Gisele Barreto Fetterman is the Second Lady of Pennsylvania and wife of Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman. She is a philanthropist and was an undocumented immigrant from Brazil.
Barreto Fetterman made national headlines after she captured a woman on video calling her by a racial slur when she made a quick trip to an Aldi grocery store near her home in Braddock, Pennsylvania.
Barreto Fetterman and John Fetterman were married in 2008, when he was the Mayor of Braddock. They live in Braddock with their three children.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Barreto Fetterman Was an Undocumented Immigrant & Became an American Citizen in 2009
Barreto Fetterman fled Brazil with her family as a child, and she lived for years as an undocumented immigrant. She told The Washington Post her background has made her the subject of ridicule. When she was 7, her family left a violent neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro and settled in New York City, living undocumented for more than a decade.
She told The Post her experience of racism at the grocery store October 11 was a harsh reminder of her feelings as a child.
“It was a really long time of really living in the shadows and being really scared of every knock at the door,” she said. “To then being at a place where I’m so grateful that I can vote and that I get called for jury duty and I can finally belong to this country that I love so much — to then having these moments where I completely feel unwelcome all over again and scared.”
She got her green card in 2004 and became a U.S. Citizen in 2009. She and Fetterman were married in 2008 when he was the mayor of Braddock.
Barreto Fetterman shares her status proudly on Twitter in a pinned post from 2018, when her husband was elected Pennsylvania Lt. Governor.
“Pennsylvania, your second lady is a formerly undocumented immigrant,” she wrote, adding a heart. “Thank you.”
She shared a photo of herself with her citizenship papers on Instagram July 4, 2020, along with a patriotic statement.
“Out of profound gratitude for my adopted country, I can only say that I would like in this land to live and die, and while I live to help other people as much as possible, believing that only in service to other people can I possibly express my gratitude for all that America has done for me. Peter Marshall said it but he took it out of my heart,” she wrote.
2. Barreto Fetterman Was Called a Racial Slur During a Grocery Shopping Trip
Barreto Fetterman took a quick trip to the grocery store so she wouldn’t miss a sale on golden kiwis when she was accosted by a woman, who called her a racial slur on video. She typically only travels outside the house with an escort of state troopers, but “snuck out” on Sunday, October 11, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
A woman recognized her as she waited in line and began hurling insults at her, which included racial slurs, Barreto Fetterman told The Washington Post.
She was able to film a piece of the encounter even though she was “still shaking.” The altercation continued after she got into her car in the parking lot. The racist incident happened at an Aldi near her home in Braddock.
“She said, ‘There’s that [n-word] that Fetterman married. You don’t belong here. No one wants you here. You don’t belong here,” she said in an interview with the Post.
In the 2-second video, the woman briefly pulls down her mask and says, “You’re a n*****.”
She shared the video on Twitter the night of October 11.
“*TRIGGER WARNING,*” she wrote on Twitter. “I love love love this country but we are so deeply divided. I ran to the local grocery store and was met by and verbally assaulted by this woman who repeatedly told me I do not belong here. The confrontation continued into the parking lot where I was able to finally capture it after the crying winded down. This behavior and this hatred is taught. If you know her, if she is your neighbor or relative, please, please teach her love instead.”
She reported the incident to state police, who are investigating the incident, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
3. Gisele Barreto Fetterman & John Fetterman Live in a Renovated Car Dealership With Their 3 Children
Gisele Barreto Fetterman and John Fetterman’s home is an extension of their drive to revitalize Braddock, Pennsylvania, a borough outside of Pittsburgh. Fetterman was the mayor of Braddock before he was elected as Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor.
Design Sponge wrote in a feature about their home:
John and Gisele have an ability to see potential in even the most challenging restoration projects, and their home was no exception. Others may have shied away from the vacant building containing abandoned cars and boarded up windows, but John and Gisele immediately saw the potential of their Braddock address. Built in the 1920s, their industrial home was originally a Chevy dealership, and historically, one of the very first indoor car dealerships in America!
The couple was sold on the history and unique bones of the building, including the original concrete ramps used to move cars from floor to floor. They bought it, moved in and set to work. Over the course of eight months, they moved from corner to corner of the space, while their children befriended the contractors who helped the Fettermans complete the transformation. Today, it’s a restoration symbol for the entire community!
The couple has three children, Karl, age 8, Gracie, age 6, and August, age 3, according to his political page.
4. Barreto Fetterman Is an Activist & Philanthropist, the Co-Founder of 412 Food Rescue
Barreto Fetterman is the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, a non-profit that serves the Pittsburgh area. The organization transports surplus food from retailers to non-profit partners to prevent extra food from going to waste and to help people struggling with food insecurity. The organization’s staff and board page lists her as an emeritus member and co-founder.
She is also the founder of Free Store 15104, which distributes clothing under a similar method by collecting surplus and donated goods and redistributing them to those in need.
She is also the co-founder of For Good PGH, a program which promotes inclusion and diversity.
“Our mission is to develop and implement initiatives that promote diversity and inclusivity, and create positive experiences for underserved populations,” the organization’s mission statement says. “For Good believes that we all have the desire to do good for each other, and works to facilitate these connections. For Good seeks to support interactions that demonstrate that giving is easier than we may realize, and that the impact is profound.”
5. Pennsylvania Officials Showed Support After Barreto Fetterman’s Racist Encounter Was Captured on Video
Pennsylvania officials made statements after Barreto Fetterman shared her racist encounter at the grocery store. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania’s Governor, called the incident “shameful and unacceptable” on Twitter.
“The ethnic intimidation and hate speech spewed at the Second Lady of Pennsylvania is shameful and unacceptable,” he said. “Racism is always unacceptable and unworthy of Pennsylvanians. No one should ever be made to feel unwelcome in our commonwealth because of their race or ethnicity.”
Sen. Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa., also spoke out against racism on Twitter.
“Today at the grocery store, PA’s Second Lady @giselefetterman was subjected to a racial slur and taunts. As she said: ‘this hatred is taught.’ It’s on us to teach our children kindness, acceptance and inclusion, and condemn hate whenever and wherever we see it,” he said.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman thanked the governor and the residents of Pennsylvania for their support of his family.
“I am *deeply* grateful to the Governor for his support of @giselefetterman,” Fetterman wrote. “The outpouring of love + support from Pennsylvania’s leadership + citizens has been truly humbling. Gisele + I love this country and our commonwealth deeply. Thank you PA, for standing with Gisele.”