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Karine Jean-Pierre first Black, openly gay White House press secretary

Published May 06, 2022 9:24 am

US President Joe Biden on Thursday (May 6 Philippine time) named Karine Jean-Pierre as the next White House press secretary, the first Black person to hold the high-profile post.

Jean-Pierre, who will also be the first openly LGBTQ+ person in the role, will replace Jen Psaki, under whom she served as deputy, from May 13.

Biden in a statement praised Jean-Pierre's "experience, talent and integrity," saying he was "proud" to announce her appointment.

"She will be the first black woman and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to serve as the White House Press Secretary," Psaki tweeted after the announcement.

"Representation matters and she will give a voice to many, but also make many dream big about what is truly possible."

The outgoing press secretary, who said from the outset that she would step down during Biden's term, is due to join MSNBC, according to US media reports.

Jean-Pierre, 44, worked on both of former president Barack Obama's campaigns in 2008 and 2012 and then on Biden's campaign in 2020 before joining Biden's team at the White House.

She also served under Biden during his tenure as Obama's vice president.

Haitian parents

Jean-Pierre was previously Chief Public Affairs Officer for liberal advocacy group and worked as a political analyst with NBC and MSNBC, the White House statement said.

Raised in New York, French-speaking Jean-Pierre was born in Martinique to Haitian parents who emigrated to the United States, where her father drove a taxi and her mother worked as a cleaner.

It was in New York that she took her first steps into politics before also becoming a leading figure in the non-profit sphere, having graduated from the prestigious Columbia University.

Jean-Pierre has often said her family's background, emblematic of the "American dream," was a determining factor in her career.

An advocate for combatting mental health stigma, the new White House spokeswoman has also shared her own stories of being sexually abused as a child and suffering from depression.

In a book published in 2019, she wrote of "the pressure of growing up in an immigrant household to succeed."

"That pressure grew so big, and my sense of failure so strong, that I felt like my family would be better off without me. At one point, I attempted suicide," she said in a post published on the MSNBC website.

"I am everything that Donald Trump hates," said Jean-Pierre, who has a daughter with her partner, a journalist with CNN, in reference to Biden's predecessor in a 2018 video for

"I am a Black woman. I am gay. I am a mom."

In a Twitter post marking LGBTQ Pride month in June 2021, she said her "journey towards feeling accepted by myself and loved ones wasn't an easy one, but it was worthwhile."

"No matter where you are in your journey, I see you, we see you and we celebrate you." (AFP)