Michelle Fenty, D.C.’s Other First Lady
Michelle Fenty sounds a lot like Washington, D.C.’s other first lady on paper. She’s an accomplished attorney, married to an influential politician, and is an involved mother. She met her husband, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, when she served as his mentor. And she’s also been noted for her stylish wardrobe. But this isn’t the life this dynamic woman always envisioned for herself. Michelle was born in London, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, and lived there until she moved with her family to New York City at the age of 18. She met her future husband at Howard Law School in 1994, and they married in 1997. He told the Washington Post he asked her to be his mentor, and it was love at first sight. She, however, didn’t feel that way at first. Fast-forward 15 years, and the couple now has twin 9-year-old sons, Andrew and Matthew, and an 11-month-old daughter, Aerin.
Although Michelle doesn’t believe in nannies, preferring to call on Adrian’s mother if a sitter is needed, she seems to have adjusted to the demands public life has placed on her private life, but she admits that being the first lady of D.C. wasn’t in her initial plans. “I thought he would be a lawyer. He would practice. I would practice. We would have a family. That would be it,” she said to The Washington Post. Looking back, however, Michelle told Essence it was a natural progression for Adrian to run for mayor. He had been Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and a City Council member.
In addition to attending and hosting social events, performing speeches, and volunteering at charitable institutions, Michelle still continues to work as an attorney specializing in global technology. “I have spent a lot of years studying to be an attorney, and I felt it was important for me to continue to work and contribute,” she says, “Not just to my household, but to my personal fulfillment as well.” (Like the women honored at Glamour’s Women of the Year, Michelle knows that her own happiness is as important as the happiness of those she supports.)
Her pet project is the Capital Breast Cancer Center, where she serves as president of the advisory board. The organization provides free mammograms to underserved, low-income women in D.C., and Michelle says she became involved two years ago after learning that the breast cancer mortality rate in D.C. is among the highest in the country and black women are twice as likely to die from the disease.
Even though she’s extremely busy managing her family, charitable work, and career, Michelle says: “I basically approach each day knowing that I may not accomplish the goals I set out to do in the morning, but I’m OK with that because, at the end of the day, I am trying to achieve so many things.”
Yet, she’s able to accomplish so much while looking stylish, too. In 2006, she was voted one of Washington’s 10 best-dressed women by Washingtonian.com. She said she likes Calvin Klein for workwear, Vera Wang for subtly feminine and classic evening dresses, and Tracy Reese for color. But her real passion, like a lot of women, is shoes: “I’ve seen a few pairs of Manolo Blahniks that I wouldn’t mind paying $800 for. They’re like sculptures. You’d buy them and wouldn’t even want to wear them.” [Essence.com, The Washington Post, Washingtonian.com]