Where Are They Now? Now 27, Anna Kournikova is all grown up
It’s 1998 and I’m trying to interview Anna Kournikova. It’s a bit like attempting to secure an audience with a world leader, which, Kournikova’s handlers would have you believe, she is. Billed as “the most downloaded female on the planet,” Kournikova is flanked by a battalion of handlers, agents, managers and other assorted obstructionists.
There are months of delays and unreturned calls. When favored with the courtesy of a response, the communication is annoying in the extreme. Can you send your questions in advance? Can you embed references to the products of Anna’s various sponsors in whatever you write? That would really help speed the process! Finally, after more than a year, I am granted a 10-minute session at a hotel in New Jersey where Kournikova is being paid a prince(cess)ly fee to play in a weekend tennis exhibition. Monitored by yet another handler, Kournikova spends the excruciating session chomping on pink gum, staring at her nails, and performing a nimble feat of dialogue by giving yes/no answers to questions that begin with the word “how.”
It’s 2008 and I’m trying to interview Anna Kournikova. Half an hour before the appointed meeting time, my cellphone chirps. Chastened by experience, I steel myself for a call apologizing for a last-minute change of plans. But, no, it’s Anna — on an unblocked number — confirming that she’s running on schedule and if I’m having trouble finding a parking space at the Starbucks where we’re scheduled to meet, I can always park at the adjacent Whole Foods. She arrives alone, pulling up in a tasteful but hardly ostentatious ride. She makes eye contact. She chews no gum. Ninety minutes into what is more a conversation than an interview, she is still going strong. No, I’m forced to admit, I have not read the book Eat, Pray, Love. “You really should,” she says. “It’s spiritual, but well-written at the same time.”