Rogers, by all accounts, "has extraordinary flair and exquisite taste." Rogers recently met with Letitia Baldrige, who was the White House social secretary during the Kennedy administration. Baldrige had a mix of praise and advice for Rogers:
“Desirée is so poised and so charming, so substantial and capable, but nonetheless I told her how important it is to always stand up to the West Wing,” Baldrige recounted later. “The West Wing is the men’s side, and they will want to push you to put all those politicians on the dinner lists, and you’ve got to be strong and say no. Always represent what the First Lady and the president want. In the case of the Obamas, it’s an exciting mix of people—not paybacks.”
But Rogers seems to have a handle on what she's doing. "I get great joy seeing people being entertained," she tells Vogue. "The joy for me will be the moment before they arrive, making certain we have created a great environment for the Obamas and their guests. I’ll have more fun watching than being in the party." She was worried about seating charts until she found out that the White House has "a huge computer screen, programmed with all the tables, so you can drag the names of guests around until you get it right."
As for her personal life, it will also change: Rogers is looking for a D.C. apartment for herself and her daughter, Victoria, 18, at student at Yale. Rogers says of her former husband: "We’re very close, but we just couldn’t live together." That's right, the social secretary is single! Vogue's William Norwich proclaims her "the most eligible woman in Washington." But Rogers seems, wisely, to have work foremost on her mind: The White House, after all, has an entertaining legacy to uphold, and she's about to be in charge of making sure every party and event is perfect. And the Kennedys keep coming up. Writes Norwich:
Many observers have compared Michelle Obama to Jacqueline Kennedy, and I asked Rogers how closely she and the First Lady are looking to Jackie’s White House.“It is definitely an inspiration for us because we hear people talk about it all the time,” she answered. “We would be remiss not to study those years carefully, not in order to duplicate them but to be inspired by them.” The mandate the Obamas have given her, Rogers said, “is about instilling pride.”
But don't think Barack Obama has chosen someone stuffy, or who doesn't know how to have fun: Rogers seems to know that this administration will be different, in many ways:
“Will the president have impromptu pickup basketball games?” I asked.
“Probably,” Rogers answered.
“With videos of the games posted on the Internet?”
“What about celebrities? They seemed to have been banned during the campaign. Will celebrities be invited to the White House?”
She laughed. “Of course. Why not? They’re people too. Remember, we are inclusive. We want everybody.”
Life Of The Party [Vogue]
[Photograph by Jonathan Becker via Vogue.com]