Nikki Haley is a name you hear more and more, and for good reason: the former governor of South Carolina has continued to become a bigger political mover and shaker in recent years. After serving as governor, she was an ambassador to the United Nations under Donald Trump’s presidency; now, it looks like she and Trump are destined to clash next year when Haley attempts to secure the nomination to run as the Republican presidential candidate.
As you can tell, Haley’s career in recent years has been very impressive. However, from her early life to her most recent political moves, there is much that most people don’t know about this plucky presidential candidate. Keep reading to discover the most surprising things we have learned about Nikki Haley!
Incredibly, she has never lost an election
If you’re doubting Nikki Haley’s ability to become president, you might need to think again. Despite having some close calls over the years, Haley has never lost even a single election. In her own way, that makes her one of the most successful politicians the world has ever seen!
Her real name isn’t Nikki Haley
What if we told you Nikki Haley wasn’t actually born as Nikki Haley? When she was born, her full name was Nimrata Nikki Randhawa. From an early age, she began going by her middle name Nikki, and she gets the Haley name from her husband, Michael Haley.
An early political career that made history
When Nikki Haley was elected governor of South Carolina, it wasn’t just a major achievement for the ambitious politician. She also ended up making history: once she was elected, Haley became the first non-male, non-white governor of the state. If that’s not impressive enough, she also became the first non-male, non-white governor in the entire history of the United States!
She is a former beauty pageant contestant
Let’s be honest: we don’t normally associate politicians with beauty pageants. In fact, beauty contestants are often presented as vapid pretty faces with very few ambitions of their own. However, both Haley and her sister once competed in the Little Miss Bamberg, showcasing her vocal talents by singing “This Land Is Your Land.” This story has a bittersweet ending: the judges traditionally awarded one white and one Black winner, and Haley was disqualified because the judges thought putting her in either category would offend the other group.
Dealing with racial discrimination from an early age
Sadly, that beauty pageant wasn’t the only time that Nikki Haley faced racial discrimination growing up. For example, she once recounted a story of wanting to play kickball with her schoolmates. The fellow students said she could join if she picked a side by declaring whether she was white or Black. A frustrated Haley had to explain that she considered herself neither because she is brown.
Her husband disappointed her parents
Nikki Haley attended Clemson University and met her future husband in the very first week of her college studies. Future husband Bill was obviously head over heels in love, and he even went along with her suggestion to change his name from “Bill” to “Michael.” Despite his clear affection for her, Haley’s parents disapproved of Michael because he didn’t share their Sikh religious values. This didn’t keep them from getting married in 1996, and that was the same year that Haley converted to Christianity.
Hillary Clinton inspired her career in politics
Nikki Haley’s political life has been defined by her conservative beliefs, and that’s why she is hoping to run as the Republican presidential candidate in 2024. Interestingly, though, she would never have been interested in politics if she wasn’t inspired by Hillary Clinton. When Haley attended Birmingham University, Clinton was a keynote speaker, and her words about how women should run for office not just despite but because of the people expressing doubts resonated with Haley, who was frequently told she couldn’t be a politician because she was a mother and too young.
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Facing major racism from her own party
Despite her early political successes, Haley faced some of the same racism from her childhood when dealing with members of her own political party. State Senator Jake Knotts called her a “raghead,” for example, and one major conservative donor indicated he would withhold money unless she could prove to him that she wasn’t a terrorist. Despite this racism, Haley continued to thrive as she rose through the political ranks.
A rocky road to supporting Donald Trump
Part of what makes Nikki Haley stand out among many conservative politicians is that she has continuously refused to embrace the extremism that has become a hallmark of Donald Trump and his most ardent supporters. She wasn’t a fan of Trump at first, criticizing him heavily during his presidential campaign, and she was open about very reluctantly voting for him. Trump himself was annoyed by this, but he later appointed Haley as ambassador to the United States, and since then, she has openly supported Trump’s policies and praised him for being truthful in their dealings together.
Flip-flopping on her presidential ambitions
Nikki Haley’s topsy-turvy relationship with Donald Trump may help explain her topsy-turvy ambitions to run for president. Two years ago, she explicitly said she wouldn’t run. Now, she is running, and earlier this year, she seemed to snub both Joe Biden and Donald Trump by noting that somebody shouldn’t have to be 80 years old to be a political leader, positioning herself as a younger contender who could bring new ideas to the White House.