10 things to know about Karine Jean-Pierre, the first Black and openly gay US press secretary

Bruno Goes January 24, 2023
Photo by Michael Brochstein. Photo credit: Sipa USA

The role of the U.S. Press Secretary is an important one, as it serves as the main link between the President and the American people. Karine Jean-Pierre made history when she become the first Black, and openly gay person to hold this position in the United States.

Her journey to the White House has been nothing short of extraordinary, marked by her relentless dedication to public service and her unwavering commitment to breaking barriers. As the face of the Biden Administration’s communication efforts, Jean-Pierre is responsible for effectively conveying the President’s policies and initiatives to the public and the press. With her appointment, she not only solidified her name in history, but also became a beacon of hope and inspiration for future generations, encouraging them to dream big and strive for excellence in everything they do.

Here are 10 interesting facts about her life and journey that you may not know:

  1. She is a Haitian immigrant

She is an immigrant with a rich cultural background. She was born in Fort-de-France, Martinique to Haitian parents on August 13, 1977. As the eldest of three siblings, her family moved to Queens Village, New York when she was just five years old. Her parents, a home health aide and a taxi driver, instilled in her the importance of hard work and perseverance from a young age. Her Haitian heritage and immigrant experience have played a significant role in shaping her political views and worldview. She has always been an advocate for social justice, particularly for the rights of immigrants and people of color.

2. She has a diverse educational background

Jean-Pierre is a highly educated individual with a diverse educational background. She earned a B.S. from the New York Institute of Technology in 1997, and in 2003, she graduated with an M.P.A. from the School of Public and International Affairs at Columbia University. During her time at Columbia, she served in student government, which solidified her passion for politics and public service. Her education equipped her with the knowledge and skills to work in various roles in the public and private sectors, including her experience as a lecturer in international and public affairs at Columbia University. Her education also helped to shape her understanding of the intersectionality of issues such as race, gender, and socio-economic status, and how they impact policy-making and governance.

3. Worked in the White House under the Obama Administration

Jean-Pierre has a long and accomplished career in politics, campaigns and activism. She began her political journey working for the New York City Council in 2004, where she served as Director of Legislative and Budget Affairs. From there, she worked on several political campaigns, including the 2008 and 2012 Barack Obama presidential campaigns, where she held various leadership positions. She then served in the Obama Administration as a White House Liaison for the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor and Regional Political Director for the White House Office of Political Affairs.

Karine Jean-Pierre worked on President Barack Obama’s two victorious presidential campaigns.
Instagram / Karine Jean-Pierre

4. Has managed several successful political campaigns

After leaving the White House, she continued to work on political campaigns, including as Campaign Manager for Letitia James’ successful run for New York City Public Advocate in 2013. She also served as Senior Advisor and National Spokesperson for Moveon.org, and as Campaign Manager for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Initiative. Her experience in political campaigns and in the White House has given her a deep understanding of the inner workings of government and how to effectively communicate with the public.

5. Is openly gay

Jean-Pierre is an openly gay woman and has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights throughout her career. She has been a trailblazer in the political field, being the first openly gay woman to hold the position of White House Press Secretary. Her visibility as an openly gay woman in such a high-profile position has the potential to inspire other LGBTQ+ individuals to pursue their dreams and strive for leadership roles in government and other fields. She has also been open about her personal life; she is in a domestic partnership with journalist Suzanne Malveaux, and they have a daughter together.

6. Has been a frequent TV political commentator

Jean-Pierre has been a regular political commentator and analyst on news channels, particularly on MSNBC. She has been a frequent guest on various programs, where she has provided expert analysis on current political events and issues. Her appearances on these shows have given her a great deal of visibility and have helped to establish her as a respected voice in the political arena. Her experience as a political commentator and analyst has also helped her to develop strong communication skills, which is crucial in her role as Press Secretary. Her ability to communicate effectively and concisely has been demonstrated in her press briefings, where she has been able to provide clear and direct information to the press and the public.

7. She is a published author

Jean-Pierre is also an author. She released her autobiography “Moving Forward” in 2019, where she shares her own mental health struggles and outlines her non-traditional path to politics. In her book, she reflects on her upbringing in a Haitian immigrant community in New York City, her experiences working on political campaigns and in the White House, and the lessons she has learned along the way.

Pierre-Jean has been in a long-term relationship and shares a daughter with CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.
Photo credit: Instagram / Suzanne Malveaux

8. She is multilingual

Jean-Pierre is a multilingual individual. She is fluent in both English and French. Her fluency in French is a result of her upbringing in Martinique, where French is the official language. Her fluency in two languages has been an asset throughout her career, particularly in her current role as Press Secretary, where she has been able to communicate with both English-speaking and French-speaking journalists. She also speaks Creole, which is a language spoken by the majority of the Haitian community.

9. Has a strong background in community organizing and grassroots activism

Before her career in politics, she worked in several community organizations, including the New York City Council and Wal-Mart Watch, where she worked on issues such as environmental protection and labor rights. Her experience in community organizing has given her a deep understanding of the needs of marginalized communities and the importance of grassroots activism in effecting change. In her current role as Press Secretary, she has been able to use her background in community organizing to communicate the Biden Administration’s policies and initiatives to the public in a way that is accessible and relatable. She has also used her platform to highlight the importance of community engagement and grassroots activism in promoting social justice and equity.

10. She is a professor

JeanPierre joined the Columbia University faculty in 2014 where she teaches a course at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

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