Veteran public relations specialist Howard Bragman is a pioneer in advising celebrities who go public with their sexuality. But even he’s in awe of how well the transition from Bruce to Caitlyn Jenner is playing out in the press.
“It’s been handled masterfully,” the chairman of the communications agency Fifteen Minutes said Monday in a telephone interview. “I’m jealous I didn’t get to handle it.”
Bragman said the Olympic gold-medal winner was well advised to not reveal her new name during her interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News late last February. Though Bragman believes the 21 million viewers who watched the revelatory sit-down when it aired on April 24 “were very satisfied,” Jenner’s use of an elegant Annie Leibowitz photo shoot in Vanity Fair for the next phase of her transition created another triumphant moment.
“They very wisely left something behind,” Bragman said. “It was part of a plan.”
Alan Nierob, the executive vice president at Rogers & Cowan who is behind the communications effort for Jenner, was not available for comment on Monday.
“Most people do this very discreetly and privately,” said Bragman, who advised Chaz Bono when he revealed he was a transgender man. “It’s not something that plays out in public. The question is can you play it out well and tastefully and help move the issue along in society. That’s what Caitlyn is doing. Most importantly, she is provoking discussion.”
Jenner’s new Twitter account, @Caitlyn_Jenner, surpassed 1 million followers in under five hours, reaching the milestone faster than President Obama’s personal account did when it was launched on May 18. Dozens of celebrities offered praise and support to Jenner on the social media site.
Bragman said the overall positive impact of the Sawyer TV chat and the Vanity Fair story lessens the need do more press.
“You don’t need to do a lot of interviews now,” he said. “It’s not about ‘how many can we do?’ It’s about how well can you do it.”
The next scheduled stop for Jenner is the the upcoming E! documentary-style reality series that chronicles Jenner’s experience. The reality genre is not known for its graceful handling of complex issues. But Bragman believes Jenner’s story can be compelling without being sensational or exploitative.
“Most reality TV is based on faux drama,” he said. “In this case you truly have drama with a man who goes through 65 years of his life and then goes through this transition. When you see Caitlyn talking to her children, it’s inherently dramatic and interesting.”
The eight-episode series debuts on July 26.