Alumna Goes From Cape Town to Tinseltown

Alumna Goes From Cape Town to Tinseltown

Imagine if an average day on the job entailed having a chat with George Clooney about his latest project. Or perhaps it involved dashing off to London for an on-location deep dive into the Netflix series The Crown.

“One day I’m parachuting out of a plane, the next I’m interviewing Angelina Jolie,” says Margaret Gardiner ’86, an entertainment journalist who graces the red carpet and trots the globe to get the lowdown on today’s most sought-after celebrities for a number of outlets, including the biggest women’s magazine, rooi rose, in her native country of South Africa.

To do so, Gardiner logs more than 400 interviews a year, lobbing questions and mining Hollywood gold from the entertainment industry’s A-list stars, directors and producers.

“I can’t think of a big star who I’ve not interviewed,” she says. “Today, I’m interviewing Jennifer Lawrence for her new film, The Red Sparrow.”

After all, the glamorous Los Angeles resident and mother of a college-age son is ideally suited for the job. She has spent a good deal of time under the klieg lights, too. Before attending the College, Gardiner, who grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, had already garnered international notoriety as the winner of Miss Universe 1978 at the age of 18 – the first South African to do so.

“But I always wanted to return to my studies,” recalls Gardiner, who came to Charleston from New York City when her husband was offered an opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. at the Medical University of South Carolina. “While he got his doctorate, I got my degree.”

At the College, she majored in psychology, a course of study that has dovetailed perfectly with her current career. “With a psych background, I love chatting to them about their lives.”

Other academic endeavors at the College have informed her professional life, too, particularly a first immersion in women’s studies. Gardiner is currently working on a book that draws from her longstanding commitment to women’s issues that ensued from that time. She has also hosted a segment on HuffPost that addressed the current #timesup issues.

“Even though I was a beauty queen, I’ve always been interested in women’s equality,” she says, crediting Professor Cheshire Calhoun for introducing her to the study of feminism at the College. “I’d love to get my Ph.D. in women’s studies at CofC.”

In the meantime, she has more than enough on her plate to deepen her understanding of the field. She regularly appears on and hosts women’s panels at film festivals and colleges. She’s also the fashion editor for goldenglobes.com, the website of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

“My life is an adventure,” she says.

From her interviewing acumen to her commitment to activism, it is clear that adventure has been shaped in immeasurable ways by her days on the College campus.