For four years they have shunned the spotlight. No more.
Barbara and Jenna Bush, now 22-year-old college graduates, are the stars of a Vogue magazine spread that hits newsstands today, in which they publicly embrace their status as scions of political royalty.
Jenna, draped in a strapless, cranberry-colored Oscar de la Renta gown, poses with a half-grin and shows off a Harry Winston bracelet. Barbara, on the opposite page, flashes a movie-star smile and wears a strapless, champagne-colored Calvin Klein gown.
The spread, headlined “Sister Act,” was shot in May. It comes as the twins dip their toes ever so gradually into their father’s reelection campaign.
“It’s not like he called me up and asked me,” Jenna told Vogue writer Julia Reed, explaining how she decided to help her father after a lifetime of steering clear of politics. “They’ve never wanted to throw us into that world, and I think our decision probably shocked them. But I love my dad, and I think I’d regret it if I didn’t do this.”
Jenna, a University of Texas graduate, made her first campaign trail appearance Friday, joining President Bush on a bus tour of central Pennsylvania. She will introduce her mother at two closed-door events today, making her first campaign-related speeches. Barbara campaigned with her father Tuesday in Michigan and Minnesota.
Both women, fresh from post-graduation European vacations, already have post-campaign plans. Jenna aims to live with a friend in Manhattan while teaching at a charter school. Barbara, a Yale graduate, will work with pediatric AIDS patients in Eastern Europe and Africa.
The Vogue article is mostly a glowing take on the twins’ coming of age, noting that “until now, they’ve been best known for their inevitable but sparse tabloid appearances and the much-mentioned reports of their 2001 run-in with the law for underage drinking.”
In that incident, at a Mexican restaurant in Austin, Texas, police accused Barbara of being a minor in possession of alcohol and Jenna of misrepresenting her age by trying to use false identification to buy alcohol, according to a statement from the Austin Police Department.
The charges were dropped after the twins performed community service, attended alcohol awareness classes and paid $100 fines. A separate underage drinking charge against Jenna went on her record as a conviction because of the restaurant violation. A judge fined her $500 and suspended her driver’s license.
The magazine offers a full-page picture of Barbara and Jenna dressed up for a night out in outfits that are a bit more form-fitting than the gowns. The piece also captures them joking with each other -- and with the once zealously protective first lady, who told reporters her daughters were not public figures.
“Mom,” Jenna asked, as she and Barbara reluctantly tried on a variety of poofy formal gowns in a New York City hotel room the night before the photo shoot, “do we look like cupcakes?”
“Yes,” replied Laura Bush, “you do.”
White House and campaign officials said Tuesday that the Vogue interview and the appearances on the campaign trail were decisions made entirely by the twins -- but that the officials were pleased with the results.
“The president and Mrs. Bush think that their daughters look great in the photo shoot and thought it was a great interview,” said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for First Lady Laura Bush.
Political experts and campaign strategists believe the daughters’ appearances can only help soften their father’s image.
The president told Vogue he was “most excited” that he got to spend the last campaign of his life “with two girls I love.” On Tuesday, he pointed Barbara out in a crowd in Duluth, Minn., declaring to his daughter: “I love that you’re here, darling. Thanks for coming.”
Accepting the limelight now puts the first twins on more even footing with some of their famous cousins. George P. Bush has campaigned for his father, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and for his uncle, the president. Cousin Lauren Bush is a model.
Doug Wead, a former advisor to the Bush family who has written a book on presidential children, said the Vogue spread showed that the twins had finally grown up and into their place in the political world.
“Barbara was voted most likely to appear on the cover of Vogue when she was in high school, so, hey, dreams are coming true,” Wead said.
That may be. But although the twins get seven pages in the magazine , the cover went to Priscilla Presley; her daughter, Lisa Marie Presley; and Lisa Marie’s daughter, Danielle Riley Keough.