Happy Black Girl Day! The Prototype: Mona Sutphen
Many of you may be unaware of what “Happy Black Girl Day!” is, or where it came from. Created by Brooklyn diva extraordinaire and fellow blogger Sister Toldja, this once-a-month holiday allows us to take a break from the constant media assault on Black women and celebrate the sisterhood with showers of positivity. The way I choose to celebrate HBGD is by highlighting an extraordinary and prototypical Black woman.
March’s Prototype: Mona Sutphen, Deputy Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama.
The Washington Post profiled her a year ago, sharing the high praise she has received from the people who have worked with her:
She’s smart as hell, practical, idealistic, nice and tough, and how often do you hear those together? And in the job she’s in, if you’re going to have to say no, those are good qualities to have.
I got a chance to meet her last week after she spoke as a part of the “Managing the West Wing” panel in D.C. I asked her what her goals were coming out of school and whether she envisioned herself on this path. “I had no clear goals when I graduated, actually,” she told me. She went with her gut in making decisions about what to do next when opportunities arose. As the WaPo noted, she worked for an ad agency right out of college, but then decided:
If I’m going to be staying up until 3 a.m. it should be for world peace and not shampoo sales.
Fabulous. She became a foreign service officer, worked for the US Embassy in Bangkok, studied at the London School of Economics, worked for an ambassador, moved on to work in the Clinton Administration as a Special Assistant, and co-authored a book on national security before becoming the COO of a consulting firm, an early Obama supporter, and now Deputy Chief of Staff and Policy Advisor to the most powerful man in the world. And she’s done it all with impeccable fashion sense.
Did I mention she is one half of a Washington power-couple? Her husband, Clyde Williams, whom she met while working in the Clinton Administration, serves as the Political Director of the Democratic National Committee. The couple have two small children, and show no signs of slowing down. Ladies: We Have More Than Michelle Obama (just in case you didn’t know!).
When I shared with Ms. Sutphen my dreams of West Wingdom, she did not tell me to “go to Whitehouse.gov.” I appreciated that. Tremendously. She even took my business card and encouraged me to try for a White House Senior Fellowship (like I’ve done anything at all to deserve a White House Senior Fellowship in my lifetime). But no, not a single mention of Whitehouse.gov (you might be surprised how many times I’ve heard that during my inquiries over the past two years). So, thank you, Ms. Sutphen, if you’re reading!
What we can learn from Ms. Sutphen: be excellent, and if you’re going to be working ’til 3 A.M., you might as well be living your dream.
Professional, gifted, ridiculously intelligent, kind, beautiful, wife and mother. Doing it all, and doing it BIG. Mona Sutphen is: The Prototype.
Happy Black Girl Day!