Want a date with the Obamas? The New New Camelot has a Zulu queen as its gatekeeper. Meet Desirée Rogers, the White House social networker who sat next to Anna Wintour at Fashion Week.
As White House social secretary, Desireee Glapion Rogers orchestrates everything from state dinners to casual cocktails. But don't call her a party planner! She's overseeing a "strategy for events," she told NPR. In sync with Obama's Internet-powered campaign, she's toyed with the idea of letting Americans vote online to send an ordinary citizen to a White House dinner. Sounds ambitious! But could putting a Harvard MBA in charge of Barack Obama's social calendar possibly be overkill? Here's what we know so far:
No, really, a Zulu queen. Twice. Born in New Orleans in 1959. Rogers's father, Roy Glapion, helped revive the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, one of the krewes which run the city's Carnival. Rogers served as the krewe's Zulu queen in 1988 and again in 2000, a few months after he father's death. According to the HistoryMakers website, she has adopted the city's unofficial motto, "Laissez les bon temps rouler" (let the good times roll), as her own.
Corporate power player. Got a degree from Wellesley and an MBA from Harvard, then moved to Chicago and married John W. Rogers Jr. Worked at AT&T, then later for Peoples Energy, a utility. Most recently led a weird-sounding "social networking" initiative for Allstate. A bit defensive about her reputation as a socialite: "I am a serious businesswoman," she told Chicago magazine.
Obama family friend. Her husband happened to play basketball at Princeton with Craig Robinson, brother of the future Michelle Obama. The Rogerses divorced in 1998, but both remain family friends of the Obamas; Rogers was a co-chair of the 2009 inauguration. Very close to Valerie Jarrett, another Obama adviser making the move from Chicago to D.C.
A closet Republican? Appointed by a Republican governor in 1990 to run the Illinois State Lottery. Served as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1992. Gave $2,000 to George W. Bush's campaign in 2004 — but donated to Obama in 2007.
Fashionista. She's admittedly gorgeous, and makes a great fashion plate. (She was fourth in Gawker's Obama Hotties poll!) But her upwardly mobile tastes, not her past party affiliation, may be what get her in trouble with an America in recession. One expects the White House social secretary to project a certain glamour. But attending a Carolina Herrera runway show at the side of Vogue's editor-in-chief and chatting with W about her favorite designers? This will not quiet the suspicions many Americans have about their arugula-eating yuppie president.