As a young, educated African American woman Lauren is truly #Blackgirlmagic and an inspiration to all both young and old. She is the current Director of Communications with the Justin Fairfax Campaign, a position that comes to most after more than 10 years in the game but she earned in a mere three years after graduating college. Some might say it doesn’t seem fair that one woman can be this passionate about making a difference as an advocate for progressive politics and yet be so beautiful, intelligent and hardworking, but that’s exactly what you’ll find when you meet Lauren Zehyoue.
We asked to share her story.
1. Tell us your story. What’s your background?
Originally, I’m from Dallas, TX but I graduated from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA with a BA in Political Science in 2014. I have always loved politics and wanted to live in the political capital of the world, the great District of Columbia; so I decided to attend graduate school at American University where I received my MA in Political Communications in 2016. About a month after that, I married my husband Elijah and we just celebrated our first anniversary in June.
2. Where and how did your passion for American Politics come about?
My passion for politics was ignited during the 2008 presidential election when I became absolutely enamored with the Obama family. I loved what they represented, and what an exciting time it was for our nation’s history. Following his successful campaign, I enjoyed watching how his agenda became policy and became very interested in the way something moved from a big picture idea to a tangible policy. While I was in college, I saw the important role that communications and media played in shaping of public perception and I knew that was an arena I wanted to be involved in.
3. What does a typical workday look like for you?
A typical workday for me is writing a press release, setting up an interview with an outlet for the candidate, crafting emails to send to supporters and trying to get ahead of whatever I haven’t gotten to yet. Let’s also hope that somewhere in there I have time for lunch! I’m also known to write op-eds and frequently in contact with reporters about questions they have involving the campaign.
4. What campaigns have you worked on thus far? Which one has been your favorite and why?
Though I haven’t always been directly hired by the campaign, so far I’ve been involved with the 2012 presidential campaign for President Obama, a 2015 city council race in Washington, D.C., the 2016 presidential campaign for Hillary Clinton and I’m currently working on a Lt. Governor primary in Virginia for Justin Fairfax. My favorite race is probably the one I am working on right now, it’s the first time I have been this hands on with messaging and I feel like every day I learn something new.
5. As a young, educated African American woman, what has been the most challenging aspect of your career thus far?
The most challenging aspect of my career has been a combination of age and color. People often don’t take me seriously initially because of my age, even more so because I look young. So if I make a mistake, its amplified because it confirms for a lot of people what they were already assuming. In reality, I’m quite good at what I do, but I’m often perceived to be less adequate.
Race plays a factor as well because (while not true for the race I am currently working on) I’m often one of few if not the only person who looks like me when I enter a space. It’s motivating for me because I want to be sure my presence makes a difference. I believe diversity is important, so I speak up to make sure my perspective is shared.
6. The current political climate is quite hostile to people of color, is any of this bleeding into your work/environment? If so, how do you handle it?
Yes, it makes the work much more personal. When you hear the fear mongering, hateful words of the president (and by candidates further down the ticket) it stings because they are talking about people I love. Also, you never could have told me in 2012 that in 2016 Republicans would openly embrace white nationalism the way they have. While I am currently working on a primary, the Republican at the top of the ticket in Virginia has advertising with Confederate flags. The hate speech is real out there and can be overwhelming at times.
I’m really glad I am in the position I am in because I think it is more important than ever for people of color not to hide. I enjoy being in a position where I can respond directly and I hope to empower others to do the same.
7. What’s the biggest lesson you have learned thus far as Director?
The biggest lesson I have learned as a director is the importance of knowing and articulating when your plate is full. It is important for your own health and sanity to know when you’ve had enough. I love what I do and I work at my own schedule, so it’s easy to work too much. I try to give myself intentional non-working time each day, whether that is working out or time with my husband.
8. Any words of advice for young black girls that want to follow in your footsteps?
Any young black girl that wants to work in politics, I would say pursuit it with everything in you. There is a narrative out there that working in politics is for white people and that’s not true. People will tell you that you can’t do it, you don’t have the connections, you can’t make a difference etc. and I want you to ignore them all. It is so important for women of color to be involved. Our voices need to be heard and our stories need to be told. Even if you feel like no one else is, know that I am rooting for you.
9. Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I want to be established in the field. I don’t need for everyone to know my name, just for the right people to know my name. Or in the communications department of the White House for whatever Democrat beats Trump in 2020.
10. Best thing about your journey thus far?
The best thing about my journey has been that I did not plan it at all. If you ran into me freshman year of college, I would have told you that by 25 I would be graduating from law school and about to take the bar. Working in politics in this way caught me all the way off guard, and I can honestly say that there is nowhere else I would rather be. I trusted God with my future and that is the best choice I have ever made.
THE OSOW FAST THREE!
1. What is your favorite song at the moment?
2. If you could have lunch with any person, who would it be and why?
Michelle Obama because I would love to hear all about the White House while she and President Obama lived there.
3. What’s your overarching vision for African Americans in this field?
My overarching vision for African Americans in this field is giving us more seats at the table and teaching us how to advocate for our communities.