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Kamala Harris made history several times over in being projected the next vice president of the United States. Her parents emigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica and India, making the former California senator the first Black vice president, the first Indian American vice president and the first woman to serve in that position.
With a little over two months to go before Inauguration Day in which Harris and president-elect Joe Biden are expected to be sworn in (barring any surprises on Dec. 14 when electors vote), women of color are praising the progress and hope Harris’ vice presidency will offer for themselves and future generations. The Hollywood Reporter connected with several Black and South Asian women in the industry to discuss the significance of Harris’ achievement and what barriers they see breaking moving forward.
Oscar-winner Viola Davis described Harris and her appointment as someone who “represents a physical manifestation of dreams, possibilities and value for young girls of color.”
Meanwhile, Nina Shaw — who herself broke down barriers in the entertainment legal community and is the only Black female name partner at a top Hollywood talent firm — says she was moved to tears when the results were announced. “It feels so quintessentially American that the first woman VP should be Black, South Asian and of Jamaican heritage and the daughter of immigrants,” Shaw tells THR. “I think today of all the women in my family who voted, marched, and dedicated their lives to the civil rights movement, but who didn’t live to see this day … They would be so proud of VP Harris and how their spiritual daughters, Black women, in 2020 continue their legacy.”
Lilly Singh, another ceiling-shatterer as the first openly bisexual person and first person of Indian and South Asian descent to host a late night show, knows the pressure of being “the first” and says “the struggle to work twice as hard is real.”
“Yet, Kamala Harris has persevered with so much dignity, intelligence, focus and joy,” she adds.
For centuries, the United States of America has predominantly seen and heard from white men in the highest offices of the land. Gang Tyre partner Bianca Levin shares that as a Black woman and mother to a three-year-old girl, her “heart is full” in witnessing Harris’ achievement. “For my daughter to be able to see — not just hear theoretically — that she can be anything, means so much to me.”
Andra Day shares she “cried and thanked God” over the news of Harris becoming vice president-elect.
“It gives me so much hope for reconciling our past and building a new future,” Day tells THR. “I am rejoicing for her but I also see all of us in that position now. It’s a hope Black women need and deserve. When I tell my niece she can be anything she puts her faith, mind, and dedication to, a president, a Vice President, I can show her a picture of someone in that position that looks just like her. That’s invaluable. For that I am deeply grateful.”
Gabrielle Union, who following her exit on The Voice has advocated for the industry to better address problematic environments and people, says she’s filled with pride to see Harris, “knowing that she is her full self, the fullness of her Blackness never having to take a backseat in order to accomplish her goals is beautiful to see.”
Singh agrees that for young Indian and South Asian girls, Harris becoming vice president normalizes the idea that a woman of color can enter that position.
“It’s harder to navigate the world when you are thought to be ‘different’ or out of the ordinary. You are constantly considering and negotiating your identity through others’ perceptions,” Singh shares. “Now with this newfound representation in the White House, young girls can look right to the top, see Kamala Harris and instantly know that their dreams are a worthy and vital pursuit.”
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