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Queens Village native helms historic White House press briefing

Principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the first Black woman to speak for the White House in three decades, holds a press briefing at the White House, in Washington, U.S., May 26, 2021. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)

Southeast Queens native Karine Jean-Pierre made history when she became the first openly gay woman to deliver the White House briefing on Wednesday, May 26.

Jean-Pierre, 43, also became only the second Black woman in history to take to the lectern in the White House’s James S. Brady Press Briefing Room during the televised session.

Jean-Pierre, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, was raised from the age of 5 in Queens Village. Her father was a cab driver and her mother was a health care worker. She initially received her MPA from Columbia University in 2003 and went on to work on the John Edwards campaign during his 2004 presidential run. She gained further attention in 2008 when she served as the political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs during the Obama administration.

Jean-Pierre currently serves in the Biden administration as deputy press secretary.

“It is a real honor to be standing here today,” Jean-Pierre said. “I appreciate the historic nature, I really do. But I believe that being behind this podium, being in this room, being in this building, is not about one person. It’s about what we do on behalf of the American people.”

Principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the first Black woman to speak for the White House in three decades, holds a press briefing at the White House, in Washington, U.S. May 26, 2021. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)

Following her briefing, Jean-Pierre shared some time with Judy Smith, who served in the same role during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. Smith was the first Black woman to lead a White House briefing in 1991, becoming the inspiration for the Olivia Pope character in “Scandal,” the ABC television series created by Shonda Rhimes.

Jean-Pierre is a potential successor to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who has spoken of her plan to step down from that role after a year in the Biden administration. Jean-Pierre had conducted “press gaggles” about Air Force One while traveling with President Biden.

“Clearly the president believes the representation matters and I appreciate him giving me this opportunity,” Jean-Pierre said during her White House briefing. “And it’s another reason why I think we’re all so proud that this is the most diverse administration in history.”

Jean-Pierre began her political career in the New York City Council serving on the staffs of current state Senator James Sanders and Councilman James Gennaro. She also worked in the Obama administration after working on his presidential campaign and worked on the Letitia James campaign for New York State Attorney General. She went on to serve as the chief public affairs officer for MoveOn.org and an NBC and MSNBC political analyst.

Jean-Pierre currently resides in Washington, D.C, with her partner, CNN anchor Suzane Malveaux, and their daughter.

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