The Tragic Real Life Story Of Gavin Newsom's Wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom

The following article includes allegations of sexual assault.

Gavin Newsom has lived under a microscope for years, and the scrutiny only grew more acute after he was elected governor of California in 2018. In addition to his political actions, folks have found plenty to talk about in Newsom's seemingly double life, from his headline-making affair with a staffer's wife to his sudden disappearance back in 2021 and his surprising connection to Erika Jayne.

Newsom's marriage to Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker and activist, has also garnered plenty of attention. Siebel Newsom is a passionate proponent of gender equality and has focused much of her work on leveling the playing field between men and women. She even ensured her title was changed from first lady to first partner. As she once told The Los Angeles Times, one of her biggest goals is "to show girls what's possible and inspire girls to not just imagine, but create." However, despite her strong, outspoken persona, Jennifer has faced heartbreak and adversity throughout her life. She has used these experiences to inform and drive her work, which also includes advocating for kids' mental health.

She allegedly suffered abuse at the hands of Harvey Weinstein

Long before she was California's first partner and a successful documentary filmmaker, Jennifer Siebel Newsom was an aspiring actor. Her big screen dreams first put her in contact with Harvey Weinstein in September 2005, and she later became one of nearly 90 women who accused the magnate of sexual assault.

During Weinstein's Los Angeles criminal trial in 2022, Siebel Newsom took the stand and recalled meeting him at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he reportedly approached her. "He treated me initially like he was really curious about me," she said (per Fox News). "Maybe flattered is how I felt?" Later, he invited her to meet at The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills to discuss a possible film role, and she agreed. As she previously wrote in a 2017 HuffPost essay, "Staff were present and then all of a sudden disappeared like clockwork, leaving me alone with this extremely powerful and intimidating Hollywood legend."

In her testimony, Siebel Newsom fought back tears as she claimed that Weinstein took her to bed and raped her (via The New York Times.) "He was hurting me," she said, telling the jury that she felt he was fully aware of her desire to get away because "I'm crying, I'm trembling, I'm shaking." While Weinstein's defense team argued that the encounter was consensual, Siebel Newsom called it her "worst nightmare" and shared, according to The Guardian, "He was just so big and so determined ... This was hell."

Harvey Weinstein's defense team tried to make her out to be the villain

By taking the stand against Harvey Weinstein, Jennifer Siebel Newsom was forced to relive every aspect of their alleged encounter in excruciating detail. Her cross-examination went on for hours, per The Guardian, and she later acknowledged to the Los Angeles Times that "it was a horrific experience." While she cried during her testimony, one of Weinstein's attorneys, Alan Jackson, diminished her emotions, stating, "What you saw was an act" (per Deadline). He also accused her of having "transactional sex" with Weinstein to further her acting career and claimed that, "she knows it, and she hates it." Another of Weinstein's lawyers, Mark Werksman, even went as far as to tell the court, per Fox News, that Siebel Newsom joined the #MeToo movement because "otherwise, she'd be just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood."

As for why Siebel Newsom accepted Weinstein's invitation to meet in a hotel room, she previously wrote in her 2017 HuffPost essay, "I was naive, new to the industry, and didn't know how to deal with his aggressive advances." In addition to the alleged assault, Siebel Newsom was also questioned at length about the professional emails she continued to send to Weinstein, which she said she mostly didn't recall. In the end, the jury was hung on her allegations and failed to find Weinstein guilty of the alleged 2005 incident. Siebel Newsom later told the Los Angeles Times, "I didn't realize how much sexism and misogyny still exists in our culture – I was shocked by that."

She killed her sister in a heartbreaking accident

Jennifer Siebel Newsom experienced a devastating tragedy just days prior to her seventh birthday. As she recounted to the Los Angeles Times in June 2023, she and her eight-year-old sister, Stacey Siebel, were playing with some other children on golf carts while on vacation in Hawaii. Siebel Newsom got into a golf cart which started to reverse, but she was unaware that her older sister was hiding behind it. Sadly, Stacey died, leaving Siebel Newsom with an incredible amount of guilt. "I felt the pressure to be perfect, to make my parents forget, by being two daughters instead of one," she said. Rather than working through her heartbreak, she forced herself to excel in every possible area, from school to extracurricular activities.

"I'm sure there was survivor's guilt," Siebel Newsom shared with the outlet. As Medical News Today explains, survivor's guilt often comes with a long list of symptoms similar to PTSD, including constantly replaying the incident, difficulty sleeping, and even suicidal thoughts. It can take years to work through and, as Siebel Newson told the Los Angeles Times, she didn't start coming to terms with the accident until decades later, when her youngest child, Dutch Newsom, turned six in 2022. "I realized that I'm really hard on myself," she explained. "I realized that you can't blame a six- [or] seven-year-old. You can't ask them to understand things."

Her work championing youth mental health comes from a personal place

As California's first partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom is committed to promoting initiatives that support youth mental health. She played a key role in the million Farm to School grant program, strongly supported California For All Kids, initiated the California State Parks Adventure Pass, and advocated for the $4.7 billion Master Plan for Kids' Mental Health in 2022. Her goal is to equip children with the tools they need to be happy and healthy, including better nutrition, more time outdoors, less screen time, and increased physical activity. As she told the Los Angeles Times, her drive stems from her own painful childhood experience. "I'm sure, in my subconscious, it's like I have to make up for that loss, and I have to do something to improve other people's lives or have an impact," she mused.

Indeed, as Siebel Newsom told EdSource in 2022, she first recognized the importance of mental health resources after her sister's death. "I think we went to therapy once (after my sister died), and then it was like, move on, everything's fine, we're just going to pretend like nothing happened," she recalled. Elaborating on her personal connection to the cause, she explained to "Inside the Issues" in 2023, "[I] found myself looking for support and ways to heal my own anxiety and sadness and pain and hopelessness." Ultimately, she found solace in being out of doors, saying, "Nature healed me; Animals healed me." Now, she's striving to offer that to the next generation.

She was diagnosed with skin cancer

Jennifer Siebel Newsom has used a health scare in 2023 as an opportunity to inspire and educate others, just as she has done with her other harrowing experiences. In March, she posted a candid video on Instagram that showed a long scar running from her nostril down to her upper lip. She explained that she underwent Mohs surgery, a procedure used to treat skin cancer. According to Mayo Clinic, Mohs surgery involves cutting thin layers of skin from the affected area and examining each one until the surgeon is certain that all of the cancer has been removed and only healthy skin is left behind.

It turns out this was actually Siebel Newsom's second time having the same procedure, as she previously had it under her eye. She told her followers that she had made a mistake when she noticed a small spot above her lip and put off asking her doctor about it for too long. "Get those regular check-ups with the dermatologist," she encouraged her fans. What's more, she also underscored the importance of using sunscreen and wearing a hat. "A little reminder to young folks that we are not invincible and we should never put our health, especially preventative care, on the back burner," she wrote in the post's caption.

Her dream career never took off

Jennifer Siebel Newsom pivoted hard in the early 2000s after rediscovering her passion for acting. "Stanford Business [School] actually, ironically, propelled me into the entertainment industry," she told her alma mater's newspaper, The Stanford Daily, in 2015. Before completing her MBA, she was working on a bachelor's degree in Latin American studies and playing soccer when she injured her back and had to find a new pastime. She later returned to this interest in acting when pursuing her master's. "The drama department was right next door," she recalled. So, she gave it another go.

Siebel Newsom fell in love with the art form and eventually decided to pursue a career in Hollywood. She landed her first small TV roles in 2002, including four episodes of a series called "Presidio Med." After that came bit parts in films like "Something's Gotta Give" and "Rent," but her career never really took off. As she told Politico in 2018, trying to make it as an actor at 28 – "Old by Hollywood standards" – wasn't easy. "I was typecast as a trophy wife and kind of put into this box that was really hard to break out of," she shared.

Siebel Newsom's last on-screen role came in 2011, after which she pivoted again, this time to documentary work. Inspired by her own experiences in Hollywood and the lack of female representation in the industry, she wrote, directed, and produced her first documentary, "Miss Representation," which debuted in 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival. Since then, she has released three more documentaries, including "Fair Play" in 2022, which explores how women struggle to balance family, work, and pleasure.

She constantly has to defend herself and her husband

Being a politician comes with guaranteed criticism, but being a politician's partner isn't any easier. Living in the spotlight means undergoing constant scrutiny for Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and she often has to defend both herself and her husband. In August 2020, for example, she faced heavy criticism when she released a PSA telling California mothers it was in their power to help ensure everyone followed mask mandates. "It's time to use our mom superpower to get our kids back in school," Siebel Newsom tweeted.

Unfortunately, many moms were not impressed by that sentiment and argued that the PSA put too much of the burden on them. Siebel Newsom clapped back through spokesperson Hannah Milgrom, who told Politico that the ad was actually supposed to praise mothers and that "Jennifer's life's work has been about disrupting limiting gender stereotypes." Siebel Newsom was similarly berated when she tweeted about running out of toilet paper in 2020, writing, "I wish people had not hoarded," and was ridiculed by folks who argued she was privileged and had no right to complain.

However, it's not just her actions that are constantly being scrutinized. California's first partner has also had to listen to critics slam her husband. In November 2021, she finally had enough when Gov. Gavin Newsom was questioned for suddenly pulling out of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. In a since-deleted tweet, she slammed critics, telling them to "Please stop hating and get a life," as reported by the New York Post.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault or needs help with mental health, contact the relevant resources below: