blockbuster drug Humira, at the expense of patients and taxpayers. The monopoly that has generated $114 billion in revenue for AbbVie just since the end of 2016 is about to end. The knockoff drug that regulators authorized more than six years ago, Amgen’s Amjevita, will come to market in the United States, and as many as nine more Humira competitors will follow this year from pharmaceutical giants including Pfizer. Prices are likely to tumble. (The New York Times)
“Humira is the poster child for many of the biggest concerns with the pharmaceutical industry.”
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