From WTOP web site:
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Inside Condi's Private World
Updated: Thursday, Apr. 8, 2004 - 5:48 AM EST.

WASHINGTON - Condi Rice is a true Renaissance woman: a classical pianist, a fanatical football fan, and so fluent in Russian that she's read "War and Peace" in the language in which Tolstoy wrote it.

Twice.


But in many ways, the most powerful woman in the world - the most powerful black woman ever - remains a mystery to many in Washington.


She keeps her private life under wraps and lives by herself, although she isn't afraid to be seen out on the town.


"I love to shop. On a Sunday after 'Meet the Press,' don't be surprised if you see me at the mall," Rice, 49, once said. She has her hair done by a stylist in Silver Spring, Md., whom she met when she did a photo shoot.


She has a model's slim figure with a taste for deep jewel tones that show off her flawless skin. Always perfectly groomed, she rarely wears prints. She likes simple classical gold jewelry.


And even in her high-profile job she has faced the embarrassment of having a sales clerk in a fancy store show her costume jewelry instead of the real thing and mutter something like "black trash" when she asked to see the real gold.


"And so I said, 'Let's get one thing clear. If you could afford anything in here you wouldn't be behind this counter. So I strongly suggest you do your job,' " Rice recounted to Essence magazine.


"It's something that has probably happened to every black person at some point in time. You're not treated as if you are actually a customer. My view is, you just don't let that sort of thing go at all."


She's up by 5 a.m. every day, friends say, exercising on her treadmill at the Watergate apartments (yes, that Watergate) in front of the TV, where she likes to watch local news instead of cable news.


"Local news is how I know what people are really thinking," a friend quotes her as saying.


She cooks her own breakfast and is quickly off to the White House, where she's the first woman ever to serve as national security adviser.


She's a perfectionist, but "not a screamer," aides report. Mostly, she inspires enormous loyalty in her staff - with the notable exception of ex-terrorism aide Richard Clarke, who claims she knew nothing of al Qaeda until he told her. It's a claim she dismisses as ridiculous.


On weekends, she's a regular with President Bush and First Lady Laura at Camp David, but she also has her own quiet circle of friends.


She pooh-poohs talk that she'll someday run for office and insists her real ambition is to head the National Football League.


"Sports is a big element in my life. Football, hockey, basketball, sumo wrestling - anything with a score. I love the competition," she has said.


She once dreamed of being a pro ice skater.


So perhaps it's no surprise that she's been escorted to a few state dinners by Gene Washington, a handsome former All-Pro wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers who is now the NFL's director of operations. They've known each other for nearly 20 years, since she was provost at Stanford University and he was assistant athletic director. Friends insist that they are just good friends.


Her high-powered job is the latest in a long line of firsts for a woman of extraordinary discipline who was born in segregated Birmingham, Ala., and didn't go to school with white kids until she was a 10th-grader and her family moved to Denver.


She was an only child whose parents groomed her for greatness.


Her father, John, was a teacher and ordained minister, and her music-loving mother, Angelena, chose her unusual name from "con dolcezza," Italian for "with sweetness" as a direction for playing music, then modified it to Condoleezza.


She remembers the 1963 white segregationist firebombing of a Baptist church in her hometown just two weeks after Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech." She knew two of the four girls who were killed.


She first performed classic piano in public at age 4. She skipped both first and seventh grades, graduated from high school at 15 and from the University of Denver at 19.


At 38, she was Stanford provost - the No. 2 job - and she first worked at the National Security Council for Bush's father.


She dreamed of being a classical pianist, but decided she wasn't good enough and fell in love with politics.


In 2002, she played a duet with star cellist Yo-Yo Ma when he got a National Medal of the Arts.


It was Ma's idea.


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