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My next guest on “Renaissance Man” is the de facto first lady of Miami, and the reigning reina de Magic City, if you will. So I was curious what political commentator and strategist Ana Navarro thought about the influx of Tri-Staters to her hometown.
“My God, there are so many New Yorkers here, I feel like I might finally be able to find a decent bagel,” she told me. However, she doesn’t know if they’ll be packing their bags and their superior bread products once they get their first hurricane alert.
“I want to see if they’re still here once Broadway reopens and things get a little bit more normal,” she said.
But if they’ve had a chance to brush shoulders with Ana, they might never leave South Florida. I first met her in Miami only a few months ago. We were shooting in adjacent studios, and we started talking. I had always admired her work, but I became an even bigger fan after I found out that we had two good friends in common: my idol Isiah Thomas and Luther Campbell. We bonded immediately. However, in her version, she was only concerned with my outfit.
“Well, are we going to tell them what you were wearing when we met?” she asked me. “You were in a robe and a straw hat and flip-flops … by the way, this was not a bedroom. This is not Charlie Rose. This is not Harvey Weinstein. He was actually broadcasting his show.”
The truth is: My mother had just passed away, and I flew to Miami to heal and reflect on life. I was caught in a moment: a Versace robe and straw hat kind of moment.
I learned very quickly that Ana is a extremely witty and has a Ph.D. in busting chops. Those are two skills that come in handy as a regular guest host of “The View.”
Born in Nicaragua, her family fled a communist regime, landing in the melting pot of South Florida, which is made up of Latino immigrants seeking a better life. She said her upbringing colored her career choice.
“I think when that happened so early on in life. You go one of two ways, either you want nothing to do with the politics or you realize how much politics matters, how much democracy matters, how much being engaged and informed and involved matters, and you don’t take it for granted. And so for me, it was the latter,” she said.
Ana backed Jeb Bush for governor in Florida and worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. She then became a familiar face on both network and cable news shows, but she realized she was working for free.
“I think it’s a lesson for us. Because so often people will you know, as long as people can get you to do things for free, they will,” she said. “And so I said, you have got to pay me. And to my shock they did.” Though it opened up a lot of new avenues for her, she takes pride in her journey. In fact, she does a lot of college speeches and is often asked how to get on TV.
“And I think too often people want the shortest route from point A to point B. And that invariably means you lose these amazing detours,” she said.
Detours provide grit, character and a well-rounded base of knowledge. She said she struggles with pop culture topics and some guests on “The View.”
“I got no idea who they are. And I have to go Google them and ask people how to pronounce their names. And I literally don’t know what they’ve been in,” she said. “And then the producers will go, you know, she’s the one that was in X, Y or Z movie. I haven’t seen X, Y or Z movie. I really haven’t started watching movies until this last year — stuck at home watching all sorts of things. So that part for me is hard and it stretches, it stretches kind of my comfort zone … There’s only so much I can come up with to say about Kim Kardashian.”
But there’s a caveat with the new billionaire.
“I have enormous respect for anybody who can turn an ass into an asset,” Navarro said.
She also cops to knowing absolutely nothing about sports. Once she had Isiah Thomas fill out her NCAA bracket.
“He’s a very good friend of mine. As I told you, he’s almost like a brother and his brackets sucked,” she said.
I promised to do her brackets next time, so long as she became my personal Zagat guide for Miami dining. She loves Joe’s for stone crabs and Basque restaurant Leku. Her Miami hall of famers include Alonzo Mourning and Gloria Estefan.
Ana is the embodiment of the flashy Florida lifestyle. She said she loves her Maserati, but her most expensive purchase that she does not regret is her husband, lawyer Al Cardenas. “That dude is a diva. That man ain’t cheap,” she said, adding that his closet is stacked like he’s Pat Riley.
I can’t blame the man. Hell, I walked around Miami in a Versace robe. There’s something about the city that brings out the spice. Speaking of spice, Ana promised to help me improve me in the kitchen. I don’t want to dismiss my cooking skills. I can make ribs, fish and chicken. But like some ballplayers have a weak side, I have weak sides. I simply can’t make them.
To remedy that, I’m thinking an Instagram cooking show called “Latina Rose,” where she teaches me how to make a series of sizzling sides while she cracks jokes at my expense. It will be a win-win.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.