Fast forward nearly 30 years and the long-time pair are now on the road to a presidential nomination, determined to keep their family – and their relationship – as normal as possible in the consistent chaos of campaigning.
While the spotlight is almost always centered on Marco, the growing interest in Jeanette over the past year has been undeniable, if only because she’s has spent much of her husband’s political career out of the public eye. That, however, is all about to change. Jeanette and the Rubio’s four children were all featured in a recent campaign commercial and for every headline that pops up concerning the family or Jeanette’s life away from politics, the ability to stay “normal” becomes harder and harder.
Read on to learn more about the Rubio’s relationship, their determination to maintain their Florida roots and how they’ve managed to find a balance between politics and a home life:
1. Marco & Jeanette First Met in 1990 & Started Dating While He Was in College
The couple first met in 1990 while Rubio was in college and Jeanette was in high school at South Miami Senior High School. Their first date? A movie, watching Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The pair started writing letters to each other while Marco was at the University of Florida, but, like many other long distance relationships before them, the relationship ended.
Marco started going out more and, for a three-month stint, embraced the club life in Miami. He described the ensuing weeks in his memoir, An American Son, writing:
I went clubbing and I liked it. I looked down at my shoes. They were perfectly white. The foam had somehow bleached the color out of my cheap and obviously fake leather shoes. … I left the club and found the nearest pay phone.
Marco called Jeanette on that pay phone and the two started talking again. It didn’t take long for the relationship to get back on track. Marco stopped going to clubs and, instead, focused his attention almost entirely on Jeanette.
2. Marco Proposed at the top of the Empire State Building & the Pair Married in 1998
After their reconciliation, Marco and Jeanette dated for several years before he proposed, on Valentines Day, at the top of the Empire State Building in 1997. They were married the next year.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Marco joined the wedding band during the reception and, with 200 people watching, sang Frank Sinatra’s My Way. That about sums up the pair’s relationship.
After the wedding Marco, who graduated from the University of Miami Law School in 1996, started working in law, but had one eye firmly trained on a political career. Jeanette, meanwhile, worked as a bank teller and enrolled in fashion design school.
But as Marco’s political career took off, Jeanette’s own career stalled. Instead, she focused her time on using Marco’s platform to help bring to light some of the causes most important to her. For example, after learning about the youth sex trade in Florida, Jeanette pushed her husband to confront the issue in the senate and he co-sponsored legislation to protect victims.
3. Jeanette Was a Miami Dolphins Cheerleader, But Doesn’t Like it to be Her Only Descriptor
It almost didn’t make sense. Jeanette was, for all intents and purposes, an introvert, quiet, not prone to the spotlight even before the spotlight found her. Still, she opted to join the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad at the request of her sister, who was already part of the team.
It lasted a year.
“She wasn’t that cheerleader type,” former teammate Natlie Vickers told the New York Times. “She was more introverted than 95 percent of the team.”
Despite her short stint on the sidelines, Jeanette is frequently described in the press as a cheerleader stereotype, a moniker that she has “long bristled at the popular description of herself as a bubbly former cheerleader who married the star of her high school’s football team”
Now, Jeanette has found a different career pursuit. In 2011, she took a job with a charity financed by Norman Braman, the former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles. Braman has close ties to the Rubio family, previously funding Marco’s political career and employing him as a lawyer. Still, the job raised eyebrows, particularly when Jeanette was paid at least $54,000 for her part-time job in 2013.
4. The Rubios Are Parents to Four Children
Although she’s been spotted more and more on the campaign trail, Jeanette is most comfortable at home. As a mother to four children, Jeanette is a hands-on parent and is, self-admittedly, happy helping with homework and driving to football practice.
The Rubio children – Amanda (15), Daniella (13), Anthony (9) and Dominic (7) – all attend school close to the family’s Florida home, just minutes away from where Marco grew up and are close to their extended family as well. Jeanette spoke about the support system in 2013, telling Community Table:
Well, my family helps me a lot. But for the most part you just do it. You know? I mean, really, you just don’t think about it. As the kids get older, it does get easier. Driving them to their activities is where it gets more challenging. You drive to one activity and then another, and sometimes I don’t get home until 9 or 10 at night.
When Marco isn’t campaigning, he’s also apt to be spending every free moment at home and even coached his son’s youth football leagues in the past. Sports are a major theme in the Rubio family and the two boys also play basketball, while Danielle is an avid horseback rider.
5. Marco Credits Jeanette With Keeping His Pride & His Ego in Check
For as long as the Rubios have been together, Marco’s ambition has been one of his key characteristics. He wanted to climb the political ladder and, no matter what, Jeanette has seemingly been at his side to support him as he moves up every single rung.
Rep. Jeanette Nunez, a friend of the family, described the Rubio’s relationship to the Tampa Bay Times, saying:
I don’t think she looks back. She understands Marco’s passion. People say she’s quiet and shy. But she’s also very principled. If she thinks something is wrong, she’ll say it, and Marco really does look to her for advice.
But while Marco has made the climb through the political world, with his wife’s support, Jeanette has also been the first to remind him of his responsibilities elsewhere; namely to his family. In a report by The New York Times, Jeanette was described as “the rare spouse who regularly traveled from South Florida to the state’s remote capital, Tallahassee, when Mr. Rubio was a state representative, reminding him of obligations to family in a city where late-night deal making and drinking were common.”