It’s not easy being the first to hold an important role: trailblazers must exemplify excellence and stand as shining examples of their community while knowing all eyes are on them. Some eyes may bear witness in adoration or in waiting for a potential slip-up. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is the first Black and openly LGBTQ+ person to serve in her pivotal role. EBONY celebrates her fortitude and resilience by recognizing her as one of our Women’s History Month Changemakers.

Her ascent to this position follows a rich and diverse career marked by her dedication to public service and advocacy. Jean-Pierre has continually broken barriers, from her roles as a senior advisor in President Biden’s 2020 campaign to beyond the realm of politics, where she has contributed as a political analyst for NBC News while also lecturing at Columbia University in international and public affairs.

In an interview with EBONY, Jean-Pierre discusses the complexities of her high-profile role, offering a glimpse into the challenges she navigates with grace and resilience. Her commitment to fostering inclusivity and representation within the White House administration radiates through her words, leaving an indelible impression on the broader landscape of American politics.

EBONY: How does it feel to be recognized as one of EBONY’s Women's History Month changemakers?

Karine Jean-Pierre: I am just thrilled. Being first or leading the way in something that has never been done before or in ways that we've never led in a particular career or job is not easy. So being honored by EBONY, by this amazing community, is an honor. It makes me remember how representation matters and what that means for people to see me at the podium doing this job. I have been a fan of EBONY since I was little itty bitty so this is truly, truly an honor. I know my mom will be thrilled—it will make her day.

How do you hope your position will inspire future generations, especially those from underrepresented communities?

One of the things that I got to do at the end of last year was get a new lectern. We haven't had a [new] lectern since 2007. In that briefing room and under my tenure, we've gotten a new one. And it is beautiful. When it was done, my team had the opportunity to name it the Dunnigan Payne Lectern. It is named after the two first Black women journalists in the White House Press Corps. That lectern is a beacon of hope. It speaks to democracy and freedom. To be able to name it after these two courageous, brave, talented women who went through so much, their stories are pretty incredible. Representation matters. Remembering our history matters. Hopefully, young journalists can be inspired by them. As for me, I know that I stand on many shoulders to be where I am today. It's not lost on me. It’s important and inspiring. And I know what it means. If it means this much to me, I know what it will mean for generations after me.

What are some of the challenges you face in this high-profile position?

One of the biggest challenges is I'm not Karine Jean-Pierre anymore. I am, but I'm not. I am the White House Press Secretary and that is 24/7. I don't have, really and truly, a private life. I always say that yes, I'm a mom, a daughter and many other things to other people. But this job overshadows that in the sense of being out in public. So, that is something that I have to acknowledge and understand.

How does your unique background and perspective contribute to the diversity of voices in the White House administration?

For us to be represented and not forgotten in policies, I think we have to be at the table. We have to be in places and in positions that matter. I think you see that in policies that are moved forward on behalf of this administration and the American people. We have passed historic legislation that will change lives and generations by creating economic wealth in the Black community. We've been able to do that because of a piece of legislation only passed by Democrats, not to get too political here, but because this president pushed that forward. There's always more work to be done, but that is so important. Whether bipartisan or not, every piece of historic legislation that has come out of this administration is at the center of its equity. So, I want to make sure that I represent them to all those communities to the best of my abilities. And I want them to be proud of the work that I'm doing.

Making sure that we don't leave communities— like the Black communities, communities of color and low-income communities—behind. That's what we're fighting for: making sure that people feel safe in their communities. That is something that the majority of Americans want to see. So I have to remember that I remember what the work is all about.

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