Sonia Sotomayor has turned down almost every interview request since being appointed to the Supreme Court. But that didn't stop the former editor of Latina from drawing on her history with the Justice in a new piece.
In "Her Honor," writer and former Latina editor in chief Sandra Guzman paints a warm portrait of Justice Sotomayor, shedding light on her humanity, humility, commitment to family and keen intellect. Using friends and family testimony in lieu of a formal discussion with Sotomayor, Guzman shows a whole new side of Latina's "woman of the decade."
Sotomayor Likes to Party
On the night before her official seating, the 55 year old justice rolled into an Irish bar in Chinatown, commandeered the jukebox, and headed to the dance floor with her family.
The Bronx-born justice's family and friends start a round of karaoke and as Sister Sledge's '70s classic "We Are Family" starts booming, Sotomayor and her mom are pulled to the makeshift stage to join the rest of the group.
She Doesn't Forget The "Little People"
Often, Sotomayor takes the time to remember the people who put in much work for little reward.
At a lavish dinner thrown in her honor last August by Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony at their Long Island mansion, Sotomayor asked to meet those who had prepared the exquisite meal filled with Puerto Rican delicacies. With Ricky Martin, New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly present, Sotomayor thanked all the cooks and staff, and took a photo with the group of 20. The picture is one of head chef Ricardo Cardona's most precious momentos.
"I prepare dinners all the time, for dignitaries and stars, and never has this happened," Cardona says. "She showed us - all these Latino immigrants who were in the kitchen working to make the meal special - that she is one of us."
She Wants to Be Seen as Normal - Or As Close To It As Possible
A couple weeks before her private swearing in as the 111th associate justice of the Supreme Court, celebrated Venezuelan designer Carolina Herrera offered to make her a one-of-a-kind outfit for the big day. Though touched by the generous offer, Sotomayor politely declined it, not wanting other women to feel like she was no longer one of them. She instead opted for an off-the-rack white suit by Tahari, one of her favorite labels.
She Uses Her Diabetes as an Opportunity to Educate Others
A year before her dad died, Sotomayor was diagnosed with diabetes. Since then, she's had to take one insulin shot before each meal - she isn't discreet about it, either. She'll pull out her needle kit and meds and place them on the table in front of you, always taking the opportunity to share some fact about how common the condition is, especially among Latinos.
Her Measured Perspective Includes the Matters of the Heart
The article discusses Sotomayor's sadness at the toll work has taken on her romantic relationships. Counter to modern narratives, Sotomayor's love life as a working professional woman is rich and varied. Her first marriage to a high school sweetheart ended in 1983, and she maintained a relationship leading to an engagement before splitting in 2000. After that, Guzman writes "Rather than diminishing her willingness to love, the breakup seemed to open her up to love - on her own terms." The next relationship Sotomayor entered was a friends with benefits situation. Through all her experiences, she was able to develop an realistic view on the nature of love.
[Sotomayor] told me that we have been wrongfully taught the Cinderella fairy tale as a paradigm for what happy relationships are supposed to be. And when we fall short of that, we suffer for it.
To find happiness in love, she said, we have to make up our own rules. It's not easy, but it's doable. The process may involve unlearning what we have been taught and then figuring out what makes us happy. There are all types of relationships and arrangements to choose from. Of course, the trick is finding a companion who shares those values.
She Will Not Forsake Herself for Her Position
The Obama Administration prepped Sotomayor to tone down anything remotely controversial during the confirmation hearings. Sotomayor acquiesced - until the day of the reception celebrating her appointment.
Sotomayor asked the President to look at her freshly manicured nails, holding up her hands to show off her favorite fire engine red hue. The President chuckled, saying that she had been warned against that color.
She sure had, but Sotomayor was not finished. She then pulled her hair back behind her ears, exposing her red and black semi-hoop earrings, a beloved accessory among Latinas across America - from the South Bronx to Houston to East Los Angeles.
Obama joked that she had been briefed on the size of the earrings as well.
Without skipping a beat, Sotomayor replied: "Mr. President, you have no idea what you've just unleashed."
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