WASHINGTON, D.C. — The first time Luisana Pérez Fernández stepped foot in the White House was also her first day on the job as President Joe Biden’s director of Hispanic media.
“I didn’t know where to go,” Pérez laughed. “I remember being very lost in the [Eisenhower Executive Office Building], calling my boss and being like, ’I don’t know where I am.'”
Pérez’s supervisor, White House Senior Director of Coalitions Media Jennifer Molina, found Pérez and gave her the tour. “It was crazy because [Jennifer] was talking about the space and the layout of the White House so casually, like ‘Here’s the Rose Garden … and if you look over there, that’s the Oval Office.’ And I was like every single step I took was in a historic place,” Pérez recalled.
Pérez, an immigrant from Venezuela, came to Miami in 2011 after being born, raised, and educated in Caracas.
After a series of jobs that included working as a nanny, selling mixed martial arts equipment at the Dolphin Mall, and volunteering for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Pérez got her start in politics working as district secretary for State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez in Miami before joining the press shop at the Democratic Party of Florida.
“Luisana understands first-hand the need and the importance of speaking with Latinos early and often in a culturally competent way—and most importantly, in Spanish,” said Johanny Adames, a campaign operative who has watched Pérez’s rise in politics. “Her lived experience as an immigrant who fled Venezuela to seek refuge in the United States provides a much-needed viewpoint in our current national political landscape, and at a time when this issue has never been more important.”
Pérez moved up quickly at the Florida Democratic Party, being promoted after her first year to deputy communications director.
“Then I started working for the campaign of President Biden in Florida,” Pérez recalled. “Once the campaign was over, I started working with [the Department of Health and Human Services] which was where I got called to come here to the White House.”
An important milestone for Pérez came during the 2020 presidential campaign when she became a U.S. citizen.
“America is a nation of immigrants,” then-candidate Biden tweeted at the time. “Each new generation that comes to our country makes us stronger. That became even truer yesterday when Luisana, part of our campaign team in Florida, became a U.S. citizen.”
America is a nation of immigrants. Each new generation that comes to our country makes us stronger. That became even truer yesterday when @luisanaperezf, part of our campaign team in Florida, became a U.S. citizen.
Thanks for choosing us, Luisana. pic.twitter.com/K842eGj5tK
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 22, 2020
Pandemic restrictions meant that Pérez’s family and friends couldn’t be on-hand to see her become a citizen.
“It was just me and I was full of emotions,” Pérez said. “I think it was that moment when you say, ’Wow, I just left home to come here, now this is the new home … but also after working in Florida politics for years at that point and not being able to vote, casting a ballot for the first time became a big thing for me that year.”
Pérez notes that voting is not so easy in her native Venezuela. “We don’t have a democracy in Venezuela,” she explained, “so casting a ballot here in our democracy … it was a big moment.”
The job of Hispanic media director at the White House is a challenging one. Not only does Pérez have to do all the English-language work of her other colleagues on the coalitions media team, she then has to turn around and do it in Spanish as well.
“Luisana is an incredible member of our team,” said Molina, Pérez’s supervisor at the White House. “She is a hard worker who prioritizes communicating with the Latino community day in and day out. Thanks to her tremendous efforts, we are speaking directly to the Latino community about President Biden’s agenda on creating jobs, supporting small businesses, expanding access to healthcare, and more. We are grateful for her service, commitment, and dedication.”
The job isn’t all grind, however. Pérez has gotten her share of face time with celebrities visiting the White House. Most recently, Paris Hilton stopped by as part of her campaign against child abuse.
“She’s very nice,” Pérez said. “She was like, ‘Hi, I’m Paris.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I know!’ My people know who Paris Hilton is —like my family and friends, we all watch her show— so it was funny.”
But Pérez says the celebrity encounter that impacted her the most was meeting Fran Drescher.
“The Nanny was a show that I used to watch with my mom in Venezuela,” Pérez explained. “So when I saw her I was like, ‘Oh my god, I never thought that I would see this person in front of me.'”
Did Pérez mention to Fran Drescher that she, too, once worked as a nanny when she came to the United States?
“No, I didn’t,” said Pérez with a tinge of regret in her voice. “We have a lot of people coming through here so, you know… we’re busy.”
Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports