The dramatic transformation of Kamala Harris’ husband Douglas Emhoff

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris has been in the news for years. From her fiery remarks as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to her viral dance moments, Harris has not evaded the spotlight. But by her side throughout the 2020 campaign trail has been her husband, Douglas Emhoff, who is a prominent lawyer.

Known by most as Doug, Kamala Harris’ husband has been unabashed in his support of his wife and has shown up for the 2020 presidential campaign in a big way. And given that he would be the country’s first second gentleman if the Biden/Harris ticket clenches the presidential race, all eyes may soon turn to him.

So who is Doug Emhoff? When did he meet Harris and how has his life changed since? We went through all the information there is to know about him so you can all read up on the person who could change the gender dynamics of the White House for the first time in history. This is the dramatic transformation of Kamala Harris’ husband, Douglas Emhoff.

Kamala Harris' husband is a proud son of New Jersey

Kamala Harris might represent the state of California in the Senate, but her husband, Doug Emhoff, represents the East Coast in their marriage. Emhoff was born in Manhattan, but lived in Old Bridge and Matawan, N.J. from 1969 until 1981, as noted by Asbury Park Press, and he points to his childhood as a big component of his life. 

After a Kamala Harris supporter posted a photo of a teddy bear named “Dougie” on route to New Jersey on Twitter, Emhoff tweeted back and shared his family history, pointing to his time in the Garden State. “I approve of this wholesome content and Happy TG [Thanksgiving]!,” Kamala Harris’ husband wrote. “I lived in Matawan/Old Bridge from 1969-1981 so NJ is still very much in my veins!” 

Emhoff’s parents have remained in the mix as well. His father was a women’s shoe designer (via Independent) and brought the family out to California when Emhoff was a teenager. But when asked about her in-laws, Harris said that their home state was still very much a part of their lives. “They are in California now, but New Jersey is very much in them. In a very big way. Unedited,” she said (via Asbury Park Press).

Doug Emhoff started his career in entertainment law

Sorry UCLA fans, but Doug Emhoff is a Trojan. After graduating from Agoura High and getting his undergraduate degree at California State University, Northridge (via Independent), Kamala Harris’ husband graduated from the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law before jumping into the arena of entertainment law. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, Emhoff started the bulk of his entertainment litigation at the law firm Belin Rawlings & Badal, located on the westside of Los Angeles. 

“That was my shot to not only build my own practice but also to break into the field,” he said. One of his first breakout cases was when representing Hollywood Video (for those of you who are too young to be familiar with rental video stores — thanks to the era of streaming — think of Hollywood Video as Blockbuster’s less popular cousin) as the company had an accounting dispute with Fox. 

Emhoff went on to represent a significant amount of production and entertainment companies in the 1990s and made a name for himself when fighting for industry-wide late payments. He and Kamala Harris really are a power couple.

A lawyer and an entrepreneur, Kamala Harris' husband opened his own law firm in 2000

After creating a name for himself within the realm of entertainment law, Doug Emhoff branched out on his own. Along with USC Gould School of Law graduate Ben Whitwell, Emhoff opened his own firm in 2000, and it quickly rose in prominence, as noted by The Hollywood Reporter. It gave employment to 12 other attorneys, and by 2006, the firm was purchased by Venable LLP, one of Los Angeles’ top 100 law firms, known for its litigation and close relationship with attorneys on Capitol Hill.

Kamala Harris’ husband was responsible for establishing the West Coast expansion of the firm at the time of the expansion, and he was promoted from Partner-in-Charge to the Managing Director of the West Coast in 2015, “with oversight over the firm’s current offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco,” as noted by a Venable press release. Emhoff spoke about his career as a lawyer in 2019 with The Hollywood Reporter. “With all this other stuff that’s happening in my life right now, it’s great to have [my practice], because it’s something that I love and I’m good at,” he said.

Doug Emhoff made a name for himself as a Hollywood lawyer with this case

There was one legal case that put Doug Emhoff on the map. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, Emhoff made it into the headlines before his time with Kamala Harris in part due to this lawsuit. 

In the late 1990s to early 2000s, the Taco Bell Chihuahua was a tool for the food chain and was used in advertisements along with the saying, “Yo Quiero Taco Bell.” Emhoff’s client, ad agency TBWA, was sued by Michigan company Wrench, which claimed that it had in fact been the brains behind the “Psycho Chihuahua” used in the advertising campaign. Yes, you are reading all of this correctly. 

Wrench ended up suing on the grounds of breach of contract — the ruling went in their favor, and they were given $42 million as a result. Here’s where Emhoff came in. After many appeals to the 9th Circuit, Kamala Harris’ husband was able to keep TBWA — the ad agency — out of the drama, and Taco Bell ended up having to pay the money. Looks like he knows what he’s doing.

Doug Emhoff is a divorced dad of two

What may come as a surprise is that Doug Emhoff was married and divorced before he met Kamala Harris. He and his first wife, Kerstin, got married in 1992 and had two children, Cole and Ella, as noted by Town & Country. Kerstin herself is a total boss much like Kamala Harris, so it’s clear that Emhoff admires strong women. She is the co-founder of Prettybird, a production company based in Culver City, Calif. 

Emhoff and Kerstin got divorced after 16 years, and Harris was aware of her role coming into their children’s lives when she and Emhoff started dating. In an article she penned for Elle, Harris pointed to how careful she and Emhoff were when introducing her to them. “As a child of divorce, I knew how hard it could be when your parents start to date other people,” Harris wrote. “I was determined not to insert myself in their lives until Doug and I had established we were in this for the long haul. Children need consistency; I didn’t want to insert myself into their lives as a temporary fixture because I didn’t want to disappoint them.”

Doug Emhoff and Kamala Harris met on a blind date in 2013

The story of how Doug Emhoff and Kamala Harris met is cute. As noted by Asbury Park Press, they were set up on a blind date while Harris was the attorney general of California. No pressure, right? The then-future couple was set up by none other than filmmaker Reginald Hudlin and his wife Chrisette, who was a close friend of Harris’. 

As noted by NBC News, Hudlin gave Harris’ phone number to Emhoff, and he texted her. Emhoff then called her the next day (we love a man who can communicate). Harris recalled in her memoir The Truths We Hold, that Emhoff was intentional with his time, making sure they had the opportunity to continue meeting. “The morning after our first date, Doug emailed me with a list of his available dates for the next couple of months,” Harris wrote. She later revealed that they dated for six months before she brought him to a work function with her. “I knew that if I brought a man with me to an event, people would immediately start to speculate about our relationship,” she wrote, as noted by The Washington Post. 

Doug Emhoff's kids took to Kamala Harris quickly and gave her this enduring nickname

Divorce and remarriage can be tough on kids, but Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff were careful with how they approached his children, Cole and Ella, and the four of them have bonded in a beautiful way. “Cole and Ella could not have been more welcoming. They are brilliant, talented, funny kids who have grown to be remarkable adults,” Harris wrote for Elle. “I was already hooked on Doug, but I believe it was Cole and Ella who reeled me in.” 

When Harris and her husband got married, the four had realized that the label of “stepmom” didn’t sit well with them, given how close they all became. Instead, Cole and Ella agreed that the best way to refer to Harris was with an enduring nickname: “Momala.” It really can’t get better than that. 

Harris went on to describe a Sunday evening with her step-kids, saying that the weekend dinner time has allowed them all to fit into their roles as a family. “Cole sets the table and picks the music, Ella makes beautiful desserts, Doug acts as my sous-chef, and I cook,” she wrote. That sounds lovely.

Doug Emhoff married Kamala Harris in a Santa Barbara ceremony in 2014

If Doug Emhoff’s sweet bond with his kids and his dedication to Kamala Harris hasn’t made you tear up by now, this might. As noted by The Washington Post, Emhoff had plans to ask Harris to marry him while they were on a trip to Florence. But he ended up blurting out a proposal while she was packing for the trip and they were deciding what food to order in. This sounds like a rom-com, doesn’t it?

When Harris realized that when Emhoff said, “I want to spend my life with you,” he was talking about marriage, she went into full-on ugly tears. “These were not graceful Hollywood tears streaming down a glistening cheek,” Harris recalled, as noted by The Washington Post. “No, I’m talking about snorting and grunting, with mascara smudging my face.” 

The couple got married soon after at the Santa Barbara courthouse in California. Their wedding was performed by Harris’ sister, Maya, and saw a really beautiful marriage of both Emhoff’s and Harris’ heritages. As noted by SFGate, Kamala Harris’ husband had a floral garland placed around his neck, and the couple ended the ceremony by breaking a glass.

Kamala Harris' husband was in the background of her campaign until this moment in 2019

When Kamala Harris announced her candidacy for president, Doug Emhoff was amazingly supportive, but he stayed in the background. That was until he literally leapt onto the scene and into the spotlight. Harris was on stage in June 2019, when an activist ran onto the stage and grabbed the microphone from her. As noted by AP News, Emhoff inserted himself in the situation and helped get the activist off stage. He later tweeted that they were both good and thanked supporters for the well wishes. “I love ⁦@KamalaHarris⁩ and would do anything for her,” he wrote. 

The incident grabbed attention and put Kamala Harris’ husband more in the spotlight than ever before, and he didn’t return to the background. Just a few days later, he gave his first solo speech at the Democratic Party’s Leadership Blue Gala in Florida, and he continued to prove that Harris’ historic candidacy meant a historic role for himself too. 

“I think we’re rewriting the rules on presidential spouses,” Jess Morales Rocketto, an operative who worked for Hillary Clinton, said to AP News. “Historic candidates also mean we have spouses who can play a historic role.”

Doug Emhoff still has a great relationship with his ex-wife

We love to hear the stories of divorced parents who are still good friends, and Doug Emhoff and his ex-wife, Kerstin, are no exception. As noted by Marie Claire, Kerstin was supportive of Emhoff and has rooted for him and Kamala Harris. 

“When [Doug and Kamala] first started dating and [Kamala] was [attorney general of California], I just thought, ‘Wow, that’s cool. Don’t mess this up!'” Kerstin said. Harris and Kerstin’s relationship did not stop there. Harris wrote about their special bond with Emhoff’s kids, Cole and Ella, in an article for Elle. “To know Cole and Ella is to know that their mother Kerstin is an incredible mother. Kerstin and I hit it off ourselves and are dear friends,” Harris wrote. “She and I became a duo of cheerleaders in the bleachers at Ella’s swim meets and basketball games, often to Ella’s embarrassment. We sometimes joke that our modern family is almost a little too functional.” 

To top off a really great relationship, Kerstin offered her “creative expertise and connections” to Harris and her presidential bid. “They were like, ‘The ex-wife wants to do what?'” Kerstin said. Amazing.

Doug Emhoff started splitting his time between both coasts

Doug Emhoff is a fine example of a supportive husband. After leaving Venable LLC in 2017, Kamala Harris’ husband joined law firm DLA Piper and started splitting his time between Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Harris had won her bid for the United States Senate, and the joy between the couple was great to watch. 

As noted by The Washington Post, Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire was quoted as saying that “the sheer delight they had in each other’s presence was really fun to see.” Hassan is familiar with being a high-profile politician with a supportive husband, and the parallels between herself and Harris were drawn. “I think Doug is going to be great. I think he will … focus on supporting Kamala and making sure she has the support that comes with a strong marriage under her,” Hassan said. 

Emhoff has been seen supporting Harris over the years, and he has made a point of posting photos of himself with her Time cover, sharing snaps of her being interviewed on the news, and posting pictures of himself on her campaign trail. We love to see it.

It came as no surprise when Doug Emhoff took a leave of absence to support his wife's VP run

When Kamala Harris announced her bid for the presidential nomination, Doug Emhoff announced his leave of absence from DLA Piper. As noted by The New York Times, Emhoff was admitted to the Washington, D.C. bar in 2017, prompting speculation that he would dedicate more time on the East Coast. His leave of absence came when the ethics of DLA Piper and Emhoff’s affiliation was worrying some legal experts, especially if Harris is to win the vice-presidency.

But Bob Shrum, a Democratic adviser, told The New York Times that the Biden/Harris campaign most likely reviewed Emhoff’s choice to take a step back from his firm. “I have no doubt that a Biden-Harris administration would look at this issue very carefully and would impose rules that would ensure that there was no conflict of interest,” Shrum said. Emhoff’s leave of absence is, of course, all under the guise that he continues to be Harris’ biggest fan. From posing with cardboard cut-outs of her to taking sly selfies with the political power house, Kamala Harris’ husband has supportive spouse written all over him.

Doug Emhoff couldn't be a bigger supporter of his wife's political career

Doug Emhoff has spoken about Kamala Harris’ bid for office and the joys of the trail. Who could blame him? Harris is a historic candidate, and the couple has gotten to travel the country. 

“This is a new experience for Kamala and me, but our family is having so much fun crossing the country and meeting people from every walk of life,” Kamala Harris’ husband said to the Associated Press in 2019. “It’s amazing to see so many people get to know the Kamala I love, and I can’t wait for every American to get that chance when she’s president.” (This was before Harris dropped out and became Joe Biden’s vice-presidential pick.) 

When it was announced that Harris would be joining Joe Biden’s ticket, Emhoff was ecstatic for his wife and went to social media to express his support. “Elbow bumping to victory!” he posted on Instagram with a video of himself with Harris and Joe and Jill Biden avoiding shaking hands in the 2020 pandemic. “We can’t wait to see Joe & Jill again at the convention. We are going to do this! #BidenHarris2020.” Emhoff has been out on the campaign trail promoting the Biden/Harris ticket with unwavering support.

Kamala Harris' husband could be the country's first second gentleman

If Kamala Harris wins office, Doug Emhoff will become the first second gentleman. No woman has ever occupied the highest political positions in the executive branch (president and vice-president), and Emhoff would essentially write the rules for every man to follow. 

Chasten Buttigieg, former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s husband, befriended Emhoff while on the trail and told The Washington Post about what the role might look like for Kamala Harris’ husband if he enters the White House. “There’s so much pressure on you to try to meet everyone’s standards,” Buttigieg said. When asked to give Emhoff advice, Buttigieg put it simply: All he has to do is be himself. 

It seems like Emhoff will have no trouble continuing his support for Harris — he has already set the husband bar pretty high. “You have to be there to take the weight of the day and make it go away,” Buttigieg finally said. “That’s a really big service when you’re the husband of the vice president of the United States. That’s a job in and of itself.”

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