A former undocumented immigrant who became a citizen and used her platform to help all manner of Pennsylvanians, she is far more than a figurehead or a lieutenant governor’s spouse.That anyone would be called the n-word during a quick trip for golden kiwis is unsettling — all the more so once you learn what Fetterman overcame simply to give back to others.
The mother of three was at a grocery store in Braddock, a PIttsburgh suburb, Sunday evening when a woman recognized her and began haranguing her, saying she didn’t belong, calling her a thief and referring to her as the n-word that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman married, she told CNN.Normally, she defends those facing hate and injustice, but seeing it aimed at herself, she froze. She was sobbing by the time she got to her vehicle, and in the parking lot, the woman approached her passenger window, pulled down her face mask and delivered another epithet.
Gisele Fetterman’s family fled the violence of Rio de Janeiro in 1990 and grew up poor in New York City. Her mother told her and her brother to, “Be invisible,” and she has regularly shared childhood anecdotes of looking over her shoulder and fearing every knock at the door.
“So even though I’m 38 and I’m second lady and I have a family and career, I was immediately again a scared 9-year-old undocumented little girl at that grocery line,” she said of Sunday’s encounter.
“It was a hard reminder for me that it doesn’t matter what I’ve overcome, what I’ve achieved, that to some I will always be viewed as inferior simply because I was not born in this country,” she said.
Fetterman’s record runs deep. She has spent most of her adult life in the United States helping others, whether they’re impoverished, immigrants, LGBT, minorities, imprisoned or hungry. She’s also spoken out on the importance of wearing masks and participating in the Census.
She’s lighthearted, preferring the titular acronym, SLOP, over Second Lady of Pennsylvania, which she feels is “stuffy” — and is one of the foremost purveyors of positivity on social media, once quoting Rumi: “Even if from the sky, poison befalls all, I’m still sweetness wrapped in sweetness wrapped in sweetness.”
She told a writer this month she would never seek public office because “politics is mean and I am not.”
Here are some snapshots of what she’s achieved and overcome:
Her marriage was born of caring