US Election: Who is Vice President Kamala Harris?

Kamala Harris is being heralded as a new kind of Vice President for the United States, one who pundits say wields much more power than the role traditionally holds.

Not only is she the first woman vice president, she is also the first African American and the first Asian American to hold the position. And the woman swearing her in on Wednesday (local time) was the first Latina Supreme Court judge Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

While former President Donald Trump snubbed her and President Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony, his VP Mike Pence attended and shared a lighthearted moment with Harris afterwards on the steps of the Capitol.

In her ancestral village in India, where her maternal grandfather was born, there were celebrations today.

But how did Harris get to where she is now?

The daughter of two immigrants, an Indian mum and a Jamaican Dad, she began life in California in a predominantly Black neighbourhood.

A desegregation programme saw Harris bussed to a public school in a prosperous and predominantly white area.

"She really had an opportunity to see what other people lived like that were different than her," one of Harris' childhood friends said.

Harris excelled and ended up studying law, later becoming San Francisco's first female district attorney. 

She was the first woman of colour to be elected as California's Attorney General, and went on to become the first southeast Asian American to serve in the Senate.

She ran for President in the Democrat primaries but eventually suspended her campaign. She then accepted Biden's invitation to be his running mate - a winning ticket - and became the 49th vice president of the United States. 

Biden has made the same promise former President Barack Obama made to him while he was VP - that Harris will be the last person in the room when he makes a decision. 

US Election: Who is Vice President Kamala Harris?
Photo credit: Getty Images

But her power goes beyond that since the Senate is split 50/50. Harris has the casting vote, meaning no legislation reaches Biden's desk without her approval. 

The first time a woman will hold such influence is not lost on Harris.

"But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities," she told an audience in Delaware in November after the election.

But her trademark sense of humour was evident on Wednesday as she swore in the senator filling her vacated seat.

"A certificate of appointment to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Senator Kamala D Harris of California," she said laughing, later adding "that was very weird".

Weird, sure, but it was also a hugely significant moment underscoring that a woman of colour has risen to the second-highest office in the land, and may yet make her way to the oval office.