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Inching Into the Public Eye

The busy life of Michelle Cross Fenty, center, became busier this year after her husband, Adrian M. Fenty, became the District's mayor. Above, the first lady enjoys a benefit with friends Jacqui Watson, left, and Janice Cutts. Below, Fenty waters the family's backyard garden after a long day at work, and she stands with the couple's twins, Matthew and Andrew, as their father is sworn into office in January.
The busy life of Michelle Cross Fenty, center, became busier this year after her husband, Adrian M. Fenty, became the District's mayor. Above, the first lady enjoys a benefit with friends Jacqui Watson, left, and Janice Cutts. Below, Fenty waters the family's backyard garden after a long day at work, and she stands with the couple's twins, Matthew and Andrew, as their father is sworn into office in January. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)

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By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 24, 2007

This is not the life Michelle Cross Fenty envisioned when she met her future husband at Howard law school in 1994.

A D.C. police cruiser positioned in front of her Crestwood home. Plants uprooted from her backyard garden to her front for security reasons. Serious contemplation about how to have an impact as wife of the mayor of one of the most important cities in the world.

"I thought he would be a lawyer. He would practice. I would practice. We would have a family. That would be it," she said as she watered an array of evergreens and hollies in her spacious back yard.

"It hasn't been too obtrusive," she continued, careful not to get water on her black dress and pink flip-flops. "So far, it's okay. A lot of people still don't know what I look like."

"Until now," chimed in Mafara Hobson, the mayor's spokeswoman, who is ever present at Fenty's side as she wades through a growing tide of media interviews and public events.

Anonymity is not an option when you are married to D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), a politician whose visibility, whose constant connection to his constituency is not only his persona but also his mission. To get elected, he tried to visit every home, apartment and condo in the city, then won all 142 precincts -- unprecedented in District politics. He has continued that door-to-door style as mayor, scurrying to major happenings from marches to murder scenes.

Michelle Fenty, however, is an enigma, not easily locatable in the District's political landscape. She is an inconspicuous lawyer in a downtown firm. She is seen about town on the mayor's tuxedoed arm at official dinners and galas, but her thoughts on D.C. affairs are little known. In public, she has the elegant reserve of her British upbringing, but close friends see the down-home bonhomie of her Jamaican ancestry. She is not invisible like her immediate predecessor, Diane Williams, nor as politically active as her predecessor, Cora Masters Barry.

Fenty is a private person married to arguably the most public District resident.

Making a Fundraising Splash

Dozens of women clad in expensive florals and pastels, their diamond earrings and pearl bangles sparkling, mingled at a Chevy Chase benefit fashion show. They were supposed to be there for the $1,200 blouses and champagne. But all eyes were on Michelle Fenty, hostess.

The 37-year-old glided about, strikingly sophisticated and sleek with her hair swept into an elaborate bun, her B. Michael design draping a petite figure. Then she'd speak, her British accent unexpected, her Briticisms captivating. "Brilliant!"

"Isn't she beautiful?" mused Dorothy Ford, wife of former representative Harold Ford Sr. (D-Tenn.) and mother of former representative Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.), as she sipped champagne. "She's flawless. Flawless."

"She's beautiful," agreed a smitten Capi Renoir, events planner for the Saks Jandel boutique, where the Boys & Girls Club benefit was being held. "She's beautiful. I love that British accent. She's just so chic."


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