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Meet The White House's New Chief Party Planner [Exclusive]

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Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy.
Ever since White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard, the first openly gay man to hold the position, announced that he was stepping down in early April, Americans everywhere (okay, a few political nerds) have been wondering who would replace him. Now, we know: Deesha Dyer, 37, has been named to the position, where she'll oversee all social functions at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, from simple meet-and-greets to entertaining heads of state. And, we have the very first interview with her! 

The news will be announced by the White House on Thursday afternoon.

"From the day Deesha started in the Social Office nearly two years ago, she impressed me with her passion, creativity, public-mindedness and relentless competence,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in a statement. “Since then, whether helping flawlessly execute state dinners, or going the extra mile to open the White House to people who never dreamed they would walk through these doors, Deesha has worked tirelessly to truly make the White House the 'People's House.' I am thrilled that she has agreed to continue her service as our Social Secretary."

Dyer's career path is unusual — she started out as a hip-hop journalist and community advocate, before returning to school at age 29. After getting her degree in women's studies, she was hired at the White House as an intern. From there, she quickly worked her way up. She was brought on full-time in 2010 to travel with the first family, overseeing lodging and logistics, and then promoted to Deputy Director and Deputy Social Secretary, a position she's held for the last two years.

“Deesha shares our commitment to a White House that reflects America’s history, highlights our culture, and celebrates all Americans. Michelle and I look forward to working with her in this new role as we welcome visitors from across the country and around the world to the People’s House,” the President said in a statement. 

Dyer is a Philadelphia native who attended the Milton Hershey School. We spoke with her just before the announcement. 
Congratulations! How did you hear the news?
“I’d been going through the process, a few interviews — there were a number of other very qualified candidates — and then we were in a meeting with the First Lady one day, and she told me to hang back and said I’d gotten the job.

“I felt honored, very humbled, very excited. You know, I’m a girl from Philly — being able to accomplish this and being able to sit across from the First Lady and hear that, it’s a moment in time I’ll never forget.”

How’d you end up here?
“When I got out of high school, I tried to go off to college, but it didn’t work for me the first time. So, I worked. I was a hip-hop writer, worked at an agency for youth, did a bunch of things. I’d always really wanted to go back to school, and so when I was 29, I did.

“That was when Barack Obama announced he was running for President, and I thought, This guy seems really cool, he’s talking about issues I care about; I’d love to work for him one day. I hung his picture on my desk, but I didn’t really think it would happen.

“Then, I came across an application for a White House internship. At this point, I’m 31 years old, and I’m thinking, They’re not going to let a 31-year-old do this. But, much to my surprise, I was chosen.”

What are you excited to do in the position?
“I’m excited about everything! I’m excited about all the events, but especially to get to open up the White House. The President and the First Lady always talk about that, opening up the White House, and I want to continue that. Little kids come through here, and you just see their eyes light up, just to be in the White House."

What’s your personal style, and how do you plan to bring that to the White House?
“My style is all over the place, but I love vintage clothes — I love to wear vintage outfits around the office, and every time we go to a different city or state, I always try to hit up the consignment shops. 

“And, I just love to entertain. Every year, I have all the women in the First Lady's office over to my house and I cook — I love to cook and we have a great time. I just try to make it fun, bring a sense of humor. When we’re hanging out here late at night, finishing up an event, I like to put on a hip-hop album.”

You’re in charge of a very diverse range of events — from concerts to state dinners. What have you learned about being a good host to vastly different groups of people? 
“The most important thing is that you can’t use the same, simple model for everyone. We adjust things — adjust the menu, research the kind of foods the guests like and, most importantly, you listen to them. That’s how you make a community feel comfortable.”

Did hip-hop teach you anything about party planning?
“Here, we bring in different talent for events, different dancers, different poets, and being from the hip-hop community, I’ve been able to infuse some of that here into a variety of things. 

“The team here is versed in so many things. Everyone brings something different to the table, and that’s a great thing.”

What advice would you give someone just starting out?
“It’s been a long journey — even today, it’s very humbling. I guess, my advice would be: Just keep going. We all have things in life that happen to us, and if you just sit in the moment, it can bring you down sometimes — but you just have to keep going.

“I hope when people read my story, they realize that they can get past [their challenges]; you just have to keep going.” 
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