In April, Lori Lightfoot reached a major milestone, becoming the first black woman, and the first openly gay person, to be elected to the Windy City’s highest office. The win wasn’t easy. Lightfoot was initially considered an underdog in a field of 14 candidates. But in the end, her platform promising a police-department overhaul, significant neighborhood investments, and political reform won voters over. The lawyer turned politician, who once chaired the city’s Police Accountability Task Force, now leads a city under federal mandate to root out systemic racism in law enforcement. Lightfoot says she’s dedicated to improving equity and empathy while grappling with other concerns like reducing violence and supporting women in the workplace. Here she discusses her historic victory, the challenges ahead, and how she’s rewriting the rules on who gets to be in the inner circle.
Marie Claire: Why is it significant that a gay black woman leads Chicago?
Lori Lightfoot: What we’ve seen across the country is voters are hungry for change—change in leadership, change in approach—and certainly I think that was true here in Chicago. We beat a very established, long tenured public official [Toni Preckwinkle] on a message of change and breaking away from the machine. It also shows that, for people in the various constituencies that I represent, my gender, my color, my sexual orientation need not b