What to Expect From NYC’s New First Lady, Chirlane McCray

With incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio taking office soon, New Yorkers are waiting to find out what his wife’s political priorities will be.

Chirlane McCray, wife of newly elected New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, at his election night party on Nov. 5, 2013
Chirlane McCray, wife of newly elected New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, at his election night party on Nov. 5, 2013 Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Fadwa Mutasser is thrilled about New York City’s incoming first lady, Chirlane McCray.

“For once,” she told The Root at a postelection party last month, “someone who is the face of New York City” will reside in Gracie Mansion. McCray’s family, she exclaimed, “are what we actually look like!”

And, indeed, on Nov. 5, New York welcomed not only Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio but also a new first lady in McCray, who is the city’s first first lady in more than a decade. She’s anything but a stereotypical political wife, and she helped bolster her husband’s racially and economically diverse campaign strategy in the primary and general election.

“She has always been very involved in social and conscious issues,” New York Rep. Gregory Meeks said, between shaking hands during the de Blasio celebration in Brooklyn.

“She’s going to raise the consciousness of many New Yorkers on the needs of children, working families and women,” Meeks added. “She’s been a leader in that area long before Bill de Blasio ran for mayor. She’s going to be a great first lady.”

Now New Yorkers are wondering as much about what her priorities will be as they are the new mayor’s.

Raised in New England, McCray says that hers was often the only black family in Longmeadow, Mass., and she felt set apart from her classmates. After attending Wellesley College, she began working as a journalist in New York City and penned an Essence magazine essay entitled “I Am a Lesbian,” sharing her sexuality at a time when society wasn’t especially open to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.

Then, while working at City Hall as a speechwriter and organizer for the likes of Mayor David Dinkins, she met de Blasio. He was, she says, handsome and persistent, and she agreed to go out with him. Now the couple have been married 22 years and have two children: Dante, the teen with the famous Afro, and Chiara, an undergraduate in Northern California with the famous flower headband.

McCray told The Root, “One of the reasons I was attracted to Bill in the first place is because he is very in tune with the minority voters [that are the majority now] and appreciative of the wonderful, ethnic mix that is New York City.”