By Emily Goodin - 07/17/13 12:01 AM EDT
Audra Ozols Gannon has a unique claim to fame: She was rated No. 1 on The Hill’s very first 50 Most Beautiful List. [WATCH VIDEO]
Gannon recalls reacting with shock and disbelief to the news.
She was new to Capitol Hill and working for then-Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.).
“I was 22 years old. I think I had only had two paychecks at that point.”
It was 2004 when that first list appeared and caused a clamor on Capitol Hill. In honor of the list’s 10th anniversary, The Hill is looking back at how it all started.
Like all new ventures, no one quite knew what to expect, including the lists’ creators and the people approached about being on it.
The final result was a culmination of hard work, shoe leather, time and patience.
The list was the brainchild of Betsy Rothstein, then-Capital Living editor of the paper.
She got the idea from a source — a person she still won’t name.
“I don’t want to give away who it is. I’ve never told anyone. There have been guesses, but I don’t think anyone has gotten it right,” Rothstein, now the editor of FishbowlDC, said.
Putting that first list together had dual problems: the challenge of convincing people to pose for a beauty list and addressing concerns about how it would be received in the serious, staid environment of Capitol Hill.
Rothstein remembers thinking: “If it’s a big failure, we’ll never do it again.”
It turned out to be a big hit.
“There was just sort of an explosion, which was nice for me, gratifying that it worked. Because I had no idea how it was going to play,” she said.
And while those first-year nominees were hesitant, there were plenty of willing people in the aftermath.
“There were a lot of people who were hesitant,” recalled Patrick Ryan, who was the photographer on the first list.
But the change between year one and year two was “night and day,” he said.
“The second year we did it, people were actually running campaigns to get on it.”
He added: “It was staggering how much people wanted to be on it.”
Gannon said she had no idea what the list was when she was told she was nominated.
“My immediate reaction was, was this a joke that my colleagues were playing on me?”
But she was game for posing, calling it a positive experience that she would do again.
Gannon’s profile from the 2004 list noted she was a former professional ballerina who enjoys fly-fishing. Now she’s a stay-at-home mom to twin daughters.
“My husband and I welcomed identical twin girls last year. They’re wonderful. They’re 15 months — Scarlett and Estella.”
Joining Gannon on the list that year was then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), clocking in at No. 2.
Not all of the other lawmakers on that year’s list remain in Congress: then-Reps. Mary Bono (R-Calif.), Harold Ford (D-Tenn.), Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), Chris Chocola (R-Ind.) and Stephanie Herseth (D-S.D.), along with then Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) have moved on.
But Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), then a member of the House, was on that first list. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) was also on it, as was Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.). Both remain in Congress.
Rothstein said putting the list together got easier every year, although some people still took some convincing to be photographed.
And there was a gender gap.
“It was always tougher finding beautiful men on Capitol Hill than women. But we managed to find some,” she noted.
There were also some unorthodox methods in those early days, including standing in the hallways of the office buildings and waiting for someone beautiful to walk by.
“If they did, we’d stop them and ask to take their picture. We’d literally chase people down the hallway,” she recalled.
Ten years later the list has expanded from those early roots. This year, submissions through Twitter brought in a flood of nominations, and executive branch employees are eligible for the first time. The one constant: The list remains a favorite summer treat.
The 2013 edition of The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful List will be out at the end of July.