WASHINGTON – Karine Jean-Pierre, who will take over as White House press secretary when Jen Psaki steps down on May 13, is no stranger to breaking barriers.
Jean-Pierre, 44, will be the first black woman and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to hold the position, NBC News reported. In May 2021, she became the first Black woman in 30 years to address the press in the White House briefing room when she filled in for Psaki, according to The Washington Post. She has substituted for Psaki several times since then, and has been the White House principal deputy secretary since Joe Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021.
She also filled in for Psaki at the last minute when the press secretary tested positive for COVID-19 the day before Biden’s four-day trip to Europe, CNN reported.
“Karine not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris administration on behalf of the American people,” Biden said in a statement on Thursday.
Here are some things to know about Jean-Pierre.
Jean-Pierre was born on Aug. 13, 1977, in Martinique after her parents fled Haiti, according to her biography on the Carnegie Corporation of New York website. Her family immigrated to New York City when she was 5 years old. Although her father had an engineering degree, he worked as a taxi driver. Her mother worked as a home health aide. She grew up in Queens.
“They came here for the American dream that in many ways eluded them,” Jean-Pierre said in an interview with PBS. “They still live check to check, but in their eyes, because I made it to the White House, because their daughter went to Columbia, they have received it.”
Jean-Pierre is the oldest of three children. She is eight years older than her sister and 10 years older than her brother.
“I had to take care of my siblings while my parents were working six, seven days a week,” Jean-Pierre told PBS. “I was pretty young when they were toddlers, and make sure their food was cooked, make sure diapers were changed, because they had to provide for the family.
“And all of that heaviness, all of that responsibility led to some dark times as well.”
Jean-Pierre, a longtime Democratic political operative, worked on both Obama presidential campaigns, according to the Post. She also served in the Obama White House in the office of political affairs. In 2016, she worked as deputy campaign manager for Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign and then joined Move On, becoming the national spokesperson for the liberal advocacy organization.
She also served as chief of staff for vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris during the 2020 campaign, the Post reported.
Her media background also includes stints as a political analyst for NBC and MSNBC, according to the White House news release. She also has been the campaign manager for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Initiative, and deputy chief of staff and director of legislative and budget affairs for two members of the New York City Council.
Jean-Pierre tested positive for COVID-19 in late March 2022, NPR reported.
Jean-Pierre said she saw Biden at a meeting several days before her result, but added they were socially distanced.
“Thanks to being fully vaccinated and boosted, I have only experienced mild symptoms,” she told reporters.
Jean-Pierre is the author of a 2019 memoir, “Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America.” As a writer, speaker, and advocate, she has been open about her mental health struggles.
The book details Jean-Pierre’s emotional difficulties, her sexuality and coming out as a gay woman.
Jean-Pierre said she addressed mental health in her book because there is “a stigma” attached to it.
“People don’t want to talk about what they go through when they are in dark times and they don’t know how to get out of it,” Jean-Pierre told PBS. “And because of the pressures of me growing up, and just feeling like an outsider all through my growing up, my young — young days, there was a time where I attempted to take my life. I attempted suicide.
“And it was a dark, dark time in my life, clearly. And so I put that in the book. I put it in the book because I want to help people. I want anybody who has ever felt that way to feel like there is a way out and to know there is a way out.”
She has also lectured on international and public affairs at Columbia University in New York.
Jean-Pierre was the 2021 Great Immigrants Recipient, which was awarded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Jean-Pierre’s current family includes her partner, CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, and their daughter, according to CNN.
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