Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt’s Picture-Perfect Life

LOS ANGELES — Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt has no complaints.

If you ask the oldest daughter of Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger about her life, she will tell you that her childhood was lovely, her career is fulfilling, her husband, the actor Chris Pratt, is “rock solid” and that she has “great parents, great siblings, amazing friends.” She always wanted to be a mother, and now she has two perfect daughters. Even the paparazzi that track her and Mr. Pratt at coffee shops and the farmer’s market do not bother her so much.

“I feel like I was very prepared,” she said recently of stepping further into the spotlight via her marriage to the Marvel star.

Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt, 33, was reflecting on her current stage in life one recent January morning while sitting on a picnic bench in Will Rogers State Historic Park. It was chilly in Los Angeles, and she was wearing a black parka, high-waisted jeans, and a simple pavé diamond band on her ring finger. She answered questions in a focused, practiced manner, as if she was giving a school presentation. Occasionally, she adjusted and readjusted the sparkly silver butterfly-shaped claw clip in her medium-length dark hair.

The park is just a short hike from her family’s old home in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood, where Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt lived with her parents, her sister, Christina, and her two brothers, Patrick and Christopher, until right around the time her father became Governor of California. The Schwarzeneggers used to walk to the park on weekends to ride horses and hang out.

Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt and Mr. Pratt have made their own home together in the Palisades, and they bring their children to the park whenever Mr. Pratt isn’t off filming another blockbuster. (The couple are parents to Lyla, 2, and Eloise, 8 months, as well as Jack, 10, Mr. Pratt’s son from his first marriage to the actress Anna Faris.) Mr. Pratt likes to identify the different plant species in the park, Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt said, pointing out the pepper trees surrounding the picnic benches. “I only know that because my husband is a tree person,” she said.

These days, Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt said, she spends most days caring for her daughters and dashing in and out of her home office to work on different media projects. When she finds something she is passionate about, she often writes a book about it. Her latest passion is sisterhood, and she has explored it in an illustrated children’s book titled “Goodnight, Sister,” out Feb. 7.

When Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt started writing the book two years ago, she modeled the characters after herself and her younger sister, Christina, she said. But she had another idea in the back of her mind, too: “I started writing the book right after I had Lyla, and I was like, ‘Oh, this would be so cute if one day she had a sister.’”

Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt learned how to cope with fame growing up as the child of Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger.Credit…Kevin Winter/Getty Images

She finished the text, and lo and behold, she found out she was pregnant with her second daughter. She gave birth to Eloise last May, and now when she travels to New York to promote the book’s release, she plans on bringing both girls with her.

In many ways, Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt has created a version of her own childhood for her daughters. She has built a career as an author and media personality, like her mother, and she married a famous actor, like her father. She lives minutes from where she grew up and regularly visits both parents, who separated in 2011 and finalized their divorce in 2021. Ms. Shriver hosts a weekly mommy-and-me class for Lyla and her friends, and Mr. Schwarzenegger keeps a miniature pony in his backyard that the girls love to pet.

Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt said she would not change anything about her childhood. “I know this sounds crazy, but I really would love to just do exactly what they did,” she said of her parents. “I look back on how much of life my parents kept private, and I have a lot of respect for it. I think they kept a lot of their relationship private, they kept us kids private — you know, they didn’t take us to red carpets, they didn’t have us parading around in front of everybody.”

Now What?

Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt may have had a relatively private childhood, but once she got to college, she wasted no time starting a public-facing career. She landed her first book deal at the age of 19, when she was a sophomore at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. That book, “Rock What You’ve Got: Secrets to Loving Your Inner and Outer Beauty from Someone Who’s Been There and Back,” was inspired by a summer she spent interning at a P.R. company that handled Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign. It became a New York Times best seller, and Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt went on to publish two more nonfiction books for adults — “I Just Graduated, Now What?” in 2014 and “The Gift of Forgiveness” in 2020 — as well as a children’s book, “Maverick & Me,” inspired by her rescue dog, in 2017.

A few months after Lyla was born, she also began hosting a weekly interview series on Instagram, where she has one million followers. On the show, called “B.D.A. Baby” — that’s “before, during and after baby” — she talks to other celebrities and experts about pregnancy and parenting, tackling questions that have come up in her own life. “Like, ‘OK, I’m introducing solids, like how are we doing that?” she said. “Or I’m pregnant again, what’s that going to be like?’”

Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt tends to pick projects based on whatever she is going through at the time, she said. She wrote“I Just Graduated, Now What?”for example, when she was trying to figure out what to do with her career after graduation. Her work is personal, then, but not particularly revealing. On “B.D.A. Baby,” she lets her guests do most of the sharing, and in her books, she avoids making any disclosures that could end up in the tabloids. She mentions her parents’ divorce only once, obliquely, in “I Just Graduated,” noting that she moved in with her mother after college to be closer to her after the separation.

Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt’s books are personal but not very revealing.Credit…Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt says she turns to her mother for all manner of life advice.Credit…Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt said she still called her mother several times a day for advice on life matters like parenting to writing. “Sometimes people don’t realize how methodically she’s gone about building her career,” Ms. Shriver said in a phone interview.

“She’s hyper-organized,” Ms. Shriver added. “I thought I was organized, and she’s labeled me out of the game.” (Last year, Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt and Mr. Pratt appeared on an episode of “Get Organized with the Home Edit,” in which Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt fulfilled her dream of labeling every item in the couple’s garage.)

With every new project her daughter has taken on, Ms. Shriver has advised her to work hard and ignore the noise that comes with being a child of famous people. “I tell her all the time that when I started out in the news business, everybody thought, ‘Oh my god, you’ll never survive. You’re only here because of your name.’ And 40-some years later, I’m still working, and nobody I started out with is still there, practically,” she said, laughing. “The work, at the end of the day, will be what people remember.”

‘It’s Not For Me’

Though Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt grew up with a famous last name, she started dealing with a new level of tabloid attention when she got together with Mr. Pratt in 2018. Paparazzi showed up to their picnic dates, and suddenly interviewers were asking Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt about her personal life. Before Mr. Pratt, “I wasn’t getting questions about my love life or who I was dating or anything like that,” she said.

She said she liked to keep most aspects of their relationship private but shared that the two met in church. Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt is Catholic — she is the granddaughter of a Kennedy, after all. Mr. Pratt, she said, was baptized Catholic but grew up going to other Christian churches. The two eventually crossed paths at Zoe Church, one of the hip evangelical churches in Los Angeles frequented by Justin Bieber.

Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt and Mr. Pratt met at a church in Los Angeles. Aside from this detail, she keeps their life together relatively private.Credit…Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt had been going to Zoe with her brother Patrick, an actor, who was friendly with the pastor, Chad Veach. Though they have Zoe to thank for their connection, they returned to the church where Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt was baptized, St. Monica Catholic Church, in Santa Monica, Calif., to baptize their daughters.

The couple married in Montecito in 2019, and Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt insists that their daily life is not particularly glamorous. “If you would ask anybody how I was at home, they’d be like, ‘She walks around with her hair in a banana clip and a box of crackers with one of the children on her hip’,” she said. Eating too many crackers, she said, is “a constant thing that my husband is always making fun of me for. I should have bought stock in Mary’s Gone Crackers.”

But occasionally the Pratts have had to deal with some of the downsides of fame. In 2020, social media users declared Mr. Pratt the worst of all of the men named Chris in Hollywood in an unofficial poll, prompting Ms. Schwarzenegger to comment on an Instagram post discussing the results. ( “Being mean is so yesterday.”) The following year, Mr. Pratt caught some backlash for an Instagram post praising Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt. Among other things, Mr. Pratt thanked Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt for giving birth to their “healthy daughter,” which some commenters read as a dig at Mr. Pratt’s first wife, Ms. Faris (their son, Jack, was born prematurely). Mr. Pratt told Men’s Health last year that the response made him cry.

Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt said that she tried to resist the urge to respond to negative comments. “Growing up, hearing people say certain things about my parents, my siblings, my extended family” was difficult, she said. Her mother cautioned her to avoid the “never-ending” trap of correcting the record, however.

There are some downsides to fame, but Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt maintains that she lives a charmed life.Credit…Maiwenn Raoult for The New York Times

“I see what people say,” she added. “But I just know that it’s so far from the reality.”

Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt handles these kinds of intrusions so gracefully, it raises the question: Would she ever get into politics?

“No,” she answered firmly, laughing. “It’s really hard, it’s a lot of work, and I think if you grew up in it, you either see it and say, ‘Oh that’s something that I want to do,’ or you look at it and say, ‘I have respect for it, but it’s not for me.’ And I have respect for it, but it’s not for me.”

And if Mr. Pratt were to run for office?

“I mean, I think I would probably have to tackle that when and if that ever happened,” she said. “I’ve just learned so much from my experience having my dad and my mom be in that, that I wouldreally want to talk about that.”

So that is one way in which Ms. Schwarzenegger Pratt hopes her life deviates from that of her parents. But as for the rest of it, she maintains that it’s all working out perfectly. “I want to be like how my parents always raised us,” she said, “to work really hard and to be really good people and to leave the world a better place.”

She admired the pepper trees one last time and hopped in her Range Rover to go to mommy-and-me class at Ms. Shriver’s.

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