Kamala Harris has broken ground as the first Black and first Asian-American woman to become Vice President. Her husband, Douglas Emhoff, has likewise made history as the nation’s first Second Gentleman—and he’s clearly taking the job seriously.
Later this month, Emhoff will make his first solo trip abroad on behalf of the US, leading a delegation to attend the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, according to the AP. The small delegation will comprise Emhoff himself and Raymond Greene, who is currently in charge of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo as they await the swearing-in of a new ambassador. The opening ceremony is scheduled for August 24, with the games running through early September.
Last month, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden represented the US at the Olympic opening ceremony. While in Japan, she also met with the Prime Minister and Emperor Naruhito; it’s not currently clear whether Emhoff will have political meet-ups while abroad as well.
Here, we take a look at Emhoff’s background and chart his consistent support for his wife’s political career.
He was an entertainment lawyer.
© David Livingston – Getty Images California senator Kamala Harris has been with her husband Douglas Emhoff since 2013.
Though he was born in Brooklyn, New York, California has arguably had the biggest impact on Emhoff’s life. He graduated from the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law, met and married his wife on the left coast, and it’s where he was formerly based as a partner at DLA Piper Law Firm.
Prior to the announcement of Harris as Biden’s VP pick, he was splitting his time between California and D.C., but after Harris officially became the Vice President-elect, a campaign aide confirmed to The Washington Post that he would be leaving the firm to focus on his role as the Vice President’s spouse.
According to DLA Piper’s profile of him, during his tenure at the firm Emhoff represented, “large domestic and international corporations and some of today’s highest profile individuals and influencers in complex business, real estate and intellectual property litigation disputes.”
One such dispute, according to The Hollywood Reporter, had Emhoff representing the ad agency TBWA in an early 2000s lawsuit over the rights to the chihuahua featured in Taco Bell’s “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” ads.
While he no longer works at the law firm (where he reportedly earned a significant portion of he and Harris’s reported $1.6 million income in 2020) he will be teaching one class per semester at Georgetown University. “I’ve long wanted to teach and serve the next generation of young lawyers,” Emhoff said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more excited to join the Georgetown community.”
He has two kids from a previous marriage.
In 1992, Emhoff married his first wife, Kerstin, who went on to co-found the production company Prettybird. Though they divorced 16 years later, they remain close—she even volunteered to help with Harris’s presidential bid.
Together, Emhoff and Kerstin have two children, Cole and Ella (named for John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald.) Cole is a graduate of Colorado College and Ella studies Fine Arts at Parsons School of Design.
Though the kids have largely been staying out of the political spotlight, both Emhoff and Harris (whom they reportedly refer to as “Mamala”) make time for their “almost a little too functional” blended family. In an interview with Glamour, Ella said that even amidst her busy campaign schedule, Harris would still take the time to leave voicemail messages to let her know that she was on Harris mind. “It’ll just be something sweet like, ‘Hi, I was just thinking about you, hope your day is good,’” she said.© Rob Carr – Getty Images Kamala Harris, Doug Emhoff, and his children Cole and Ella at the inauguration in 2021.
Both of the kids were in attendance at the inauguration ceremony in January, where Ella in particular stole the show with a stunning embellished coat.
He and Harris met on a blind date.
A few years after Emhoff’s divorce from his first wife, PR consultant Chrisette Hudlin set the two up while Harris was serving as California’s attorney general. “I was looking at him as more of a lawyer, but by the end of the meeting I was just liking him as a person,” Hudlin told Marie Claire. Emhoff mentioned meeting Harris briefly at an event, and Hudlin was charmed enough by his admiration of her friend that she set them up.
“The morning after our first date, @DouglasEmhoff emailed me a list of his available dates for the next couple of months: ‘I want to see if we can make this work.’ And we did,” Harris wrote in a tweet celebrating her husband’s birthday in 2020.
After a little over a year of dating, Emhoff proposed to her by getting down on one knee in Harris’s apartment.
They had a sweet, low-key wedding ceremony
Not a believer in long engagements, Harris and Emhoff held their ceremony around four months after their engagement at the Santa Barbara Courthouse, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
Harris wore a pale gold dress and a cellist played in the background while the couple exchanged vows they had written themselves. They honored one another’s cultural traditions with a flower garland placed around Emhoff’s neck, a common practice in Indian weddings, and the breaking of a glass at the end of the service to mark Emhoff’s Jewish heritage. The ceremony was presided over by Harris’s sister, Maya.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?
He is close with his family.
“Maybe our lives have changed a little bit, but we haven’t changed,” Emhoff said during an interview with his kids before the election. “It’s still the same conversations, the same bond, the same love, the same support that we’ve always had. I’m just so proud. And it makes me happy.”
He’s very supportive of Harris’s political career.
While some might find the life of a political spouse a little overwhelming, Emhoff fully embraced the experience when Harris started her presidential run, telling THR that the experience was “endlessly fascinating.” The majority of his social media posts afterward were in support of Harris’s campaign, and later for the Biden/Harris campaign—his twitter biography even described him as”@kamalaharris hubby.” (After Harris’s swearing in as the VP, Emhoff moved to a new twitter handle including the biography “Proud husband to @VP Kamala Harris.”)
Once Harris accepted her position as Biden’s running mate, Emhoff continued his unflagging support at virtual and socially distanced in-person events as well as on his social media. “I have even more empathy for Kamala and more respect for her after being on this campaign,” he told Glamour. “Whether it’s a full day of Zooms or a full day out on the trail, you really leave a piece of yourself out there. It’s intense. Even when I come back and I’m exhausted, and she’s like, See?“He added, “Now I understand how much she puts into it—how much heart and soul goes into it to get to where she’s gotten and to do it on the level she does it. It’s remarkable.”
As is tradition, on the day of the inauguration, Emhoff held the bible for his wife as she was officially sworn in as the Vice President of the United States by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Likewise, he and Harris bid a public farewell to former VP Mike Pence and his wife Karen at the capitol following the inauguration ceremony.© ANDREW HARNIK – Getty Images Doug Emhoff held the bible for his wife Kamala Harris as she was sworn in as Vice President of the United States.
He’s putting some of his focus as Second Gentleman into food security.
While Emhoff hasn’t yet officially announced any initiatives he’ll be throwing his political weight behind, sources say that Harris’s husband has a particular interest in the issues of food and nutrition. Senior aides reportedly told Politico that food security is almost certain to be one of the causes on Emhoff’s roster moving forward in the administration, but that his specific involvement on the issue is still in the planning stages.
In mid-January, he launched his official Twitter account @SecondGentleman, and started to hint at where he’ll focus his attention in that role.
“This concept of access to justice is something that I want to bring to the fore in that role. But I’ll also add, look at where we are right now. It’s gonna be a lot of work for President Biden, Vice President Harris, First Lady Jill Biden and whatever-my-title-will-be Douglas Emhoff,” he said in September 2020, per Politico.
“We’re gonna have to reestablish trust in government from the American people after four years of lies and gaslighting and incompetence. The American people deserve better. And I ‘m going to do everything I can with Joe and Kamala and Jill, to help restore that trust both here domestically, and with our friends around the world. So I ‘m committed to doing that as well.”
He’s friendly with fellow political spouses.
That may not have panned out, but since Buttigieg went on to become Biden’s pick for Secretary of Transportation, the husbands have remained fast friends who reportedly “trade texts quite often.”
“Not a lot of people know what it’s like to be on the other side of this as a candidate’s spouse,” Jill Biden told Marie Claire. “It’s not a role you seek out—but it’s an incredible honor and a powerful platform. I promised myself I wouldn’t waste it, and I know Doug won’t either. I can’t wait to see the great things he does as our first second gentleman.”