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Get To Know Kamala Harris’ “Brilliant, Talented, & Funny” Stepkids

"My family means everything to me. I've had a lot of titles over my career ... but being Momala will always be the one that means the most."

by Jen McGuire
Originally Published: 

Before becoming making history and becoming our Vice President, Sen. Kamala Harris proved that she knows a little something about rising to the challenge — as a politician and as a stepmom to two adult children. But of all the roles she has had in her life, it's clear that the kids in Kamala Harris’ life hold a very special place in her heart.

The former attorney general has been married to husband Doug Emhoff since 2014. And when she married Emhoff, she became stepmother to his two children, 26-year-old son Cole and 21-year-old daughter Ella. Becoming a stepmother to two nearly grown children when you are heavily immersed in your own demanding and public career must have been overwhelming for Harris. But, as she wrote in a Mother's Day essay for Elle, she took her time to find a way to make things work. As Harris explained in her essay, she was a child of divorce herself; Harris' parents divorced when she was just 7, and she and her sister were primarily raised by her mother.

As she makes history in the White House, here's what you need to know about the family the vice president adores.

She's A Proud "Momala"

Harris' own family history helped to better inform the way she dealt with her soon-to-be stepchildren. As she wrote for Elle: “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. There’s nothing worse than disappointing a child.”

Cole and Ella have been calling Harris “Momala,” a name they chose themselves for years, according to Medium. They apparently didn’t like the term “stepmom,” and Momala has the dual advantage of rhyming with Kamala as well as being a Yiddish term for “little mama,” a nod to Emhoff’s Jewish heritage. It’s a term of endearment the stepmother has earned by taking some advice from a colleague.

"[Cole and Ella] 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."

Cole Is Living That LA Life

Cole Emhoff is all grown up, living in Los Angeles with his girlfriend and working at a production company, as he shared during an interview with The New York Times. But he still remembers what it was like when his dad met Vice President Harris back in 2014. As it turns out, the food apparently got a whole lot better for the family living on precooked meals. As he told The Times, "So we’d try to cook — and Kamala has turned Doug into, like, actually a good cook — but there was a period when Doug made what he thought was a great decision. He was like, 'What if I order premade meals for us that we can heat up once a week?'"

Cole has noticed another change in his dad, who both kids simply call “Doug,” since Emhoff became such a massive supporter of his wife’s political career — he has really upped his social media game. As Cole told The Times, “My favorite thing is if you scroll back through Doug’s Instagram, you can see the progression from quintessential 'Dad' with, like, 10 followers — like, a selfie shot right under his face — to having hundreds of thousands of followers and legitimately being good at it."

Ella Is A Student

As a 21-year-old art student at Parsons School of Design who lives in New York, Ella Emhoff seems to be staying pretty grounded through all of the change coming into her life as stepdaughter of the vice president. As she told The Times, she had a pretty solid foundation being raised by three co-parents (including her mom, Kerstin Emhoff, Doug Emhoff’s ex-wife). “The level of parenting between the three of them is very different now that we’re both in our 20s and are kind of able to make decisions," she shared with the newspaper. "So with hair and tattoos and things like that, I think they’re all in the realm of like, ‘I don’t understand it, but I want you to be who you want to be.’ They have good communication between the three of them. They are really a unit, like a three-person parenting squad. It’s really cool.”

During an interview with Glamour, Ella shared a little insight into her sweet relationship with the vice president, who finds time to call during her busy days just to say hi. "It’ll just be something sweet like, ‘Hi, I was just thinking about you, hope your day is good,’" she told the magazine.

The Vice President Is Also An Inspiring Auntie

Harris’ stepkids aren’t the only ones she has been helping to raise and inspire; the VP's niece Meena Harris penned an essay about her aunt’s influence for Elle. The mother of two wrote of her aunt’s ambition and how it shaped the way she saw the world, writing, "As I've gotten older. I've come to realize that not everyone sees ambition the same way my family does. In the Harris household, ambition means courage. It means living your purpose. But to a whole lot of other people, ambition — women's ambition, that is — is code for taking up space that wasn't intended to be yours."

Meena Harris is herself a lawyer, children’s book author, and the founder of the Phenomenal Women Action Campaign. Clearly following in her aunt’s footsteps.

And She Loves Doting On Her Great Nieces

Another little member of the Harris clan with big plans to follow in the vice president's footprints is Meena Harris’ 4-year-old daughter, Amara. In November, Meena captured her aunt on video having a deep chat with her little girl about what she wanted to do when she grew up. As Harris herself waited for the votes to come in to confirm she would indeed be the first woman of color to be elected vice president, she sat with her great-niece on her lap while Amara told her “I could be president.” Harris explained she could be president, after she turned 35. Her response? “I could be astronaut president.”

Harris is a great-aunt to Amara and Meena's youngest daughter, Leela. Harris is also a godmother to her friends' children.

Beyond her own family, Harris is inspiring countless others. But, even as vice president of the United States, it's clear she will always prioritize her family. As she said in August at an event as President Joe Biden announced she would be his running mate, "My family means everything to me. I've had a lot of titles over my career, and certainly vice president will be great, but being Momala will always be the one that means the most."

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