Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff: Inside Their Relationship and Family Life
By Rachel McRady
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Kamala Harris makes history on Wednesday, Jan. 20, as Joe Biden is sworn in as President of the United States, and she becomes Vice President. The 56-year-old California senator is the first woman and woman of color to ever hold this title. In addition to her supporters, Harris has had one incredibly loyal cheerleader by her side throughout her own presidential race and now in her role as Vice President -- her husband, Doug Emhoff.
Doug, 56, is now the first-ever Second Gentleman. In a recent essay for GQ, Doug opened up about the historic title in the most humble way possible.
"I am honored to be the first male spouse of an American President or Vice President. But here’s the truth: generations of women before me have used this platform to advocate for causes they believe in and build trust in our institutions at home and abroad—often without much accolade or acknowledgment. It’s on their shoulders I stand," he wrote. "And it’s their legacy of progress I will try to build on as Second Gentleman... I may be the first Second Gentleman, but I know I won’t be the last."
He also opened up about his love for his wife in the piece, gushing, "The moment I met Kamala, I knew I was in love. Not just because of who she is — the warm, funny, and compassionate woman who grounds our family — but also because of the deep resolve with which she fights for the causes she believes in."
And the feeling is mutual.
"I love my husband," Kamala told Now Thisin 2019. "He is funny. He is kind. He is patient. He loves my cooking. He's just a really great guy."
Doug is known for his regular social media presence, championing Kamala on the campaign trail, and even showing off his "dad bod" at a Pride parade (see below). The couple's love story is a relatively new one -- by political standards -- but incredibly sweet.
The pair was set up on a blind date in 2013 by a close friend when Kamala was serving as California's Attorney General. Kamala detailed their first meeting in her book, The Truths We Hold, revealing that Doug first texted her from a Lakers game and called her the next day leaving a long voicemail.
“He thought his voicemail had been disastrous and that he’d likely never hear from me again,” Kamala wrote at the time (per The Washington Post). “He had to restrain himself from calling again and leaving another long-winded message trying to explain the first one.”
The day after their first date, Doug emailed Kamala to cut to the chase.
“I’m too old to play games or hide the ball,” the email read. “I really like you, and I want to see if we can make this work.”
About a year after their first date, Doug popped the question in Kamala's apartment with a diamond-and-platinum engagement ring, the San Francisco Gate reported. At the time, Kamala said she didn't plan to wait long to tie the knot, saying, "I don't believe in long engagements."
Of her reaction to Doug's emotional proposal, Kamala wrote in her book, “These were not graceful Hollywood tears streaming down a glistening cheek. No, I’m talking about snorting and grunting, with mascara smudging my face.”
Four months later, in August 2014, the couple had a courthouse wedding with Kamala's sister, Maya Harris, officiating, the San Francisco Gate reported. The wedding was a beautiful blending of their two cultures. A flower garland was placed around Doug's neck to honor Kamala's Indian heritage during the ceremony and the service ended with the couple breaking a glass per Doug's Jewish tradition. They wrote their own vows for the special day, and Kamala's niece, Meena, read from Maya Angelou's poem, "Touched by an Angel." Their first dance was to Corinne Bailey Rae's "Like a Star." Kamala wore a gold dress by a California designer.
Though Doug wanted to introduce Kamala to his children, Cole and Ella, after their second date, she held him off.
"As a child of divorce, I knew how hard it could be when your parents start to date other people," the proud stepmom wrote in a 2019 Mother's Day essay for Elle. "And I was determined not to insert myself in their lives until Doug and I had established we were in this for the long haul."
In the essay, Kamala revealed that she brought a ribbon-wrapped tin of cookies to her first meeting with Doug's kids.
"Cole and Ella could not have been more welcoming. They are brilliant, talented, funny kids who have grown to be remarkable adults," she wrote of her stepchildren. "I was already hooked on Doug, but I believe it was Cole and Ella who reeled me in."
After Kamala and Doug tied the knot, Cole and Ella decided that "stepmom" didn't fit and instead called her "Momala." The senator says she also has a good relationship with the kids' mom, Kerstin, writing in her essay, "We sometimes joke that our modern family is almost a little too functional."
Cole graduated Colorado College and is working as an assistant at William Morris Endeavor. Ella is attending Parsons School of Design. Kamala says their "family time" involves lots of Sunday dinners.
“She spends days thinking about the menu, grinding her own pepper, driving all over town just to find that one ingredient that we need,” Doug told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’ve gotten pretty handy in the kitchen as her sous-chef.”
It's been clear from day one that Doug is all-in to help his wife win. He hit the campaign trail with the California senator in 2018 and 2019 and was there for many of her big moments. In June 2019, Doug helped escort a protestor off stage, after the man jumped on the stage where Kamala was speaking and grabbed her microphone. Not only did Doug go hard for Kamala's 2020 presidential campaign, he was equally in it as she became the vice presidential nominee. As a lawyer for the DLA Piper Law Firm, who worked out of both their D.C. and California offices, Doug left his job following Joe Biden's appointment.
In his GQ piece, Doug writes, "That changed the day Joe Biden called and asked her to join the ticket as his running mate. On that day it quickly became clear that this wasn’t just about my love for my wife, but also about my love for this country. Stepping back from my career as an entertainment lawyer was a decision that we made together—this was about something bigger than either of us."