Deesha Dyer, a former hip-hop writer who started out at the White House as an intern in her 30s, has been named as the new White House social secretary.
Dyer will replace Jeremy Bernard, who was both the first man and the first openly gay person to hold the position, and will step down this month. She told Refinery29 in an interview published Thursday that she felt “honored, very humbled, very excited” when she found out the news.
“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,” she said.
The job entails overseeing the planning and execution of the parties and events the White House hosts, including state dinners and the annual Easter egg roll. She said she’s “excited about all the events, but especially opening up the White House” to visitors.
“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,” she said.
The promotion is the culmination of a six-year career at the White House that began with an internship at the office of scheduling and advance when Dyer was 31. She recounted admiring Barack Obama when he first ran for president, and thinking, “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,” Dyer said. “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.”
She held various positions throughout the White House, including deputy social secretary for the past two years, and she brings her personal party-planning expertise to the job. Dyer says she hosts an annual party for all of the women in the First Lady’s office at her home, and she cooks for the group.
“I love to cook and we have a great time,” she said. “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.”
Along with entertaining, hip-hop is another love of Dyer’s. She said college “didn’t work for me the first time,” so she became a freelance hip-hop journalist, was an assistant at Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust and created a hip-hop AIDS program based in Philadelphia. Dyer eventually went back to college at the age of 29, and just a few years later interned at the White House.
In a statement, First Lady Michelle Obama touted Dyer’s “passion, creativity, public-mindedness and relentless competence.”
“Since [she started], 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,'” Obama said.
Going that extra mile, Dyer said, makes all the difference in hosting successful events at the White House.
“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,” she said. “That’s how you make a community feel comfortable.”