Kamala Harris

US Vice-President Kamala Harris (Photo: Getty)

Kamala Harris—the first woman, first Black woman, and first South Asian woman elected vice president of the United States—made a powerful speech after she and U.S. President-elect Joe Biden emerged victorious after a gruelling election race. “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities,” Harris said as she addressed the nation.

From August 22 to 24, Kamala Harris was in Singapore to meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Halimah Yacob at the Istana to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, bilateral cooperation and regional developments.

Harris also participated in a roundtable with business leaders, involving Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, to discuss the importance of supply chain resiliency.

From having a long history of public service to being affectionately called “Momala” at home, we’ve rounded up 7 things to know about the VP-elect.

Related article: Michelle Obama Fist-Bumped Vice President Kamala Harris At Her Inauguration

She is not afraid to speak her mind

No stranger to taking on tough critics (she was a public prosecutor after all), Kamala Harris faced reporters’ tough questions around the United States evacuation efforts in Afghanistan head on, saying: “There is going to be plenty of time to analyse what has happened and what has taken place in the context of the withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Harris said during a joint news conference with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, according to Reuters.

“But right now we are singularly focused on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who have worked with us and Afghans who are vulnerable, including women and children and that is our singular focus at this time.”

Related article: The Internet Is Loving Kamala Harris’s White Suit

She has an orchid named after her

Kamala Harris Orchid
Kamala Harris presented with the Papilionanda Kamala Harris, by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. (Photo: Kevin Lim/The Straits Times)

As part of her visit to Singapore she was presented with the Papilionanda Kamala Harris, by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The spray of purple-pink orchids named in her honour came with an official “birth certificate”, which she accepted saying “Well, I’m pleased to welcome this orchid into the world.”

Related article: US Vice-President Kamala Harris Arrives In Singapore

She is of Jamaican and Indian descent

Born and raised in Oakland, California, Kamala (pronounced “comma-la”, which means “lotus flower” in Sanskrit) Harris is the daughter of Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer researcher from India, and Donald Harris, an economist from Jamaica.

After her parents’ divorce when she was 7, Kamala and her younger sister Maya were raised by their single mother in a predominantly Black, lower-middle-class neighborhood. “My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters,” she wrote in her autobiography The Truths We Hold. “She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women.”

Harris embraced her Black and South Asian identities, and attended both a Black Baptist church and a Hindu temple as a child. Growing up biracial, she has had experiences with discrimination and racism.

Related article: The Internet Is Loving Kamala Harris’s White Suit

Harris’s parents met as students at the University of California at Berkeley, and were active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Young Kamala was brought along to protests after she was born in 1964. She also made childhood visits to India and was heavily influenced by her grandparents who sparked her interest in public service.

Harris graduated with a degree in political science and economics at Howard University in 1981, and later earned her law degree from University of California, Hastings, in 1989.

She then worked in the Alameda County District Attorney’s office for 8 years, prosecuting child sexual assault cases. Harris went on to serve as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011 and California’s attorney general—making history as the first woman and the first person of color in the position—from 2011 to 2017.

She stood up for marriage equality as California’s Attorney General

Kamala Harris SF Pride Parade 2019
Kamala Harris at SF Pride Parade on June 30, 2019 in San Francisco, California.
Photo: Getty

Harris took a stand for marriage equality as attorney general when she refused to defend Proposition 8—a ban on marriage equality approved by California voters in 2008. The appeal was dismissed as a result, removing the same-sex marriage ban in California. Harris officiated the first marriage of an LGBTQI+ couple performed in the state following the decision.

Related article: Kamala Harris And Jill Biden’s Victory Celebration Looks Honoured American Fashion’s Pluralism

She ran for president

Kamala Harris Presidential Campaign 2019
Photo: Getty

The presidential hopeful ran her own presidential campaign (her sister, Maya, was her campaign chairwoman) but dropped out of the race citing a lack of funds. She was subsequently selected as Joe Biden’s running mate for the U.S. elections.

She is the first Black woman and first South Asian woman to be elected US Vice President

Come January 20 next year, the groundbreaking senator will make history yet again when she is sworn in as vice president, becoming the first Black American and first South Asian woman to hold that office.

Related article: Beyoncé, J.Lo, Michelle Obama, And More Celebs Celebrate Biden And Harris’ Victory

She is “Momala” to her children

Harris may be VP-elect, but to her stepchildren, she’s “Momala.” “I’ve had a lot of titles over my career, and certainly ‘vice president’ will be great. But ‘Momala’ will always be the one that means the most,” she said in her first speech as Joe Biden’s running mate.

She became a stepmom to Cole and Ella when she married lawyer Douglas Emhoff in 2014. At home, Harris is affectionately called “Momala”—a term coined by the kids because they didn’t like the term “stepmom.”

She is an author

Following the Biden-Harris historic win, Harris’ authored books have seen a sharp rise in popularity. Besides her memoir The Truths We Hold, she has also written a book on criminal justice reform, Smart on Crime, and an illustrated children’s book titled Superheroes Are Everywhere.

She loves cooking and collecting Converse sneakers

Apart from her impressive career, Harris has made her love for cooking public. The VP-elect joined Mindy Kaling to cook Masala Dosa at Kaling’s home last year, and the video went viral as soon as it was released on social media.

She is also known for her obsession with sneakers—specifically Converse’s Chuck Taylors—and an extensive collection of the trusty kicks for different occasions. “I have a whole collection of Chuck Taylors: a black leather pair, a white pair, I have the kind that don’t lace, the kind that do lace, the kind I wear in the hot weather, the kind I wear in the cold weather, and the platform kind for when I’m wearing a pantsuit,” she told The Cut in 2018.