Inside Rachel Maddow’s Relationship With Susan Mikula

Inside Rachel Maddow’s Relationship With Susan Mikula

01/26/2021

When liberal television host/political commentator Rachel Maddow first appeared on our small screens, her authenticity was a breath of fresh air. The MSNBC anchor was different from many of the other talking heads with their stiff smiles, emotionless deliveries, and perfectly coiffed hair, and she quickly won over audiences with her compassion and vulnerability on The Rachel Maddow Show. (In 2018, for example, Maddow famously choked back sobs of grief when reporting on infants and young children being separated from their parents at the United States-Mexico border, per The Washington Post.)

It’s pretty apparent to those who watch her show that Maddow has a big heart. Perhaps no one knows this better than her longtime partner, Susan Mikula. While the news anchor tends to keep a pretty tight lid on her personal life, she has recounted in numerous interviews that she knew Mikula was her end game from the moment they met. After being together for over 20 years, Maddow described Mikula as the “center of [her] universe” in an emotional segment of her show in November 2020 — but more on that below.

Keep reading for a comprehensive look inside Rachel Maddow’s relationship with Susan Mikula.

Who is Rachel Maddow's partner, Susan Mikula?

Rachel Maddow’s journalistic success has earned her an impressive net worth of $25 million, as of this writing. But the MSNBC host’s partner, Susan Mikula, is successful in her own right as an artist and photographer. 

Born in 1958 — making her 15 years Maddow’s senior — Mikula grew up in New Jersey (and New Hampshire) in a family who nurtured her love for photography from a young age. Her sister became a professional medical photographer, and Mikula told the Provincetown Banner that photography is a “time-honored” tradition in the family and “a big part of who we are.” The outlet wrote that Mikula took “courses in color theory at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts,” but never received professional training in photography — a fact that makes her work even more impressive. According to New England Home magazine, she has also worked as an accountant.

Mikula is best known for her photography, and while she uses both old and new cameras and film, her “medium of choice is badly expired [Polaroid] film.” Her artistic methods give her pictures a blurred, hauntingly beautiful quality. As Mikula’s online bio states, “Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles, and Northampton and Provincetown Massachusetts,” as well as “in private collections in the United States and Europe.”

The couple's meet-cute sounds like it came from a television show

Rachel Maddow graduated from Stanford University, worked as an HIV/AIDS activist, received a Rhodes Scholarship, and earned a doctorate in political science from Oxford. But this highly-educated pundit was never an out-of-touch bourgeois. In fact, Maddow revealed to The Guardian that she worked numerous odd jobs during her university years to make money: “I was a waitress, bike messenger, bucket washer at a coffee bean factory, yard help, landscaping laborer, handyman.” 

Maddow’s hard work paid off when she accepted a gig that would change the course of her life. For her part, when Susan Mikula hired an unknown handywoman to help with some yard work, the photographer probably wasn’t expecting to find true love. But that’s just what happened one fine day in 1999 (cue a swell of rom-com music). “I drove out there, she answered the door, and it was love at first sight,” Maddow told the outlet. The news host also joked to People that the encounter was “very Desperate Housewives.” 

Meeting Mikula also marked a significant first in Maddow’s life: her first monogamous relationship. It seems as though Maddow and Mikula were both casually dating other people when they met, but soon realized they only had eyes for each other. “I had never had a monogamous relationship. I had never wanted to. But this was different,” Maddow mused. “We both had to extricate ourselves from other things. Fortunately it was mutual.”

Susan Mikula took Rachel Maddow to an NRA event for their first date

Rachel Maddow is a staunch advocate for stricter gun control measures, but once admitted to CBS Sunday Morning that shooting ranges are just plain “fun.” In fact, her first date with Susan Mikula took place at an event sponsored by the NRA called “Ladies Day on the Range,” which Maddow later quipped on her show was “as close as [she has] ever gotten to the NRA” (via HUFFPOST). So, how did they both fare at the range? “Susan has the hand-eye coordination,” Maddow told Rolling Stone. “But I can’t control my movements.” In addition to shooting, the pair had the chance to practice their archery and tomahawk throwing skills.

The unconventional first date led to another unconventional (and slightly creepy) outing when Maddow and Mikula decided to go for a walk in a graveyard later that same evening. Hmm, seems like these two were really trying to avoid the banality of the classic coffee or dinner date. Per Rolling Stone, “At a moment of nearly transcendent silence and beauty, while they were looking serenely at 19th-century gravestones, Maddow took a gigantic pratfall. Mikula says that was the moment when she fell in love with Maddow.” 

For this unique pair, firearms + headstones = love. How many couples can say the same?

Rachel Maddow and Susan Mikula call both Massachusetts and New York home

City life and country life — Rachel Maddow and Susan Mikula have the best of both worlds. The couple resides in New York City during the week, when Maddow films her show at the NBC Studios in Rockefeller Plaza. On weekends, they retreat to their pre-Civil War era farmhouse in rural Massachusetts (and yes, it’s the very same one featured in their meet-cute story).

For a decade the couple lived in a two-bedroom, 1.5-bath apartment in Manhattan’s trendy, charming, and very expensive West Village. Maddow and Mikula bought the apartment from REM’s Michael Stipe for $1.25 million, but when they listed the property for $2.35 million in October 2020 (via the New York Post), the public had the opportunity to see pictures of the modern-meets-rustic apartment on Realtor.com.

Gorgeous Manhattan apartments are nice, sure — but Maddow and Mikula’s Massachusetts home is where things get really interesting. The historic farmhouse, which sits on several acres, was the couple’s dream home except for one issue: Maddow told New York magazine that the bathroom was only accessible by climbing a “very steep staircase” she referred to as “a vertical challenge.” In order to maintain the home’s historical integrity, they hired an architect to design a separate bathhouse that included a lounge area, hot tub, fireplace, and entertainment center. Having to walk outside and down the lane to use the restroom sounds inconvenient, but this may be the only outhouse in America that’s worth braving the rain and snow.

How Susan Mikula helps Rachel Maddow battle depression

Viewers love Rachel Maddow for her goofy, self-deprecating humor and infectious smile. The political commentator genuinely seems to love her work and makes her televised segments fun whenever possible. But sadly, we also know that Maddow doesn’t always feel so carefree and bubbly. The TV host has been very public about her mental health battle with “cyclical depression,” which she revealed to NPR began around puberty. 

While Maddow’s depression comes and goes, it still affects her ability to function at times. In Lisa Rogak’s 2020 biography on Maddow, the pundit is quoted as saying (via Page Six), “One of my manifestations of depression for me is that I lose my will and my ability to focus. It’s like somebody hits the mute button. It’s very lonely and it can be alienating.”

Luckily, Maddow has partner Susan Mikula to help her cope. “The time when it’s hardest is when I have forgotten that this happens to me, and so I don’t know what it is, and she will say, ‘you are depressed,'” Maddow told CBS Sunday Morning. “And just being able to identify it, and then knowing that it’s not gonna be forever and that it will pass and that it will ease at some point helps.” In 2019, the MSNBC anchor revealed on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast that Mikula also urges Maddow to take care of herself by exercising and sleeping during these episodes.

How the couple complements and balances each other

Rachel Maddow and Susan Mikula are both intelligent, accomplished women with self-admitted weaknesses for binge-watching television, which the artist jokingly called “the TV Disease” while speaking with People. But in their downtime, the couple eschews TV for a more active lifestyle. 

In an interview with InStyle, Maddow described her perfect day: “We walk the dog, she goes for a 25-mile bike ride, I go fishing, and I actually catch a fish.” (The Rachel Maddow Show‘s Instagram account shows just that.) Maddow didn’t get into more specifics about what she and Mikula have in common, but it seems obvious that the two share similar values and goals (as one would imagine any loving, longtime couple would). While they used to have bad cooking in common, Maddow asserted to People (via HUFFPOST) that Mikula had been honing her culinary skills for years and was “an avid home chef.” However, Maddow prefers to play mixologist and often provides their dinners with the perfect drinks. Other differences between the couple? Maddow likes to sleep in, while Mikula is an early riser, and Mikula cares more about fashion and makeup than her partner (per InStyle).

The opposites certainly attract in this relationship. As the Provincetown Banner once paraphrased Mikula’s sentiments on the matter, their romance “works because their differences balance one another.”

Susan Mikula helped Rachel Maddow choose her signature on-camera look

As she has stated many times, fashion is simply not an important aspect of Rachel Maddow’s life. She has described herself as a geeky, androgynous individual who “was never going to compete on the pretty-girl-on-cable front” — and proudly never wanted to (via Glamour). Maddow even admitted to New York magazine that her off-camera look is akin to that of “a 14-year-old boy.”

When it came time to make a decision about her on-air wardrobe, Maddow wanted to wear something simple and reserved, so the audience would focus solely on what she was saying and not on her outfit — so she enlisted partner Susan Mikula’s help. “At some point, we figured out that you could wear suits and they could be gray, or gray, or brown or black or gray,” Mikula jokingly shared with New York magazine. Maddow is now famous for her no-nonsense, dark blazer uniform (and yes, gray is her particular favorite).

That said, Mikula wasn’t quite so supportive of Maddow’s anti-makeup stance. She eventually convinced her partner to wear makeup on-air, and even joked to the outlet that Maddow “looked like a dead person” without it. Harsh? Perhaps a little. But we love that this couple is so open and honest with each other. Besides, who wouldn’t look like a reanimated corpse on TV with zero makeup?

Does Rachel Maddow have any plans to put a ring on it?

Rachel Maddow and Susan Mikula been together for over two decades, but they don’t necessarily feel the need to prove their love with a piece of paper. While she fully supports same-sex marriage for those who wish to tie the knot, Maddow explained her personal view on the topic to The Hollywood Reporter back in 2011: “I feel that gay people not being able to get married for generations, forever, meant that we came up with alternative ways of recognizing relationships. And I worry that if everybody has access to the same institutions that we lose the creativity of subcultures having to make it on their own. And I like gay culture.”

However, interviewers still ask why the MSNBC host and Mikula haven’t made their union official from a legal standpoint, which we can only imagine might make a relatively private celeb like Maddow feel quite exasperated. Not long after same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide in the United States, for example, she told CBS Sunday Morning (in a tone we speculate may have sounded somewhat clipped), “It’s private … there’s a lot about my relationship with Susan that we just keep to ourselves.” She added, “I have a strong feeling on equal rights. I’m an unabashed advocate that people in this country should have equal access to the rights and privileges of citizenship. But in terms of what that means for my own relationship — eh, that’s my own relationship.” That’s fair enough.

Rachel Maddow revealed that Susan Mikula almost died from COVID-19

In November 2020, Rachel Maddow tweeted out that she would be taking a break from The Rachel Maddow show to quarantine after a “close contact” had contracted coronavirus. When she returned to work weeks later, Maddow filmed from her home instead of her NBC studio, and disclosed some shocking news to her viewers: her partner, Susan Mikula, was the person who had tested positive for COVID-19.

While Maddow began the segment by cracking jokes about her haggard appearance, her words soon took a somber turn, and her grief was palpable when she described their harrowing experience in the hope that their story would help others. “Susan really is the center of my universe … I’m one of the lucky people on this Earth who has a life like that,” Maddow began, before revealing Mikula’s COVID-19 battle. She added, “At one point we really thought that there was a possibility that it might kill her.” 

Maddow was forced to separate from her partner and remain in quarantine alone, while Mikula became dangerously ill and Maddow cared for her from afar. Thankfully, the photographer recovered, but Maddow went on to urge her viewers to take COVID-19 seriously and to think about their loved ones before engaging in any activities that could potentially expose them to the virus.

The sweetest things Rachel Maddow has said about her longtime love

Rachel Maddow is a respected, Emmy Award-winning, multi-millionaire TV journalist who’s endeared herself to viewers for years. But during a 2008 interview with The Nation — the same year The Rachel Maddow Show launched — she called her longtime romance with Susan Mikula her “proudest accomplishment.” (Cue a chorus of awws.) 

Since then, Maddow has unabashedly gushed about her partner in interviews, and just in case you weren’t convinced that these two are total #RelationshipGoals, we’ve compiled the sweetest quotes that the MSNBC host has said about her one true love in more recent years. (WARNING: The following may trigger feelings of envy and could result in the reader picking a fight with his/her/their not-so-romantic partner.) 

“I have a great life — a great job, the world’s greatest relationship, an awesome dog,” Maddow told InStyle in 2019. The following year, Lisa Rogak’s biography on Maddow quoted her as saying, “My family really likes Susan, and I think Susan’s family likes me, [but then] Susan is more loveable than I am.” And while opening up about Mikula’s COVID-19 battle in November 2020, Maddow said, “Susan and I have been together for more than 21 years. It was love at first sight. That has never waned.” Calling the artist “the organizing principle of my life,” she added, “My relationship with Susan is the only thing, at the end of the day, that I would kill or die for without hesitation.”

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