After Obama White House, Philly homegirl ponders next move

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Pres. Trump’s Inauguration Day was Philly homegirl Deesha Dyer’s last official day as White House social secretary.

Tradition has it, though, that the outgoing social secretary formally welcome her successor. So, earlier this month, Dyer hosted a dinner for First Lady Melania Trump’s pick, Anna Cristina Niceta Lloyd. Guests included previous social secretaries including those of Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and Obama.

Days later, she was back in her hometown of Philadelphia where I caught up with her for a long-awaited lunch. I wanted to ask for her thoughts of the angst surrounding the annual White House Easter Egg Roll but Dyer had warned ahead of time that she wouldn’t discuss anything involving the new administration.

But she did offer a little insight into what life is like inside the proverbial White House bubble. She also shared stories about her stint with the Obama Administration such as the time she pocketed napkins with the presidential seal while aboard Air Force One and how she once danced with Pres. Obama to Beyonce’s “Get Me Bodied” only to have him clown her moves. As someone still in withdrawal mode from the Obama era, I could have listened to Dyer talk about former president and his wife all day.

“They became, like, mentors to me.  And not just mentors in the professional sense but also mentors in the personal sense,,” recalled Dyer, 39,  over a beet salad and salmon at La Scala restaurant.

“Working for them made me very detailed.  It made me not procrastinate,” she added. “You don’t have that luxury at the White House of being that way.”

Dyer was an unconventional choice. Only the second African American in the job, she stood out from her predecessors – and not just because of her nose ring. She also lacks Ivy League credentials and the well-heeled connections common among others who’ve held the position.

She was a secretary for the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, a freelance hip hop writer and a student at the Community College of Philadelphia back in 2009 when she filled out an application for a White House internship.  To her surprise, she got hired and wound up in the White House scheduling office. 

She rose quickly, becoming associate director of scheduling correspondence and hotel director before joining the office of the social secretary as a deputy. That office assists  the first lady with  event planning, doing everything from making guests lists to coordinating with the State Department. In a city where who you know is practically everything, it’s  one of the most glamorous jobs there is.

Shortly after her appointment Dyer  was charged overseeing Pope Francis’ historic 2015 visit to the White House. She was so nervous leading up to it that she slept overnight on an air mattress in her office. 

The very next day, she hosted another nail biter, this time a  high-stakes visit by  President  Xi Jinping of China. An hour before the festivities  were to start, Dyer realized her  dress was wrong. She raced  into a nearby Macy’s where she purchased a black gown with gold detailing. It was a great choice but a marked contrast from the straight-off-the-runway Comme des Garcons gown her predecessor Desiree Rogers donned  in 2009 for an infamous state dinner that made headlines after reality TV stars managed to sneak past Secret Service. 

“If I do my job correctly, no one will care about what I’m wearing,” Dyer told me.  “It’s Mrs. Obama’s night.”

Smart lady.  Dyer never lost sight of what her role was through the other state dinners and high-profile events that followed, including performances by Beyonce and the cast of the Broadway- musical “Hamilton.”.

Even during that dreary, heart-wrenching morning when the Obamas said goodbye to the staff and hosted the Trumps at a ritual tea which must have been awkward, Dyer stayed in professional mode.  She must have wanted to boo hoo but didn’t. Dyer was among the small group that  accompanied the Obamas on their flight to California. She returned to her single-girl apartment afterwards and from exhaustion.

“It was hard because – I won’t lie – because part of the reason it was hard was because of who was coming in,” Dyer said.

Dyer recently signed with Outspoken Agency and has started a consulting firm to create and structure events. Dyer also is spends more time with a Philly-based nonprofit she co-founded  in 2014 called, a mentoring group for local girls that encourages them to explore  internationally. “Right now, I’m just breathing and figuring out my next move,” she told me.

If it’s  like her last one, it’ll be huge. 

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