‘Call me Momala’: Who’s who in Kamala Harris’ family?

Independent Staff
·2-min read
‘There’s no one I’d rather be with on this journey’, says Harris
‘There’s no one I’d rather be with on this journey’, says Harris

It was a well-rehearsed line, but it was one which worked.

Kamala Harris, accepting the nomination by Joe Biden to be his running mate, in August told the world a little about her family.

“I've had a lot of titles in my career,” the California senator said.

"And certainly, vice president will be great. But 'momala' will always be the one that means the most."

The family that Harris, 55, and her husband Doug Emhoff, also 55, have made is being touted as a model modern American unit.

The term “stepmom” soon evolved into “momala” - a play on her name, and also the Yiddish term “mamaleh”, meaning little mama. Emhoff is Jewish; Harris has described his ex-wife as “a dear friend”.

“We sometimes joke that our modern family is almost a little too functional,” she told Elle magazine last year.

Harris was set up with Emhoff, a partner at DLA Piper, one of the world’s largest law firms, in 2013.

Emhoff recalled that, at a business meeting with filmmaker Reginald Hudlin and his wife Chrisette, a close friend of Harris, Chrisette said she wanted to set him up with her friend.

Emhoff said that as soon as Hudlin mentioned Harris' name, he remembered she was the attorney general and responded: "Oh my god, she's hot."

Brooklyn-born, New Jersey-raised, and living in California from 11th grade, Emhoff had married his first wife, Kerstin, in 1992.

She went on to co-found the production company Prettybird.

They had two children - Cole, now 26, and Ella, now 21, named for jazz greats John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald.

The pair divorced after 16 years, but remain close.

Harris’ own parents had divorced, and she admits that she was nervous about meeting Emhoff’s children - only agreeing when they both knew they were “in for the long haul”.

But she had no need to worry.

“Cole and Ella could not have been more welcoming,” she told Elle.

“They are brilliant, talented, funny kids who have grown to be remarkable adults. I was already hooked on Doug, but I believe it was Cole and Ella who reeled me in.”

Cole works in Los Angeles at music company Plan B, having graduated from Colorado College, and Ella is a student at Parsons School of Design in New York City, where she supports her studies by taking commissions for knitwear.

Harris and Emhoff married in 2015, and she has described her family as “pure joy” - relishing their Sunday dinners, and childhood sports matches, and time spent together.

“They are my endless source of love and pure joy,” she said.

"I can say one thing with certainty, my heart wouldn’t be whole, nor my life full, without them."

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