Exclusive: Karine Jean-Pierre On Skepticism Around The COVID-19 Vaccine, Coming Out And The Country Artist She Actually Likes
Before she became the White House Deputy Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre was making history and being hailed for her quick thinking in a viral 2019 video.
March 18, 2021 at 1:41 pm
Whether she's making history or making music, Karine Jean-Pierre is exactly the kind of multidimensional woman Women's History Month was made to celebrate.
Many of us were first introduced to Jean-Pierre by way of a viral 2019 video which showed her acting as a human shield between then-Sen. Kamala Harris and a protester who rushed the stage at a MoveOn event.
If you hadn't seen the video, or listened to her political hot takes as an MSNBC analyst, you at least heard that she became the first Black person to hold a Chief of Staff position on a vice presidential campaign while working the trails with Harris. Her August announcement of the role on Twitter doubled as a clever retort to sexist jabs that targeted the then-vice presidential nominee.
Karine “ambitious” Jean-Pierre is incredibly proud to be working to elect the Biden/Harris ticket. Let’s go!! https://t.co/Y3rNNz6qJG
— Karine Jean-Pierre (@K_JeanPierre) August 11, 2020
The above-mentioned tweet and the quickness with which we watched her physically defend Harris may rightfully lead one to deduce that Jean-Pierre is as badass as any White House official is going to get. No matter your interpretation and however you found yourself first acquainted with Jean-Pierre, it's clear that the Haitian American's star is rising.
As Deputy Press Secretary, Jean-Pierre has been working 12-15 hour days as the nation grapples not only with a pandemic, but is finally coming to grips with its systemic racism problem.
On Tuesday, she sat down with Blavity where she not only spoke on the aforementioned, but briefly discussed her coming out story, the Black country singer who recently caught her attention at the Grammys and divulged a hidden talent.
The former Columbia University professor, cognizant of the hesitation around the COVID-19 vaccine, particularly within the Black community, spoke directly to those who may be leery of it.
"Me, as Black person, I get it," Jean-Pierre said. "I get the very complicated and scary history that the Black American community has had with the system. But I can say this: I've gotten fully vaccinated, Vice President Harris has gotten fully vaccinated. It is so critical and key and important for all of us to get vaccinated."
She then went on to reference the Black woman, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who is the mastermind behind the vaccines.
"This is something that is safe," she added of the vaccines now being distributed by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.
"I know sometimes it doesn't matter if it comes from me, it doesn't matter if it comes from the vice president, it matters [if it comes from] trusted voices in the community," Jean-Pierre continued.
Jean-Pierre didn't just become the first Black person to serve as Chief of Staff on a VP campaign in 2020 — she was the first out lesbian to hold the title as well.
As is the case with many members of the LGBTQ+ community, Jean-Pierre, 43, said she wasn't greeted with acceptance when she told her family of her attraction to the same sex.
"[Coming out] was so much harder when I was younger, when I was a teenager. I came out when I was 16. My mom was in immigrant. I'm sure people watching have those stories about what it's liking growing up in an immigrant household. She didn't take it well," Jean-Pierre, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, shared. "And I essentially went back into the closet. And didn't come out fully until I was in my mid-twenties."
While she and others members of the LGBTQ+ community struggle with the stigmatization of their identities, she finds solace in the countless young people who are increasingly confident in their sexualities.
"I am very appreciative of the progress that we've made in the LGBTQ+ community," she continued. "So I'm always proud to see these young folks who come out so much earlier than many of us did. One thing that makes me proud about working for this president in particular is he's someone who's always been so supportive of the community."
During our interview, there was just one question the political strategist wasn't prepared for — and it was quite indicative of just how dedicated she is to her craft.
When asked who she's been listening to, the Moving Forward author found herself stumped.
"I'm so zoned into politics," she quipped with a smile.
She then recollected a performance from Black country singer Mickey Guyton at the 63rd Grammy Awards which aired on Sunday night.
"The story that she sings is so powerful. It talks about what it's like to be Black like her. So I started to listen to her music literally like two days ago," the White House aide said. "It really uplifted me and I thought look at her singing her story."
"It really drew me in. If you guys are out there and you need to be inspired listen to this sister," she continued.
What she is a full-fledged fan of, though, are the acoustic drums. When asked what the public doesn't know about her, she told us she has an acoustic drum set in her basement that she sometimes like to play — though it's been a while.
So there are just two more things to add to the 2021 wish list: Jean-Pierre getting the time to get back to her drums and reacquainting herself with her playlists.