“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.”
Kamala Harris’ historic vice presidency will introduce a dynamic second family to the nation, one that represents not only who she is at her core, but is a profound celebration of blended, multigenerational family units.
She’s been a stepmom to husband of six years Doug Emhoff’s children since their adolescence, even maintaining a tight relationship with Doug’s ex-wife, and helped raise niece Meena Harris when her younger sister, Maya Harris, got pregnant at 17.
While Kamala is the connecting force between this real-life modern family, her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who died in 2009, remains the guiding light.
At the 2020 Democratic National Convention Kamala remarked, “My mother instilled in my sister, Maya, and me the values that would chart the course of our lives. She raised us to be proud, strong Black women. And she raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage. She taught us to put family first—the family you’re born into and the family you choose.”
With President Joe Biden and Vice President Harris’ inauguration ceremony officially concluded, read on to get acquainted with her tight-knit family.
Introducing the nation’s first-ever second gentleman: Doug Emhoff, a native of the Garden State who found his lifelong running mate after a mutual friend set them up in 2013. Doug, then living in Los Angeles and working as an entertainment litigator, left Kamala a self-described “ridiculous” voicemail before their first date, which charmed the former California Attorney General.
He told CBS Sunday Morning’s Jane Pauley, “I thought I’d never hear from her again,” as Kamala interjected, “But it was just, it was adorable. And it was just, I mean, the thing about Doug is that he is exactly who he is. He’s just fully authentic and clear about the things he cares about.”
The pair exchanged vows in a Santa Barbara, Calif. courthouse, three years before Kamala was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2017. As her career evolved, Doug’s support for Kamala remained constant—something that will no doubt continue once she takes office.
Likewise, the 56-year-old’s next chapter holds plenty of promise. This spring he’ll join Georgetown Law’s faculty to teach a course titled “Entertainment Law Disputes.”
You’ll find no one closer to Kamala than her younger sister, Maya Harris, who served as campaign chairwoman for her sister’s year-long presidential run. Maya’s well-versed in the political sphere, having joined Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign as a senior adviser, and previously held leadership positions at the American Civil Liberties Union and Ford Foundation.
Reports indicate that the Stanford Law grad, 53, will not take on an official role in the Biden-Harris administration, but that doesn’t mean she’s leaving Kamala’s trusted circle of confidantes.
Of their childhoods, the elder Harris sister told The Washington Post, “We leaned on each other. We forged a bond that is unbreakable. When I think about it, all of the joyous moments in our lives, all of the challenging moments, all of the moments of transition, we have always been together.”
Take one look at Meena Harris’ social media presence and you’ll understand why her brand of social justice activism is resonating with so many. The Harvard-educated lawyer turned entrepreneur (who just so happens to be Kamala’s niece) is blazing her own trail—Pinterest worthy merch at the ready.
Meena, 36, is the founder and CEO of Phenomenal, a female-focused clothing line worn by the likes of Lizzo, Serena Williams and Tracee Ellis Ross. Not to mention she’s a best-selling children’s author, with mom Meena and aunt Kamala’s upbringing serving as the inspiration for her first book.
It’s this do-gooder spirit that Meena said was instilled at a young age. “Aunt Kamala always emphasized this lesson to me by urging me to make my own unique contributions to issues I care about,” she told NBC News. “Sure, she’s always encouraged me to run for office, but she never pressured me, and she also let me know that I could make an impact in other ways.”
To the nation she’s Vice President Harris, but to Ella and Cole Emhoff, she’s simply “Momala.” Kamala’s stepdaughter helped introduce her at the DNC, gushing, “You’re a rock, not just for our dad, but for three generations of our big, blended family.”
Ella, a 21-year-old Parsons School of Design student whose impeccably chic Instagram feed features her knitting designs, told The New York Times that she hasn’t quite grasped the magnitude of her parents’ new roles.
“I think the idea of sharing our parents with the world is kind of insane,” she shared. “Like, it’s a really cool thing to wrap your head around—because you get to share all the great things—but it’s also like, Huh?!”
Doug’s 26-year-old son Cole, who was a senior in high school when Kamala entered the Emhoff family, described their introduction as “love at first sight.” He recalled to Glamour, “…we had this amazing dinner. And I realized like, Oh, my God, Doug has met someone who is completely unique and totally special.”
Kamala’s lasting impression flourished into a beautiful bond between the trio, and she’s been present for every major milestone since, including Cole’s graduation from Colorado College.
Another important figure in Kamala’s blended family? Doug’s first wife, film producer Kerstin Emhoff. In an interview with People, Kamala called her a “close friend,” explaining, “Joe and I have a similar feeling that really is how we approach leadership: family in every version that it comes.”
Last, but certainly not least, are Kamala’s great-nieces. Amala, 4, and Leela Ajagu, 2, are the daughters of Meena and her husband, Nikolas Ajagu, and they’re just as in love with their “Vice President Auntie” as she is with them.
Meena told NBC News, “…my Aunt Kamala takes very seriously her role as a great aunt in helping to shape my daughters. If she had her way, the girls would be on the campaign trail with her every day.”
President Biden’s family history is nothing short of storied. Meet those nearest and dearest to the 46th POTUS here.