IT’S A COLD JANUARY NIGHT in D.C., and I’m at the Hart Senate Office Building, trailing U.S. Senator Kamala Harris into a conference room. Inside, a group of young Latino congressional staffers has gathered to meet the Democratic star from California. When she enters, flanked by aides, and dressed in a navy suit, matching ruffled blouse, black pearls, and stilettos that give her petite five-feet-four frame a few extra inches of height, the staffers immediately rise from their chairs.
Harris has an air of celebrity that, under normal circumstances, a freshman senator wouldn’t have had time to acquire. But this year has been anything but normal. She greets the 20-somethings as though they’re relatives at a family reunion: “Hi, everybody! Hi, guys!” Then she notices that one of the staffers is still seated, and her voice drops a full octave: “Stand up, man!”
The startled staffer springs to his feet. “Kevin,” he says, extending a hand.
“What’s your last name?” demands Harris.
“Thank you!” She shakes his hand. “Kamala Harris.” (That’s pronounced “comma-la,” by the way, and you’d better get it right.)
Harris is a courtroom litigator. This means that, although she is warm and funny, she is also comfortable with confrontation—at home with it, even—and a casual conversation can become a rapid-fire deposition without warning. But exchanges like this one are also tutorials. In Figueroa’s case: Here is how you greet an elected official. He’s going to need to know this, you see, if he runs for office, or applies to law school, or makes any of the life choices Harris expects of him. Continued at Vogue.com