It’s pretty apparent that Deesha Dyer is winning at being an adult. The former music and culture writer has just been appointed, by President Obama himself, as the newest White House Social Secretary, and it’s a pretty big deal.
Dyer, the second African-American woman to ever hold the position, will oversee the White House’s social department, which coordinates everything from small gatherings with diplomats to crucial, high-profile State Dinners hosted by the administration. It’s a huge job, but one that Dyer is ready for.
“I am incredibly honored to continue serving the president and first lady in my new role as White House social secretary,” she said in a statement. “I am constantly inspired by the openness, diversity and traditions of this administration, and I look forward to leading the talented Social Office team as we further the goals and priorities of the president and first lady throughout their last two years in office.”
At 37, Dyer boasts a fascinating, multi-faceted resumé full of trials, triumphs and career changes. Born in Philadelphia, she went to the Milton Hershey School, a school for kids from low-income backgrounds. She dropped out of college, but returned in her late-20s, earning a Women’s Studies degree at the Community College of Philadelphia by the age of 29. In between that time, she served as a community advocate and a freelance hip hop journalist. (Check out her write-up of Destiny’s Child in the Philadelphia City Paper.)
She served on REIT’s charitable board, the Youth Health Empowerment Project, the Hip Hop AIDS program, and worked as a CARE advocacy volunteer and a board member at Action AIDS.
In 2003, she founded “Cover Your Lover,” an STD awareness-raising campaign that involved passing out condoms and educational literature at hip hop concerts.
“The cause is close to my heart,” she told the ArbiterOnline in 2004. “This is the best way to reach the adolescent crowd…Some are aware, but they just don’t realize how real the problem is.”
After graduating college, she decided to make her way to the White House. The way in? Interning. At 31, she took on the role, usually held by 20-somethings, with vigor. She rose the ranks quickly, working closely with the president and first lady. Now, 6 years later, after serving as the deputy to the departing Social Secretary, she is poised to take over the majorly important position.
President Obama said in a White House statement, “Deesha shares our commitment to a White House that reflects America’s history, highlights our culture, and celebrates all Americans.” That’s pretty high praise from someone that Dyer looked up to as inspiration.
She reminisces to Refinery29, about Obama’s election, ““I thought, ‘This guy seems really cool, he’s talking about issues I care about; I’d love to work for him one day.’”
When she actually got the opportunity to do just that, she thought, “They’re not going to let a 31-year-old do this,” but now she’s giving really smart advice to the rest of us. “Just keep going,” she continued. “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].”