Christina Binkley: This is Hot Buttons, a show about the future of fashion and culture on a changing planet. I’m Christina Binkley. I’m a contributing writer at Vogue Business and the Wall Street Journal. This week we have the honor and pleasure of talking with Gisele Fetterman and we can’t wait to get to know her better. Rachel Kibbe of Circular Services Group is in New York. Rachel, how’s it going?
Rachel Kibbe: It’s going great. Really excited to be here. I’m trying to contain myself. I’m trying to be cool.
Christina Binkley: We’re all excited! And the CEO of Thrilling, Shilla Kim-Parker, joins us from South Salem, New York. Hi, there.
Shilla Kim-Parker: I am so so excited. We are we’re trying to maintain our collective cool and composure.
Christina Binkley: You’re always composed. I can’t imagine you ever losing your composure! Okay, let’s get to it. Gisele Fetterman just had a hell of a year. She has charged through a bruising campaign supporting her husband’s bid for the US Senate while deflecting attacks from the right with the kind of disarming self confidence that she’s become something of a pop icon. She has been outspoken about sustainable fashion, thrifting and vintage, but she’s a lot more than that. And she’s dedicated her life to the kind of service on behalf of those in need that we’re just in awe and so thrilled to have her join us today. Welcome, Giselle!
Gisele Fetterman: Thank you so much for having me.
Christina Binkley: You know, I have to say that one of the things I think that I may have been slow on the uptake because I absolutely watched every minute of you and the Senator’s campaign – it was often hilarious, the whole grocery store Fetterman thing. I used to live in southeastern Pennsylvania so I’m familiar with those grocery stores. But there were heart-rending moments watching what was going on with you and the Senator’s health. And then very late in the game I became familiar with the fact that you are really into thrifting and reuse. You’ve made a commitment, I believe, to where 90% of your clothing will be thrifted or previously worn by somebody else. I know this is a very small part of what you do in your life, but I wonder if you could just start by telling us a little bit about how you came to this point and how long you’ve been doing this?
Gisele Fetterman: Sure. So I’ve been doing it forever. You know, I came to this country as a young immigrant. My family was undocumented for almost 15 years. And my mom who in Brazil had a PhD and ran hospitals, here she was a domestic worker. And she mostly cleaned houses and hotels and several of those homes had kids who were just a little bit older than me. So I would get their hand-me-downs which for me, it was Christmas. I mean, I loved it. I’ve always loved hand-me-downs. So I have a very special memory of that time. I remember all the kids in school had Benetton tracksuits. And they were like, $80, and I was like, “we could never!” and then my mom brings home a Benetton tracksuit, and it was red, and it was fabulous. So I have really happy memories from that time. I never looked at it as a negative, it was very positive. But you know, learning about how it’s mostly women who work in these factories who really suffer. And how awful fast fashion is for not only the people, but for the environment. It was something I’ve always just stuck with. I had my childhood part, that was a great connection for me. So for me, I always choose secondhand first. I think it’s a lot more fun. It’s a lot more interesting. And it’s a win-win for everything. I also love knowing that someone else wore what I’m wearing. Like, I wonder if they had these great memories in this piece or I’ll make new memories with that. So I always loved used clothes.
Christina Binkley: Where do you shop?
Gisele Fetterman: All over. From the Goodwill to the hidden church markets to ThredUp or The RealReal. I love the exchange places. I love it all. I love the challenge of thinking I won’t find anything in this place, but I will find something amazing in there.
Christina Binkley: I hear Washington DC has some really great thrift shops. I’m just curious about the reaction that you get when, for instance, on your first day in the Senate and when you posted a photograph of yourself in a blue dress that I think you said you paid $12 for. I’m pretty sure I saw that on vogue.com, I think it really got picked up. So what’s the reaction you got? Do you think that people are starting to follow you as kind of an influencer?
Gisele Fetterman: I think people are mostly really curious like, “Oh, you can find nice things?” or, “Oh, I like that dress. You found that in that place?” So I think it questions their perspective of what they thought you’d find in these places. But what was funny or was, it was day three of orientation, and someone in the hallway comes and says, “I saw the piece about your thrifted dresses. Is your outfit today thrifted?” And I was like, “It was actually from a swap meet.” The dress that I was wearing, from day three, I had been to some random college swap meet that I was invited to. And I was like, “That’s too much. I think the world’s not ready for swap meet clothing.”
Shilla Kim-Parker: Have you converted your kids and your husband into the thrifting lifestyle or not yet?
Gisele Fetterman: So my daughter will own the Goodwill bins, like that’s her favorite place in the world are the bins. She just loves going to the bins. And my youngest will wear anything I tell him to. My oldest is 14 and you know, he’s more specific particular on what he chooses. But my daughter will only wear goodwill bins, like that’s her go-to.
Christina Binkley: Fourteen, that’s when the peer pressure really kicks in.
Gisele Fetterman: Yeah, and he’s really cool and a free thinker, I don’t think he’d be influenced by that. I think he just likes a specific look. So like, I found a couple things I brought home that he was like, “okay I’d wear that.” But mostly he wants to find exactly what he’s looking for, whereas I’m much more adventurous in what I find.
Shilla Kim-Parker: I love the stories about you wearing thrifted to your prom and to your wedding. Because now thrifting has become so mainstream. I feel like even 10 years ago, it wasn’t as popular a notion. And so the fact that you embrace it, then is so great. And I also love whenever you talk about thrifting it’s not just about climate impact, which is massive, and the waste impact, which is massive, but you always bring up the people involved. No surprise, given your orientation around human rights. It’s amazing that you’ve been able to kind of be such an evangelist and a champion for a second hand.
Gisele Fetterman: Thank you. I mean, I love women, all my heroes are women. And to think that I can pick something to wear that has directly hurt women, I just can’t do it. You know? I just can’t do it.
Shilla Kim-Parker: And it’s fun, right? Because you have that great quote of we have to have Bread and Roses both. And it’s and you know, I love that also that you advocate for the fun and joy of things. Not everything has to be serious, it can be something that we just do to make ourselves feel a little bit better, to find joy in this world. Fashion can also just be fun.
Gisele Fetterman: It’s so much fun. And I remember, so Pennsylvania has this big political event called PA Society. It takes place every December in New York, where everyone comes from Pennsylvania to New York, and they attend these parties and they network. And I wore a dress from an exchange place. It was a beautiful Sea New York dress. And I was in the elevator and a woman said, Oh my god, I have the same dress. And she was from Pittsburgh. I said, “Did you sell it to Avalon Exchange? Because that’s where I bought it.”
Christina Binkley: No way.
Gisele Fetterman: And she’s like, “No, I think it’s still my closet.” But there was that moment of like, “Wait are you bragging?” and I am I mean, it’s a flex! So I think I put caught enough people off guard at first now I think they expect it.
Rachel Kibbe: Giselle, I want to come back to thrifting and your evangelism of resale and backup a little bit about … I mean, for us that’s the funnest thing to talk to you about. But I want to put in perspective, like how much you’ve accomplished and additional causes you’re interested in. You’re a nutritionist by trade. Is that right? So following the footsteps of your mother, that’s amazing. And you launched a nonprofit that has provided over 24 million pounds of food to those in need, and saving food from landfills. So you’ve tied those two together. And it’s it feels like you’ve made the position you’re in now your own. And you’re able to draw attention to these causes that are close to you like food insecurity and opening free stores in a shipping container that I want to visit so badly. It looks like so much fun.
Gisele Fetterman: Please come. That was actually a landfill shipping container. It had been decommissioned.
Rachel Kibbe: In addition, okay, let me add some other things though. Providing access to swimming, marijuana legalization, LGBTQIA rights, and now clothing reuse. You’ve co-founded Freestore 15104. Is that right? Foodforgood PGH, and 412 Food Rescue. Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?
Gisele Fetterman: No. I think I’m really good at mentoring entrepreneurs. Because I host an entrepreneur program for women. I think I’m more nonprofit, but I think I’m really good at supporting entrepreneurs. So if that is an entrepreneur.
Rachel Kibbe: That’s very entrepreneurial, I think you’re an entrepreneur.
Christina Binkley: I had the same thought your activities to now have been very Pennsylvania focused, and even Braddock focused, the town where you live. Any thoughts now of going national with some of these
Gisele Fetterman: Free Store has gone national. Different communities have reached out. So we have one in a reservation, we have, some have popped up in different places. Nothing specifically branded, but I’ve worked and brought them to this place. 412 Food Rescue is national. We’re in several cities. I really encourage people to dream big, but I’ve never been that person, I think. And I’ve analyzed myself in therapy to figure it out. But I think it’s that I lived in limbo. I lived in limbo for so long being undocumented that I didn’t know what tomorrow would look like, right? So if people would ask me, like, the worst interview question for me was, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” I can encourage young people to dream really big. But for me, it was always a struggle. And what I’ve learned in therapy is that poverty and trauma kills your long term vision, because you’re in survival for so long. So I’m very good in the present, I’m very good at today. I’m not really good at next year, or the big planning ahead. I’m not very good at that. And everyone should go to therapy!
Rachel Kibbe: PSA!
Christina Binkley: What are you planning for the next six months?
Gisele Fetterman: So I’m in the Fire Academy. I’m actually becoming a firefighter.
Christina Binkley: Oh, that’s wild!
Gisele Fetterman: I responded to my first two fires this past Friday. And in May, I’ll graduate from the Academy. So I’ll do some of that. And I always want to work on things that are highlighting and bringing voices to the historically ignored. And that’s what I care about. I think my work will always focus on that in some way, but I don’t know where it will take me. I am learning DC now and finding my way there, and I really believe in blooming where you are planted. And I’ve been planted in different spaces, and I think have found the way to bloom. And hopefully I’m able to do that in this new role as well.
Rachel Kibbe: You’ve said that you enter every room wondering who is missing and how we can bring them in? I love that. And everything that you do seems exactly in that purpose. What have you found in DC who’s missing? And who do you want to bring in? Or are you bringing in?
Shilla Kim-Parker: Or is it too early?
Rachel Kibbe: Or is it too early? Yeah.
Gisele Fetterman: It’s too early. I’m still learning a lot. But I would say that like my first orientation training, the biggest shock to me was like, if someone is being nice to you, they could be a foreign information officer. I’m literally the friendliest person in the world. And I want to be friends with everyone. I want everyone to like me. And I’m like, I have to look at everyone sideways. This is not – I’m a Pisces, I’m not built for this. So I’m learning.
Christina Binkley: What do they tell you about how you deal with that?
Gisele Fetterman: That’s the difficult thing. Yeah, be very aware. Like if someone is at coffee every morning, they probably are waiting for you and they will slowly enter your life and try to get information. And it happens. It’s like a real change. So, you know, I have a lot to learn. But the spouses have been really wonderful and welcoming. And the gays have welcomed me with open arms. So I’m making friends, hopefully, none of them were foreign information officers!
Shilla Kim-Parker: I have to say I absolutely love that you have at the top of your Twitter profile, this quote, “Oh, that gentleness how far more potent it is than force.” You’ve also talked about being radically soft, and I love this idea that nice, does not correlate with being weak. That you can be tough and powerful and also be nice. How did that philosophy and point of view evolve for you over your life? Because I’m sure it was an evolution.
Gisele Fetterman: Definitely. I’ve always been really vulnerable. I really believed in stay soft. My voice will shake. If I’m in a situation I will probably start crying if someone is mean to me, but that’s okay. And it took me a long time to learn that was okay. I would be really uncomfortable if people would call me like an activist or an advocate because I didn’t feel I looked or sounded like to me what an activist was. I’m very gentle and very soft. And I’ve learned with time that that is a strength of mine. It is a vulnerability that allows me to see things differently and respond differently. And I remember like crying about something with my grandma, which happened all the time, I was always crying. Like, give love because that’s what’s inside of you. That’s what’s in there and what you’re getting from other people is what’s inside of them. And it was a very simple piece of wisdom, but it was a really good perspective for me. And then one day, I was crying about something else, and my grandma was like, “Gisele look at you, you are so cute. Who cares?” And I was like, “Okay, grandma.” So I hear that voice. You know, she’s passed since, but I always hear her voice: “Gisele, you’re so cute. Who cares that these people are mean to you?”
Rachel Kibbe: It’s so important to have that voice in your head. And I have to say, I had a personal experience with you, before you arrived at where you are, a few years ago, where you were soft and gentle with me. I was running a business of excess inventory and return mystery boxes and sent you a mystery box and you posted it online. And you responded personally to me and you were so kind and respectful. I did not expect a response.
Gisele Fetterman: Thank you. I do all my social media, all my emails, I’ve never had an assistant.
Shilla Kim-Parker: You seem to fit 36 hours in a 24 hour period? I’m very confused.
Gisele Fetterman: ADHD is definitely my superpower. And I thrive under chaos. My inbox at all times have like 3000 unread, 400 unread texts, and everything else less than that would be too normal and I probably wouldn’t be able to function. So the ADHD is definitely my superpower.
Shilla Kim-Parker: Can you talk a little bit about… speaking of unread letters and emails I’m I’ve always been curious about this. You’ve been asked this to death, but the way you met John, and just that story, but also I’m really curious how did he respond? How did he even find your letter? Tell us more.
Christina Binkley: And was it an actual letter? Everybody describes it as snail mail.
Gisele Fetterman: I only do handwritten letters. And I still put hearts over my eyes. And it was definitely a handwritten letter. I still do all my thank you’s in handwritten form. I think the art of handwriting a letter is an art we’re losing, and I don’t want to lose it. I read an article about this young mayor who was working to revitalize this kind of forgotten city. And these are all the things I care about, right? A city that had contributed so much to this country. It’s the reason skyscrapers exist because of the steel mill in this community. And it gave so much to America. And then it was left behind. And it just felt so wrong. And just like, how can a person be discarded? How can a place be discarded? And I just I read that story. I felt the connection, I thought what a good guy and I went on about my life. And then a couple weeks later, that name came up to me again, Braddock. And it was talking about that the steel that built the Brooklyn Bridge came from this area. And I’m from Brazil so I believe signs. And I thought this is a sign. So I said I’m going to write a letter and reach out. And again, I do a lot of letters I write to people to thank them, to say I enjoyed meeting them. I have like an hour dedicated a day just to write letters, mostly thank you letters. I buy a lot of stamps. And I sent off the letter. The letter went to his borough manager who eventually passed that on to him. He called me when he received it. It was actually on his birthday. I remember that because it was he said, it’s my birthday today. And he said, “Well, why don’t you come visit if you’re interested in seeing the town.” I was really busy at the time. He was really busy. So I came to visit three months later. And then of course he fell madly in love with me when I arrived.
Shilla Kim-Parker: Of course!
Gisele Fetterman: Obviously. But that’s how it happened.
Christina Binkley: That is wild. So anybody single out there who’s listening to this, get rid of your Tinder account and start writing letters.
Rachel Kibbe: I hear you Christina. Noted!
Shilla Kim-Parker: And then a year later you’re married. How did the proposal happen? Was it love at first sight?
Gisele Fetterman: It wasn’t love at first sight. I definitely fell in love with Braddock first. I saw this community that 90% of the people left and 10% stayed behind and I just thought what strength it took to stay behind and to fight for your community. And I just really fell in love with Braddock. I’ve only ever lived in really populous cities, big cities. I never knew that abandonment existed, like I’ve never seen a city that was abandoned. So I knew that he was a really good man. Like I was like this is a good person. And that’s how I left that visit. And then we stayed in touch. He checked in to make sure I had arrived home because I had driven in. And then I invited him to come visit my work. So he came out to New York and New Jersey and visited my work and then it took off from there. But I believe he was in love at first sight. I don’t know.
Christina Binkley: He did go visit your work when he was a mayor of a town and presumably quite busy, so something motivated that visit. And I assume your kids are in school in Braddock, and you’ll be going back and forth. How are you going to work this?
Gisele Fetterman: I will remain in Braddock. My mom lives very close and is very supportive of the kids. I’ll probably be in DC, once or twice a month, you know, scheming, organizing, thinking of what I’m going to do there. And he’ll be home on weekends. So mostly be gone during the week because they vote pretty much every week.
Rachel Kibbe: So going back to the thrift topic. I’ve watched your journey and a lot of the things we talked about on the show and in fashion and sustainable fashion in general is the fact that awareness and consumer awareness along with policymaker education is so important, such a touchstone when we think about any sort of systemic change we want might want to see. I’m leading a coalition of organizations fueling a circular economy called American Circular Textiles group. Our members are actually The RealReal, ThredUp, Rent the Runway, and Castle. So together, we’re working to advance domestic circularity policies. Shilla is a member, Thrilling, and we’re very early on. But a lot of the things we’re thinking about is how to lend awareness and visibility to exactly what you’re doing: affordability, sustainability, thrifting being the first choice, when you think about buying something, quote, unquote, “new” for your wardrobe. So you’re doing such a public service by just existing and talking about your love for thrifting. It’s just a tremendous service. When you think about the future of thrifting, and I think and I’m sure you think you see a world where everyone thinks, “let’s shop secondhand. First and foremost.” Would you think of any policies in particular that would support that?
Gisele Fetterman: I’ve been working on policy in regards to food waste, right? I would always say I hate politics. And I do. But I realized that all my nonprofits exist because of policy failures, right? So that’s when I made the connection. I was like, “Hey, if we’re doing a better job, like I don’t need to resist doing this work.” So with food waste, I kind of have that pretty mapped out, what that can look like. I will think about what this looks like for this work. But if you need a mouthpiece, or any support, I would be honored to help with anything that you’re doing with that. Plus, I know someone in the Senate office that I can, you know, make an introduction to when it’s time to have the conversation.
Shilla Kim-Parker: Can you share a little bit on the food waste side? I’m so curious.
Gisele Fetterman: Sure, absolutely. So in France, it’s illegal to throw out good food. So if you’re a grocery store or a restaurant, if you have good food, it’s illegal to discard it. In America, it is not. Some states have tighter laws. Massachusetts has a good law around food waste. But what we’re looking at is that if you have good food, you have to donate it to a nonprofit. So the goal would be for restaurants, warehouses, grocery stores to be matched directly to a nonprofit. So that’s their first place to go. Right now, because there’s no plan, you know, who’s going to bring the food somewhere, in many cases, they just started out. And the other issue in Pennsylvania is that garbage is really cheap. It’s so cheap that other states bring their garbage here. So there’s not a second thought, there’s no initiative for them to be like, “Oh, well, garbage is cheap, just throw it all out.” But there are laws that we can pass that can really cut down on the food waste that we see. Currently, it’s 40%. So 40% of food is wasted. One in 6, one in 7 is food insecure. I was a math major. It doesn’t add up. We have to do better.
Shilla Kim-Parker: That’s shocking. And I think, you know, it speaks to what we talked about earlier, which is your determination to make this a better place, a better world for everybody. You have this great quote, “If I can’t bring you with me, I’m not going.” and we’ve talked about all the incredible work you did, leading and starting all these nonprofits. I loved what you did with the swimming pool. At the Lieutenant Governor’s Mansion. Would you mind sharing that story?
Gisele Fetterman: Sure. So when my husband becomes lieutenant governor, I’m learning this new space and we learn that the role comes with a mansion, the Lieutenant Governor’s Mansion. We’re one of the few states that still had a mansion for the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor. And one. I thought it was obnoxious because I would never live in a tax payer funded mansion. So I’m like, “We don’t want that mansion.” We were actually the only Second Family in the history of Pennsylvania to reject living in the mansion. And it came with a gardener and a chef and I can’t cook so John probably would have benefitted. I’m like, “I don’t want this mansion.” But it comes with a pool, a big big pool. And I said, “I really want the pool.” And the vision was that we would open it to the public and teach swim lessons and water safety. And we would provide these services to children who historically have not had access to swimming. And imagine me, brand new Second Lady, marching into a room with all these attorneys in government saying, “Hey, I have this idea. Let’s open up this pool and make it public.” And they were really patient with me and made it happen, and it became the people’s pool. And for the last four years, thousands of young people from Pennsylvania have learned how to swim, have felt welcomed in a swimming pool, have felt welcome in a governmental space, have learned to swim.
Christina Binkley: Any idea what’s happening to it now?
Gisele Fetterman: So we made sure that no lieutenant governor could ever live in this mansion again, because there’s no more mansion. It’s now a veterans building, which is great. But the pool, we’re not sure what the future will be of the pool. But we did have four amazing years. And we challenged the idea of “it’s always been this way. It can’t be any different.” But it can be.
Shilla Kim-Parker: In particular. Giselle, you’ve talked about how swimming comes with a painful legacy of racial segregation. And that black kids are three times more likely to die from drowning because of it. And so you’ve been such a powerful advocate for equality, particularly through a race lens, as you’ve experienced, unfortunately, we still have virulent strains of racism in the country. Can you talk a little bit about how you are doing, how your family is doing? Hopefully, it’s the minority of your experiences these days. But we know that there’s still some ugly, ugly behaviors out there.
Gisele Fetterman: Definitely. And then, you know, what’s been sad – but also I go back to my grandma, in my mind – I get more hate mail than my husband does. And for years, it was my eyebrows, like, “Do something about those eyebrows. They’re too ethnic for this state.”
Christina Binkley: Most women would kill for your eyebrows.
Gisele Fetterman: And thank you, but I get like 10 times, it’s no exaggeration, of of the hate that he does, simply for that. And I’ve learned not to take it personally. It’s been a process of learning to say, No, it’s not you. It’s this idea. It’s this fear. But I get to share my story. The first thing I tweeted when he won the Lieutenant Governor was, “Hey, Pennsylvania, your second lady was a formerly undocumented immigrant.” It felt so good to say it out loud. And, you know, to be able to put a face on, this is what it looks like. These are real people. These are kids who go to school with your kids. So I think I will always be that little kid that’s scared of the knock at the door, if I’m not expecting guests, because I could be deported. I will never lose that part of me. It’s something that’s very much always there. And I think it gives me a different perspective, a different lens into how I see things. But yeah, I mean, I had that experience at the grocery store. And these things still happen. But I think it showed the world that I was Second Lady of Pennsylvania. When that happens it doesn’t matter where you are, what you’ve achieved, some people will always see you as inferior.
Christina Binkley: I wonder if you could share a little bit about how you internally and emotionally deal with that. Because, you know, you’re certainly not alone in receiving death threats and hate mail. And, you know, with social media, it’s shocking how often that happens to people and based on who they are, what their professions are, it’s all over. And it’s a terrifying experience when it happens to somebody. So tell me a little bit about how you process that to go on. And you keep such a positive attitude, you know, your whole being is so positive, outwardly.
Shilla Kim-Parker: And even as a mom because, you know, my kids’ school still has swastikas drawn on them every other month and parents all across this country constantly have to deal with their kids coming home with incidents around racism.
Gisele Fetterman: Oh, I’m so sorry your kids have to see that. I mean, I cry a lot. I think that is a part of my process is crying. But also, you know, I’ve learned not to take it personally. I’ve also tried to think of like the human side, not that there’s ever an excuse. But I tried to think that at one time this was a child, perfect little child that was born into the world, into a home filled with hate, and to a home, who taught them to feel these things and to believe these things. I do try to think of that. And it allows me to, I think, have really difficult conversations with people, but to also try to see them as human. So I’ve had conversations when people have said to me, “Well, you, you know you do such great things. I don’t have an issue with you as an immigrant. It’s the other ones.” And like, how do I have this conversation? Like how can I reach this person who somehow I’m I passed to them, but everyone else doesn’t. I’ve had folks say to me on the campaign trail, “Well, you don’t look like an undocumented person. You don’t look like one of those.” So I cry all the way home, and I feel dirty and icky and drained. But I have to use that opportunity to try to open a conversation to try to reach a place in their mind or their heart, where they can try to think differently. And that only happens having those really difficult conversations. And now it doesn’t happen because I think people pretty much know who we are. But for the first many years, everyone thought I was the babysitter. I was always the nanny when I was out with my kids.
Christina Binkley: Oh, for God’s sake.
Gisele Fetterman: No one believed they were my kids “Whose kids are these? Are you taking more kids into your roster?” And I’m like, “I can’t handle. I don’t want anymore.” There have been some really funny moments. I mean, not funny, but I have to make it that way. And one of the best ones was, we were hosting an event at our home. It was this catered booksigning and there were all these guests that came in and my house was full of people. So I got a glass of wine and I went to hide off in the pantry to drink alone. And a woman came up to me and said “I saw what you did and I’m gonna tell Mr. Fetterman.” She thought I was staff. And in the end, I’m not snarky or confrontational. But in that moment, it must have been the line. I was like, “Please don’t tell him. I don’t want to get fired.” And I did that, because I knew that in the next 10 minutes, I had to welcome all these people to my home. So 10 minutes later, my husband and I get in front of everyone and say thank you for coming to our home and being here. And she was obviously mortified, came over apologized. And then I think that was a much more important lesson that she learned that day than if I had handled that differently. I was at a pool with the kids and speaking Portuguese with them. My children are bilingual. And this like young, beautiful Mom, it’s like, “How cool that you teach her language.” And I was like, “Wow, thank you. Like, I really appreciate that.” She’s like, “When I was looking to hire help. I couldn’t find anyone who spoke another language. They’re so lucky to have you.” And I believe I said that, because anyone with tiny kids know that kids are gonna say, mom one thousand times, mom mom. And that’s what it took. It took four seconds for my kids to yell, “Mom, mom, mom.” And she came over and said, I’m so sorry. Like, I don’t know why I assumed but so I think I think every opportunity is an opportunity for both parties to walk away with grace and dignity. And that lessons can be taught in ways that are really gentle, too. And I don’t have a different tone. Like I couldn’t be mean if I wanted to. It doesn’t exist in me. So I’ve tried to find power in this little bird voice I have and still be effective somehow.
Rachel Kibbe: Well, it’s clearly effective. I mean, your husband won all 67 counties in Pennsylvania, and they know who you are. And that was the first time in history that’s ever happened. And then then while he was in the hospital – and I’m so sorry, that that happened, and I’m so relieved that the result was positive, because you saved his life and that you knew what signs to look for. But only four days before the primary when he won, you were basically – and you’ve described it as having to act as a surrogate – and the response was, because of the way you handled yourself, really incredible, I think. But what was that like for you? It’s not every day, you’re just asked to just step in for someone and act as their surrogate policymaker.
Gisele Fetterman: It was pretty wild. I mean, it all happened very fast. And this is a person who would never sign up for this. But it was really easy in that moment because I love him and because we believe in the same thing. So it was easy to share his message while he was recovering. But having a stroke nationally, with the world watching and having little kids that, you know, I had to tell my kids about four minutes before the entire world to know that their father had suffered a stroke. It was a lot to manage. But, you know, we’ve made it through and you know, we were no different than any other family who goes through a health crisis. It’s just, we went through it under the lens of the world watching.
Christina Binkley: Well, it led to people talking about you sometime running for office. You say, you don’t have any interest?
Gisele Fetterman: Never.
Rachel Kibbe: She said, “No.”
Shilla Kim-Parker: Gisele, I don’t know if you still have family in Brazil. But obviously, you’re still very close to your home country. And we were obviously all shocked to see the insurrection on January 8, clearly, inspired by our own, America’s own attempted insurrection on January 6 of last year, was it last year? God? I don’t know, years ago, two years ago, fueled by white nationalists in our country. How are you? If you still have friends and family there, how are they doing? How are you feeling about it all?
Gisele Fetterman: It was devastating. I mean, my family’s all still there. My mom is here. But my father, my uncles, my cousins, are all still in Brazil. Thankfully, none would have participated in such a thing. But it was heartbreaking to watch. I think we’re still recovering from January 6. I think many of us still have PTSD from that day. And to see that happen in my country, in both my countries was just devastating. You know, growing up, there was always a joke, “Brazil always copies America.” Brazil is always trying to copy America. And I mean, we did it with the President. We did it with this insurrection. And I think the message should be we want to copy all the good things, not this stuff. So it was it was very sad to watch. I lived in the capitol for a couple years, and toured all the buildings and just so much history was destroyed. Just devastating.
Christina Binkley: I was glad to see the way they rounded up the insurrectionists right on the spot and put them in some kind of building.
Rachel Kibbe: We could learn from that.
Gisele Fetterman: Yeah, we do things a little differently when it comes to that.
Shilla Kim-Parker: Accountability.
Rachel Kibbe: I’m just so grateful you’ve spent this time with us today and been so open to all of our prodding questions. And I just want to encourage you, though you don’t need it, to just keep on doing all the work you’re doing and stay yourself and know that there’s so many people rooting for you and rooting for your husband. And ignore the haters, because I can guarantee you there’s so many more people even though the haters are louder, that are in awe of you.
Gisele Fetterman: Well, thank you! I feel like I had three new friends. I’ll be in New York at the end of the month, so we should go hang out.
Christina Binkley: I’m in LA, so you gotta come out to LA. I actually have to fly to Washington, DC. I have a kid to visit there. I have one last question for you though, Gisele because I keep reading articles that describe you as petite. And I keep seeing photographs of you standing next to people like the Vice President of the United States, and you’re taller than she is. So how tall are you? And why do people keep saying you’re petite?
Gisele Fetterman: So I’m five nine and a half.
Christina Binkley: Whoa, yeah.
Gisele Fetterman: Everyone thinks I’m so petite. It’s like my husband is so tall. He’s six foot nine. So he really makes everyone look very short. But everyone who meets me are like, “Oh my God, you’re so tall. I can’t believe it.”
Shilla Kim-Parker: My favorite is your approach to taking pictures with him that you will always favor the outfit over keeping his head in the photo.
Gisele Fetterman: Of course! Yeah, I don’t need his head in anything. The shoes are much more important. The first time he was like, “Hey, you know, I think you messed up. My shirt, my face is cut off.” And I was like “No, baby.”
Christina Binkley: “Look at the shoes.”
Shilla Kim-Parker: That’s perfect. My husband and I are the same height and I’m going to try to do that, too.
Christina Binkley: This has been a great pleasure, Gisele. Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope to meet you.
Gisele Fetterman: Thank you, me too. Thank you so much for having me.
Christina Binkley: That’s all for the show. Please support us by following us on Twitter @hotbuttonspod and on Instagram at hotbuttons.pod or send a link to friends or colleagues and go to Apple or Spotify and give us a review. We’re also streaming on Amazon music and you can also find us on YouTube now. We really appreciate your support. If you want to email us with story ideas, send a note to hotbuttons at postscriptaudio.com. Or leave us a voicemail at our new call in line. It’s 508-622-5361. Hot Buttons is hosted by me, Christina Binkley, Shilla Kim-Parker and Rachel Kibbe. The show is produced by Post Script Media. Our senior editor is Anne Bailey; our engineer is Sean Marquand. Stephen Lacey, Scott Clavenna and Rachel Kibbe are our executive producers. Post Script Media makes podcasts at the intersection of climate with culture, politics, business and tech. Post Script Media is supported by Prelude Ventures. Prelude is a venture capital firm focused on climate solutions across energy, Food, Agriculture, Transportation, logistics and advanced materials. Thanks for joining us. We’ll catch up with you next week.