Black sand beaches. Gender equity. Game of Thrones. Björk. Could Iceland get any cooler?
Of course it can. Iceland not only beat England in a tense World Cup soccer match Monday, it also scored a new first couple on the weekend: president Gudni Johannesson and Eliza Reid, his Canadian better half.
Johannesson, the first new president of Iceland in 20 years, rose to national popularity as a commentator during the Panama Papers scandal in April, which led to the resignation of the country’s prime minister. Reid, who was born in Ontario, has the kind of chill, down-to-earth vibe of your lifelong best friend. Here’s a few reasons why she’s so great:
She grew up on a farm in the Ottawa Valley
Reid spent her childhood on a hobby farm in Ashton, Ont., about 40 km southwest of Ottawa. When asked on Ottawa Morning if she ever thought she’d be first lady of Iceland, Reid laughed, “Not in my wildest dreams. I’m not even sure Iceland was ever on my radar. But that’s what’s so exciting about life, I suppose.” Reid earned her undergraduate degree in international relations from the University of Toronto and a master’s in modern history from Oxford University, where she met Johannesson.
She doesn’t wait for a man to make a move
Johannesson and Reid casually knew one another as students at Oxford, and it was Reid who made the first move. Johannesson was on the rowing team and for a fundraiser, the rowers wrote their names on styrofoam cups and the girls would buy tickets and place them in the cup belonging to the rower they liked. Whoever’s name was drawn from the cup would win a date with that rower. Reid placed eight of the 10 tickets she’d purchased into Johannesson’s cup. “[I] sort of stuffed the ballot box, I suppose. He inevitably drew my name.” That was in 1998. They married in 2004.
Her CV is impressive
Reid edits Icelandair’s in-flight magazine, Icelandair Stopover, and was a staff writer at Iceland Review and a regular writer for the Reykjavik Grapevine. She’s written for many other publications and led several projects, including an international conference on the Arctic Convoys of the Second World War. Reid’s also volunteered for the Red Cross and sung with the Hallgrímskirkja Motet Choir, one of the leading choirs in Iceland.
She rocks a helluva great red lip
Because who isn’t envious of women who can do that?
She’s mom to four kids
Family life was central to Johannesson’s campaign. He and Reid are active parents to four young children, ages 3 to 9. She’s also a stepmom to Johannesson’s 22-year-old child from a previous marriage. In the midst of the family bustle, Reid has been a member of her children’s parent councils.
Her Canadian sensibilities might’ve rub off on her husband
In one of Johannesson’s stump speeches, he equates modesty with good leadership: “There is no need to brag, there is no need for arrogance and there is no need to consider ourselves better than others. Those who truly are confident show humility.”
She’s laid-back about being first lady
When asked about how life will change after her husband takes off Aug. 1, she told the CBC, “Less than you may think. Iceland is still a small and informal country. The kids still go to the same school.” Her husband pledged to keep cycling to school with the kids if elected.