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Keeping up with the Conways

| Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Diane Park | The Observer

This year’s it girl is a miniature of her mother. A curtain of blond hair, blue eyes rimmed with smoked out kohl, lips pursed and painted pink. She has intense vocal fry and pointed acrylic nails, and she’s a real presence on camera. Whether her parents like it or not, Claudia Conway owns 2020.

She has 465.9K followers on Twitter, as well as 742.3K followers and more than 20 million likes on TikTok.

She’s openly anti-Trump and disapproving of his administration — which, up until a week ago, included her mother Kellyanne Conway — as well as pro-choice and anti-police, a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and an advocate for the LGBTQ community. She posts bikini photos poolside and videos doing the WAP dance in a sports bra and flannel pajama pants. She also takes to various platforms to address performative activism, defunding the police, qualified immunity, dismantling racist infrastructure in America, sexual assault, body dysmorphia and her own experiences with depression and PTSD.

She’s also only 15 years old.

Claudia flits in and out of social media, disappearing for days after her parents take her phone away, and sometimes longer when the comments below her photos and videos turn sexual and violent, with supporters of Trump and her mother hurling hate speech and death threats her way. She’s very open about the fact that all this attention can be overwhelming, and frequently takes mental health breaks.

Most of Claudia’s haters just want her to be quiet.

Some of her more watchful followers noticed more and more of Claudia’s political commentary disappearing from her profile, and when asked where these videos went, she responded that her dad had taken her phone and deleted them. When Trump promised to ban TikTok, many joked on social media that the president was going to great lengths to silence Claudia.

Nevertheless, she persists.

When she goes live on Twitter or films herself in a front-facing TikTok, it’s mostly to share her unfiltered opinions — often name dropping other Conways — and pick apart the political plate of spaghetti that is her family.

Her parents, though lacking the same virality inherent to members of Gen Z, are famous in their own right. Kellyanne Conway, Claudia’s mother, served as Donald Trump’s final campaign manager in 2016 — becoming the first woman to successfully run an American presidential campaign — and later as a close senior counselor.

In a statement posted to Twitter Aug. 23, Kellyanne announced she was officially leaving the Trump White House, where she had established herself as one of the president’s most visible and vocal protectors.

Kellyanne swathed herself in controversy from the very moment Trump became president to the day she announced her departure. Just hours after Trump was sworn into office, she allegedly punched a man in the face three times while trying to break up a fight at an exclusive inauguration ball. In an interview with Meet the Press two days later, she coined the term “alternative facts” while defending former White House press secretary Sean Spicer. And then there was the couch photograph.

Now, with her daughter’s disciples chanting “#saveclaudia2020,” all attention is turned to Kellyanne’s life as a mother to her four children. Claudia has repeatedly accused her parents, especially her mother, of childhood trauma and abuse. On Aug. 22, Claudia tweeted that she was officially pushing to become emancipated. The following day, Kellyanne took to Twitter to announce her official departure, saying she was leaving the White House to focus on her family.

“For now, and for my beloved children, it will be less drama, more mama,” Kellyanne said in her statement.

Kellyanne’s husband, George Conway, made a similar public statement announcing his departure from The Lincoln Project, the Super PAC he co-founded in 2019 alongside other current and former Republicans who hope to prevent Trump’s reelection in 2020, as well as uproot his supporters from the Senate. This mission was antithetical to his wife’s position within the Trump administration, making one wonder about the Conways’ dinner table conversations.

Though her father’s project was propelled by the intent to remove Trump from the White House, Claudia is openly critical of his personal politics. George also cited a need to refocus his attention towards his family — likely only his vocal daughter — as the reason behind his exit from the Lincoln Project.

Her parents stepped away from their political positions in a joint attempt to take refuge in the shadows, but Claudia has done everything in her power to sink her acrylic nails into 2020 and claw her way back into visibility. On the day her mother announced her departure from the Trump administration, Claudia was trending on Twitter, with more than 38.8K tweets containing her name flooding the timeline. She posted to TikTok triumphantly, saying, “Look what I did.

Because Claudia has always been in the spotlight, posting videos of herself dancing, singing, talking and crying in the same yellow bedroom. There are pink bows stenciled on the walls — a reminder that the Claudia we watch on TikTok and Twitter is still a young woman. A little girl, even.

If you scroll down far enough, you can find Claudia’s earliest lip-syncing TikToks from 2015, when she was 10 years old. Her hair was dark brown then, and it was still socially acceptable to wear “cold-shoulder” tops. Much of her content features her family and their turmoil, years before it finally boiled over. Through these videos, you can watch and ache alongside Claudia as she grows up. Later, in a surge of rebellion, she dyed pieces of her hair scarlet. And you feel kind of proud to see her flip a bright red strand over her shoulder.

In her most recent videos, Claudia looks older, like a 15-year-old girl with a steady hand and black eyeliner who can convince a bouncer to let her into a college town bar. She looks tired.

Her last posts to TikTok and Twitter are words of love to her followers and a plea for time and space as she takes yet another step away from social media. That was a week ago. Claudia has yet to resurface.

Claudia Conway’s experience is commonplace, in that almost every teenager throws political punches at their parents at least once as they grow up and learn more about the world around them, and probably takes their frustration to social media.

What is singular about the Conways, however, is that the entire world is watching their family fall apart in an extremely public, almost Shakespearean way.

Can anyone be surprised then, that Claudia is joining the same canon as Juliet, Desdemona, Portia, Katherina, Cordelia and other daughters who fought for a voice, for independence and paid the consequences?

Come back when you’re ready, Claudia. We’re still listening.

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About Maeve Filbin

Maeve is a senior studying political science and economics at Saint Mary's, as well as Journalism, Ethics and Democracy at Notre Dame. She serves as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Observer, and thinks everyone should support student journalism.

Contact Maeve