Fighting the good fight-Jennifer Samawat

I met my neighbor, Jen, through On My Block Film Festival last summer, and was immediately in awe of her kick-ass job and great style. We got together last weekend to talk politics, Obama and how to look chic even in the winter.

Wearing the abilene shearling boots

Isobel: Jen, you worked on President Obama's campaign in 2007/2008, and spent some time on it this cycle as well. What is daily life like on the campaign trail?

Jen: It is like a different world. Everything has this crazy urgency, and its very easy to get enveloped by this bubble that just becomes your normal existence for that time.

Last cycle,  I was on the road full time for almost 22 months- as a Press Lead on the national advance team, which was basically event and media planning for every thing the President did. So we'd fly across the country, spend a few days scouting out and locking in venues (no joke, I have seen every high school gym in Iowa), coordinating with Secret Service, contracting vendors, liaising with local and national staff to build crowds, media coverage and visual messaging- then POTUS would roll in, we’d get him through the day, and it was on to the next one. I did the same job this time, but on a MUCH more limited basis- I took time off from my current job (at Planned Parenthood- we def had
our own hands full with campaign work this time!!) whenever the President would come to NYC for finance events, and then spent just the last two weeks before the election officially on the road for the campaign.

It can sound exciting- it was/is in certain ways- working for a candidate and platform you 110% have your heart and energy in, first row to history, visiting hundreds of cities here and around the world, meeting Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder and seeing the President every week- but it also entails a lot of crappy dinners at Applebee's, hangovers from airport bars, and shared rooms at Hampton Inns (at least in the campaign days). I am also now REALLY good at laying down 800 chairs, carrying miles of bike rack, hanging and pressing flags, and setting up a tight shot. The best part about it is the family you form on the road- it is like summer camp on steroids- it really is blood sweat and tears- and the process you go through together forages some amazing bonds. I feel like I can relate to my friends I made in those days (and vice versa) in a very special and singular way, and am so grateful for them and our experiences together. Especially now that we can relax and go back to normal life!

Wearing the phoebe shearling boots in pertrol

Isobel: So as you mentioned, you now work in the national office of Planned Parenthood, which I think is totally amazing and inspiring. Was working for Planned Parenthood something you always wanted to do?

Jen: It is totally amazing and inspiring- and also very humbling- to be part of an organization that makes a real difference in every day lives. It’s one thing to work in politics and campaign for affordable health care access, but it’s another thing to actually deliver it to the women and families who need it most, every single day. I have definitely always wanted to empower women to make decisions about their own lives and to best set themselves up for success- which is one of many things Planned Parenthood does every day. It's so sad to me that there is big misconception out there that all Planned Parenthood does is provide abortions- and that conservative politicians will go to all means necessary to take our decision making abilities away from us, and restrict access to- yes, abortion- but also vital, affordable health care. More than 90% of what we do nationally is lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, prevention, testing and treatment for STD’s, breast health services, Pap tests, sexual health education, information and health counseling. We work every single day to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and keep women healthy. For many women, Planned Parenthood ends up being the only source of health care-  1 in 5 women in America has turned to
us at some point for professional, nonjudgmental, and confidential care. I feel that the work I am part of at PP is even more challenging yet redeeming and tangible than any political experience I've every had.

Wearing the new spring 2-tone phoebe boots in 'army'

Isobel: I know you worked personally with Obama. Is he the kind of guy we’d want to sit down for a beer with?

Jen: Ha! He's pretty cool and laid back so I don't think you'd go wrong- but I have to say, I'd personally prefer a glass of wine with Michelle any day of the week! She is just so fierce yet warm and down to earth

Wearing the phoebe boots in Nutmeg, holding Balam their puppy.
Bag by Johandbags

Happy Family!

Isobel: (Okay, now to the frivolous stuff) I love your personal style! Is the campaign trail and political world all panty hose and business suits, and how do they feel about your tattoos? (and will you be wearing your BRYR clogs?)

Jen: Such a funny- and great- question. It's been an evolution I'd say- we've all grown up since the early campaign days, and now that the President is the President, I am definitely a little more buttoned up. In '08, the press corps used to actually track my outfits and Men's Vogue gave me and my tattoos a nice shout out in print once. Now that I try to be more grown up and professional though, it makes it that much more fun when after I've spent a week in Mumbai or Kiev or Johannesburg (some of the official White House trips I've done), and I'm sitting down with colleagues and Secret Service and the State Department, or military personnel, in a casual setting- and I take off the cardigan or suit jacket and they see the half sleeve of tattoos- and you can literally see their eyes bug out. It instantly ups my street cred with them. Also, for better or worse, I'm pretty sure the President knows me only for my shoe selection- he uses dad words like "snazzy" to compliment me on them. Unfortunately he hasn't seen the BRYR clogs yet, though I rock them at my real job and everyone at Planned Parenthood is obsessed!

Wearing the phoebe boots in nutmeg
Bag by Jo Handbags


  1. i wonder if you could tell me the color and style of the lighter color jo handbag in the picture above? thanks! love your clogs!!!