It will be a history-making moment when Kamala Harris takes the oath as vice president on Jan. 20. She’ll be the first woman, and Black and Indian American woman, to hold the title. It’s not her only first, however; the wife of Doug Emhoff and step-mother of Cole and Ella was also the first Black and Indian American woman to be elected as California attorney general, and the first to represent the Golden State in the Senate. Indeed, she’s paving the way for other young women to follow in her footsteps—though she already knows her way around DC.
Harris grew up in Oakland, California, and later graduated from Howard University in 1986, where she was a member of the debate team and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. (In a news release following her VP victory, President Wayne A.I. Frederick said, “Sen. Kamala Harris has swung her Howard hammer and shattered the proverbial glass ceiling into pieces that will not be put back together.”) After being elected to the Senate in 2017, she paid a reported $1.77 million for a 1,700-square-foot pad in the Westlight complex in the West End. (The glass-encased complex’s perks include a living wall, a heated rooftop pool and a 24-hour concierge.) The two-bedroom spot is in a prime location—walkable to Georgetown (and over the Key Bridge to Rosslyn) and Dupont Circle and just under a mile to the White House.
While she’s likely less familiar with the NoVA region than the Bidens, she has a local fan base, including the aforementioned McGrew, who first met Harris when she was running for attorney general. “She was so open to questions, very personable and obviously super-smart,” says McGrew. “I am absolutely thrilled that she will be our new vice president. Not only because she’s qualified, but [also] because it shows Black women and women of color can do anything.” It’s a sentiment echoed by other Black women in business, such as Arlington-based Hermon Berhane, the Ethiopian founder of HB Fiori floral service and mother of two mixed-race boys. “To have Kamala, a mixed-race daughter of immigrants, as the vice president is monumental because it validates the hard work and thoughtfulness that women of color provide in our communities by proving it can finally be recognized and respected,” she says. “It’s a huge boost of confidence that my own mixed-race children of an immigrant will grow up in a more equitable world, with role models who share their story.”
This story originally appeared in the January issue as part of a special Inauguration feature. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.