Jonna Mendez Q&A
YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED A GREAT DEAL OF SUCCESS IN YOUR LIFE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT, AND WHY?
Success – I am just like every other woman. Raising my son is probably the most profound experience of my life. I was an older mother, waited a long time to have a baby, and it was life-changing. In fact, I left the CIA early in order to participate full-time in his upbringing.
LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS SMOOTH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT A SETBACK OR TRAGEDY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED, HOW YOU DEALT WITH IT, AND THE IMPACT IT HAS HAD ON YOU?
Losing my older sister was almost the most difficult life experience. Jennifer was 15 months older than me, and we were close. Even though she lived in Aspen for many years, and I was on the other side of the world, we were always close. She died of a brain tumor. The experience gave meaning to the “carpe diem” meme. Losing my husband in January was the most difficult. I am still unable to talk about it.
DO YOU SET ASIDE “ME-TIME” IN YOUR CALENDAR, AND WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME TO RELAX?
When I have free time, I read, write, walk extensively, and listen to music. If there is a bloc of time off, I like to travel with my cameras. Since my husband, Tony Mendez, passed, I am looking forward to getting back to photography.
WHAT’S THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE YOU’VE DISCOVERED WHERE YOU CAN GO TO CHILL OUT?
Bangkok has always been a magical place to me. We lived there previously and have gone back multiple times. We know a very small hotel that was formerly a royal palace, built by one of the old King’s sons, and it sits like a hidden garden, inside of a walled compound, on the shores of the Chao Phya River. It was built to be a hide-away. It is in the middle of Bangkok and almost nobody knows that it is there.
DOES PHILANTHROPY PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR LIFE, TO WHAT EXTENT AND HOW?
We made an amazing discovery after the publication of the book Argo, and the movie of the same name, that we could raise money for multiple charities simply by being in the room, perhaps giving a small talk, or endorsing a cause. We have given some charities paintings that Tony did to be auctioned off for charity. We have publicly supported causes dear to our hears, including the Michael J. Fox Foundation. We will continue doing this.
WHO IS ON THE GUEST LIST FOR YOUR IDEAL DINNER PARTY, PRESENT OR PAST?
My guest list for an ideal dinner party. Always changing, but right now it would include Katherine Graham, Thomas Friedman, Malcolm Gladwell, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Salmon Rushdie, Michael Lewis and Jane Goodall. Arranging the seating would be tricky. The conversations would be amazing.