Those close to Sarah Palin as she was growing up remember her as quiet and reserved—“almost a wallflower type,” said one friend, a far cry from the tough, outspoken campaigner she has become. “I don’t think Sarah ever wanted to lead,” notes a college buddy. But somewhere between high school basketball, beauty pageants, a sportscasting job, and the Wasilla City Council, something changed, the New York Times reports in a profile.
Her years on the basketball court were “a life-changing experience for me,” requiring discipline and goal-setting, Palin has said. In performing at beauty pageants for tuition money, the “shy” young woman seemed to realize, “Hey, I can do this, and maybe I can do even better,” said a fellow contestant. Eventually she was invited to run for a city council seeking a youthful edge, thus beginning her career in politics.