From Miss America to Fox News host
© Lauren Aguirre

Fox News host and former Miss America Gretchen Carlson may appear to have a charmed life, but her success didn't come easily.

"Sometimes people look at television personalities, and they think, 'They've never had any struggles. Everything came easy.' And my life is far from that," Carlson said Tuesday at D.C.'s Politics and Prose at an event promoting her memoir, Getting Real.

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"I worked incredibly hard for every accomplishment and persevered," she added.

Carlson says one of the biggest struggles in her life has been her weight.

"I grew up a fat kid," she said. "I learned to build my self-esteem through the inside of my soul and through my music."

Carlson was a concert violinist until she turned 17, when she decided to quit. It was her parents who spurred her to compete in the Miss America pageant and showcase her violin talents. Carlson, who won the pageant in 1989, is the only Miss America, so far, to be a violin virtuoso.

In her professional career, she was part of a newscast anchored by two women. But once she got married, she was fired from her post.

"I was told that I would be fine now that I had a husband," Carlson said. "It was the toughest year of my life. I have great empathy for anyone who's ever lost their job or is still looking for a job."

Once she became a Fox News anchor, she joked that she hit the "bimbo trifecta."

"Miss America. Blonde. Fox News host," Carlson said. "I don't understand the belief that attractive women can't be smart."

Kira Kazantsev, Miss America 2015, also attended the event. Kazantsev, who will turn over her title in September, said she found inspiration from Carlson's career.

"She used Miss America, not just to become Miss America, but to become Gretchen Carlson," she said. "Her success shows that I have a wealth of opportunity ahead of me."