There were many tears across the country on January 20th, 2021—the day that the first African American, South Asian woman was sworn in as Vice President of the United States.
Kamala Harris exploded onto the national political scene in the past few years. First, it was the former District Attorney of San Francisco and California Attorney General’s campaign for and election to the United States Senate. Then, Harris sought the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination—which, as we all now know, Biden eventually won. Finally, she was selected by Biden as his running mate, helped him to a presidential victory, and began her role as Vice President.
But beyond these facts, many of us know very little about our new Veep. Harris has had an interesting and impressive life, to say the least. And as one of the most powerful women in the world, it’s well worth getting to know this important and influential leader better.
Time’s “Most Influential People”
Although a good number of us are aware that Harris and Biden were jointly named Time Person of the Year in 2020, what we might not remember is that Harris was on Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list in 2013. Nancy Pelosi authored the description of Harris for Time and referenced Harris’ dedication to civil rights and justice, her protection of immigrant rights and consumer privacy, and her role in challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8 (California’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban Initiative).
She Met Her Husband on a Blind Date
Most of us are already familiar with how adorable and loving Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff are. He’s been extremely supportive of Harris and her new role as vice president—and she’s been clear about how important he and his kids are to her.
But what you might not know is that Harris and Emhoff’s love story started out with a blind date. According to Vanity Fair, Chrisette Hudlin, one of Harris’s closest friends, met Emhoff at a business meeting. She thought he might be a good fit for Harris and decided to pass her number along to Emhoff. Some texting, a voicemail, and a phone conversation later, they had their first date. The next morning, Emhoff made his interest clear in an email, simply stating, “I’m too old to play games or hide the ball. I really like you, and I want to see if we can make this work.”
It was a charming and romantic start to what is now one of the country’s favorite couples.
Kamala Was a Member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at Howard University
Harris graduated from historically black Howard University in Washington DC in 1986, with a Bachelor’s in Economics and Political Science. She went on to get her Juris Doctor from the University of California Hastings College of Law and earned her JD in 1989.
During her time at Howard, Harris was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. It’s a proud chapter in Harris’ history, and one she frequently brings up fondly. The VP has shown nothing but loyalty to AKA, and they’ve done the same right back. AKA declared January 20th “Kamala Harris Day” and wore pink and pearls to honor the occasion.
“Kamala” Is a Sanskrit Word
Kamala Devi Harris’ mother was Shyamala Gopana, who was born in India and moved to the US in 1958 at the age of 19. As an Indian American woman, Gopana decided to give her daughter a Sanskrit name. Kamala means “lotus” in Sanskrit.
Gopana had a career as a cancer researcher. Her husband, (Kamala’s father) Donald Harris was an economist from Jamaica. According to Politico, “Her parents met at UC Berkeley while pursuing graduate degrees, and bonded over a shared passion for the civil rights movement, which was active on campus. After she was born, they took young Kamala along to protests in a stroller.”
Kamala Loves to Cook
Harris has been cooking since she was a kid. She learned to cook from her mother and grandmother, and learned lots of Indian and American cooking along the way.
In November 2019, while trying to cinch the Democratic presidential nomination, Harris teamed up with Indian-American actress and comedian Mindy Kaling in the kitchen. Kaling and Harris got together at Kaling’s house to cook masala dosa and chat about their shared Indian heritage. Harris showed off her cooking chops and made it clear to all watching that she’s quite a multi-talented woman.
As District Attorney, She Focused on Sex Crimes
Kamala Harris has had quite the career. After working in a variety of positions from 1990 to 2004, Harris was elected as District Attorney of San Francisco and ended up staying in that role until 2011. She then served as Attorney General of California from 2011 to 2017, until she was elected to the United States Senate, where she served for four years until former Vice President Joe Biden selected her as his running mate.
According to SFWeekly, “As a private attorney, Harris specialized in domestic violence and youth sexual abuse cases, including those involving teenage prostitutes.” Harris took it upon herself to advocate and stand up for women, children, and even sex workers. As a DA, she emphasized sex worker safety over criminalization.
She Wrote Three Books
What most folks aren’t aware of is that, on top of being a former DA, former Senator, current Vice President, stepmom, and excellent cook, Harris is also an author. She wrote Smart on Crime a non-fiction book published in 2010; Superheroes Are Everywhere, a children’s book published in 2019; and The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, a memoir also published in 2019.
She’s “Momala” to Her Step-Children
When Harris met and married Emhoff, he already had two children from a previous marriage. But Harris quickly developed a relationship with his kids, Cole and Ella. After some time, Cole and Ella decided that they weren’t fans of the term “stepmom” and came up with the name “Momala” instead. And that’s what they’ve called her ever since.