The Truth About Kamala Harris’ Relationship With Her Stepdaughter Ella Emhoff

Kamala Harris made history on Jan. 20, 2021, when she took the oath of office and became the first woman, first Black person, and first American of Asian descent to become vice president of the United States (via BBC News). She not only brought a wealth of political experience, but she brought her very blended, 21st century family with her. 

Harris stayed single for most of her adult life, but, after being set up on a blind date (via People), she met her husband, Doug Emhoff. He was a package deal — he came with his two kids, Cole and Ella, and the couple blended their families together in the best way possible. Doug Emhoff had been previously married and divorced, and luckily for the kids and for his future life with Harris, he and his ex-wife got along very well (and still do).

The public knows Harris as a political trailblazer, and her life is consistently in the spotlight. But as much as she is vice president, California’s former senator, and all-round breaker of the glass ceiling, Harris is a wife to her husband and a stepmom to her kids, and her bond with Ella is truly so sweet. So buckle in, because here’s the truth about Kamala Harris’ relationship with her stepdaughter, Ella Emhoff.

Election Day 2020 marked a big change for Ella Emhoff and Kamala Harris

The 2020 presidential election was very stressful for everyone, regardless of political affiliation or party. And by the time the results of the election came in and the voters had named Joe Biden and Kamala Harris the winners, the anxiety was out of control. We honestly can’t even imagine what each campaign was thinking and feeling. And it looks like Ella Emhoff was really feeling that pressure, because in a sit-down with The New York Times, she shared what it was like to witness the election and watch the results trickle in. 

“When we went to see them for Election Day, it really hit me,” she said. “Seeing them is a lot different now. There’s a lot more people.” Emhoff elaborated, saying that the notion of “sharing [her] parents” with the entire world was (and is) really mind-blowing, but a change that she was getting used to. “It’s a really cool thing to wrap your head around — because you get to share all the great things — but it’s also like, huh?!” she exclaimed. 

We honestly can’t imagine seeing our parents on the national stage, let alone serving the country in the second highest office there is.

The vice president took her time before meeting Ella Emhoff

Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff were very aware about their impactful roles in Ella and Cole Emhoff’s lives, especially when they first started dating. Given that Ella and Cole had seen their parents get divorced, and had to navigate their lives as the children of separated parents, the vice president and her husband were very careful in their approach to the Emhoff kids — so much so that they waited a long time before Harris introduced herself to them. 

“As a child of divorce, I knew how hard it could be when your parents start to date other people,” Harris wrote in an article she penned for Elle. She continued, writing that she was “determined” not to be introduced to Ella and Cole, or take a significant role in their lives, until she was sure that her relationship with their father would last. “So, we took it slow, and Doug and I put a lot of thought into when and how I would first meet the kids. And that meant waiting. As we waited, anticipation grew,” she wrote. 

We can just imagine how anxious they all were to meet each other.

Kamala Harris missed this important milestone in Ella Emhoff's life

Any child of a working parent knows that missing your parent’s face in the stands at soccer games is a significant possibility. That was a reality that Ella Emhoff faced because her stepmom was Kamala Harris — then a senator of California. 

Harris wrote in Elle that when she joined the Senate, Ella Emhoff had just started her last year of high school in Los Angeles, and she knew that splitting her time between her home state of California and her career in Washington, D.C. would be really tough. “The hardest part was going to be being away from my Ella,” she wrote. Cue tears. 

Harris’ schedule got in the way of a lot of swim meets, but it was Emhoff’s graduation from high school that was the most painful milestone for Harris to miss. She wrote in Elle that her role on the Senate Intelligence Committee — and the June 8, 2017 testimony of former FBI Director James Comey — stopped her from attending her stepdaughter’s big day. “She could not have been more understanding when I told her I wouldn’t be able to make it back in time, but I still felt awful about it,” she wrote.

Ella Emhoff and her brother came up with this enduring nickname for their stepmom

Navigating a relationship with a new stepparent sounds like a significant undertaking for any child, and one that is not always guaranteed to be easy. But luckily for Kamala Harris and the Emhoff kids, integrating their lives couldn’t have gone any better. Harris wrote in an article for Elle that a couple years into her marriage to Doug Emhoff, Ella and Cole Emhoff came to a conclusion — the title of “stepmom” was not for Harris. So the three of them came up with the best nickname known to mankind: “Momala.” Yes, Momala. Love it. 

Over the course of their time as a new family unit, Ella, Cole, Doug, and “Momala” bonded in the cutest way possible, and Harris credited their family dinners every Sunday as a huge factor. “We come together, all of us around the table, and over time we’ve fallen into our roles,” she wrote. “Cole sets the table and picks the music, Ella makes beautiful desserts, Doug acts as my sous-chef, and I cook.” Please invite us — we will supply the witty banter. Thank you.

Ella Emhoff said this when asked about her dad's relationship with Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, made history on Jan. 20, 2021, when he became the United States’ first second gentleman, and honestly he seems like the perfect fit for the role. He is nothing but supportive, and a quick scroll through his Instagram is all you need for proof. He is the epitome of the supportive spouse — he’s posted photos of himself posing with Harris’ cardboard cutouts and photos with her Time magazine cover. He is, without question, Harris’ biggest fan. 

And that’s a dynamic that Ella Emhoff has clearly picked up on because she spoke about her dad’s relationship with Harris in a sit-down with The New York Times. “It’s so insane. It’s like the honeymoon phase forever,” she said. “Like, the rest of the world gets to see it on social media, but we live that.” 

Of course, life with Harris and her father isn’t always roses — Ella Emhoff pointed out that the house is always filled with strong people with strong opinions, and her friends are always “grilled” about their life choices and future plans when they come over. 

Ella Emhoff and her brother were raised by their parents and stepmom Kamala Harris

Kids of divorced parents will tell you that navigating their own lives and their parents’ drama is a lot, but according to Ella Emhoff, her parents and Kamala Harris really made an effort to raise her and her brother, Cole Emhoff, as well as they could. In a sit down with The New York Times, she said that Harris and her dad, Doug Emhoff, maintained a great relationship with her mom. 

“They have good communication between the three of them. They are really a unit, like a three-person parenting squad. It’s really cool,” she shared. Who wouldn’t love that?

Ella Emhoff also chatted about the process of her parents’ divorce and how the entire journey brought her closer to her dad and brother. “It definitely, for the three of us, was really bonding. And I think we do have that sense of like, we made it through the random apartments, figuring out the dynamic of it being just us,” she shared, which, of course, makes the sweet successes her dad and Harris have experienced that much better.

Kamala Harris has impacted Ella Emhoff's career in this amazing way

The inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris saw some amazing fashion moments — Michelle Obama used the Capitol as her runway. Lady Gaga stunned. The Biden granddaughters looked amazing. Amanda Gorman looked beautiful. And Ella Emhoff absolutely killed it in a unique Miu Miu coat, curls, and glasses. She looked amazing, and it turns out her stepmom’s inauguration caused a huge shift in her career. 

As noted by The New York Times, shortly after the inauguration, Emhoff was contacted by IMG Models — the agency behind models like Ashley Graham and Karlie Kloss — and was signed as the newest face of the agency. Get it, Ella! 

The president of IMG Models, Ivan Bart, told The New York Times, “Ella communicates this moment in time. There’s a cheekiness and a joy she exudes.” And we totally see it. Ella is so cool and unique in her own way — what do we need to do to become her? 

Bart said that, as he was watching the inauguration, he thought that Emhoff was “communicating fashion.” So maybe we’ll see her in Vogue or on the runway soon.

On the campaign trail, Kamala Harris and Ella Emhoff shared some sweet moments

Kamala Harris had been working on her presidential — and subsequent vice presidential — campaign for what seemed like years. Before the coronavirus pandemic, she traveled the country to meet with voters and talk about the issues, and she even used a bus that had her slogan, “For the People,” written on it in huge, bold letters. But, of course, Harris spent a lot of time on the road, making appearances and debating with her primary opponents — all of which took away from her time with Ella Emhoff, her favorite (and only) stepdaughter. 

Emhoff explained while on a Zoom call with her brother, Cole, and her dad, Doug, that Harris made a real effort to keep in touch while she was on the road, no matter how busy her campaign schedule got. As she put it, Harris would call her and leave sweet voicemails for her to listen to. “It’ll just be something sweet like, ‘Hi, I was just thinking about you, hope your day is good,’ And then I call back!” she said while on the Zoom interview with Glamour. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference.

Kamala Harris has a serious influence on Ella Emhoff and her political involvement

This one really shouldn’t come as a shock, but Kamala Harris has had a massive impact on Ella Emhoff and her own political involvement — it would be pretty hard to have the vice president as your stepmom and not be at least interested in politics. Emhoff told The New York Times that she and her brother, Cole, were interested in politics since they were young, and they got more involved when Proposition 8 was on the California ballot. Of course, things have changed since then. “Now this is like, we’re really in it,” Emhoff said. “We’re learning the behind the scenes. We’re learning policy.” 

While chatting with Glamour, she expanded on her political point of view, saying that she was met with a massive amount of anxiety when her stepmom ascended to the second highest office in the land. “I think it was also that intense wave of realization and anxiety that, ‘Wow, I’m not looking at this from the outside. I’m looking at it from the inside. This is all happening to me too,'” she said. “I felt extreme love and excitement, but also a little bit of shock.” We can’t even imagine, honestly.

Ella Emhoff met Kamala Harris for the first time at one of her favorite restaurants

If we ever met Kamala Harris, we would not be cool, calm, and collected. We would be overly excited and probably very un-classy. But when Kamala Harris met Ella Emhoff for the first time, she was anxious. She wrote in Elle that she had “butterflies in [her] stomach” when she met the Emhoff kids at the Reel Inn seafood restaurant near the Pacific Coast Highway (one of the Emhoff kids’ favorites) — and as she recalled, Emhoff and her brother “could not have been more welcoming.” 

The calm, natural dynamic that Harris experienced was reciprocated by Ella Emhoff, and while chatting with Glamour, Emhoff said that she had felt as though she had known Harris “forever.” 

“I think when we met her, I was about to go into high school, so I was in an equally intense time, but for different, more angsty reasons. It felt serious when he was just talking about her, because I could hear it in his voice,” she said of her dad’s early feelings about Harris. “When we did meet, it all felt so natural that it wasn’t even a big deal.”

This part of Ella Emhoff's life is a little off limits to Kamala Harris

Every millennial will tell you that their Instagram is (and should be) off limits to their parents, and Ella Emhoff is no exception. While talking to The New York Times with her brother, Emhoff revealed that her dad and Kamala Harris don’t see what she posts on Instagram, something she is happy about. 

“Well, when it comes to stuff like that, I think they all have conflicting ideas,” Emhoff said when she was asked about her parents finding out that she had gotten a tattoo via social media. “All of their ideas are like, ‘EL-LA.’ So I don’t tell them. And luckily Doug and Kamala don’t really see my Instagram.” 

Of course, Harris and her husband don’t have as much sway over Emhoff now that she is in her 20s, and the vice president’s stepdaughter shared with The New York Times that their parenting has changed a lot in her adult life. “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,'” she said, which is what all children want from their parents.

Ella Emhoff said that she's still getting to know what Kamala Harris is like as a politician

It’s crazy for us to think about Kamala Harris in any other role than politician — she’s become known for her iconic side eye, her intense questioning while she was on the Senate Intelligence Committee (via BuzzFeed News), her presidential campaign, and, of course, her historical nomination and inauguration as vice president. 

But to Ella Emhoff, Harris has just been her stepmom, all while the rest of the country got to know her as a senator and as a White House hopeful. It’s still an aspect of Harris’ life and identity that Emhoff is familiarizing herself with, and she spoke about it during a Zoom interview with her brother and her dad for Glamour

“Sometimes I feel like I’m just getting to know her as a politician because I’ve spent so much time getting to know her as just my stepmom,” Ella Emhoff shared. Her father even told his kids during the interview that Harris used to ask him if his kids really knew what it was that she did for a living. “I would say, ‘Yes, but they don’t care. They care about you,'” he said. Cute.

How Kamala Harris and Ella Emhoff have felt about the VP's busy career

Being separated from your family at any given point in time can be difficult — we know all too well the stress of being away from the people we love thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. And while Kamala Harris was out campaigning, the separation was really tough for her and Ella Emhoff to endure. 

“I think it’s even harder that this is all happening during COVID because not being together during all of this is hard,” Emhoff said while in a Zoom interview with Glamour. “We can Zoom, and we do have a Zoom every weekend, and we talk a lot. But it’s not the same.” 

Harris herself pointed to just how tough it is to be away from her stepkids in an article she penned for Elle, but she credited her husband, Doug Emhoff; his ex-wife, Kerstin; and the kids for their support. “They are my endless source of love and pure joy,” Harris said about her stepkids. “I can say one thing with certainty, my heart wouldn’t be whole, nor my life full, without them.” Love it, love it, love it.

Ella Emhoff shared her thoughts on Kamala Harris' historic nomination and win

It was remarkable for a lot of people to watch Kamala Harris take the oath of office — regardless of politics, Harris becoming the first woman, the first Black American, and the first person of Asian descent to become vice president was (and still is) a huge deal (via BBC News). And the monumental occasion and the impact of her political career are aspects of her stepmom’s life that Ella Emhoff is very aware of. 

“Separating her familial relationship to me, I think it’s super long overdue. It’s so empowering to see someone who’s so sure of herself and is not going to back down,” Emhoff said while chatting with her dad and brother in an interview with Glamour. She went on to say how much she admires Harris’ “assertiveness” and the ways in which her stepmom is not scared of a challenge. 

“I hope it will open up the floodgates for a lot more women and especially women of color to just run and then hopefully make it to the top. I think that we’ve needed someone like her to come along,” she concluded. We love to see it.

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