Life

10 surprising things you never knew about Pete Buttigieg

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg testifies before the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee
Apr 20, 2023; Washington, DC, USA; Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg testifies before the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee Photo: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

When most people think of out Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, they picture the composed and articulate politician who made history as the first openly gay presidential candidate to win a primary. However, there’s much more to Pete than meets the eye.

From his impressive linguistic abilities to his committed fitness regimen, Buttigieg’s life is filled with surprising and inspiring facets. Let’s dive into the lesser-known sides of Pete and discover what makes him one of the most fascinating figures in modern politics.

1. His exercise game is next-level

Out Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sticks his tongue out and grins at his husband, Chasten Buttigieg
Screenshot Out Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sticks his tongue out and grins at his husband, Chasten Buttigieg

Buttigieg takes his exercise regimen to the next level with impressive feats of exertion. His dedication to staying fit was highlighted in a video shared by his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, which captured Pete completing a jaw-dropping 60-mile bike ride followed by a “transition run.”

This video quickly went viral, leaving the internet buzzing (with some viewers ending up even sweatier than Pete himself). The display of his athletic prowess not only underscores his commitment to health and fitness but also inspires many with his rigorous training routine.

2. All that training paid off when he completed a grueling triathlon

Pete Buttigieg finishes a the IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon
Screenshot Pete Buttigieg finishes a the IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon

Any fitness guru will tell you how helpful it is to have a concrete goal, and Buttigieg’s was nothing if not ambitious.

In 2023 he competed in the IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon, which involves a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run, for a total of 70.3 miles. It is commonly called a “Half Ironman.”

Chasten was there at the finish line to cheer his husband on and capture the victorious crossing, writing on X (formerly Twitter), “You’ve trained so hard for this. Proud of you!”

3. His public persona is as authentic as it gets

Screenshot Young Pete Buttigieg attends a 2001 forum on George W. Bush’s first hundred days at Harvard’s Institute of Politics

Politicians are often (and justifiably) accused of being ‘fake,’ but Pete Buttigieg’s public persona is the real deal.

The proof is in this viral clip from 2001, which shows the future Transportation Secretary questioning speakers like former White House Communications Director David Gergen, New York Times political correspondent Richard Berke, political scientist Elaine Kamarck, and others.

Buttigieg’s mannerisms and introspective approach have remained remarkably consistent over the years, reflecting a steadfast authenticity that continues to define his political presence today.

4. He’d go to space “in a heartbeat”

An astronaut spacewalks above Earth
Shutterstock

Count Buttigieg among those who wouldn’t think twice about exiting Earth’s atmosphere for a visit to the final frontier. Unfortunately for him, commercial space travel is still reserved for the billionaire class, and well, Pete’s on a government salary.

“I would go up in a heartbeat. I think it’s such exciting stuff,” he said during an event at the Economic Club in Washington, D.C. in 2001. He added: “I don’t think the airfare or spacefare, whatever you would call it is going to be in my budget anytime soon.”

Still, a Transportation Secretary venturing into space would make for a powerful visual.

5. He has cast himself in his hypothetical biopic

John Mulaney at the 2014 FOX Fall Eco-Casino at The Bungalow on September 8, 2014 in Los Angeles
Shutterstock John Mulaney at the 2014 FOX Fall Eco-Casino at The Bungalow on September 8, 2014 in Los Angeles

Buttigieg was asked some “get to know you” questions at a campaign event during his 2020 presidential bid, and had the perfect answer queued up regarding who should play him in a hypothetical biopic.

After taking the briefest of moments to consider the question, he replied, “I’m hoping for John Mulaney.” Scattered applause broke out in the crowd, assumedly from those familiar with the comedian who recognized the solid casting idea.

Mulaney himself was ready to take on the role, writing on X, “As I accept all movies offered (2 so far) I accept.” It’s a low bar to be sure, but a yes is a yes.

6. He’s already been played by some other A-listers

Paul Rudd portraying Pete Buttigieg on Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live

While Buttigieg holds out for that John Mulaney vehicle, he’s already had some top talent portray him on the small screen.

During the 2019 season finale of Saturday Night Live, actor Paul Rudd played then-presidential candidate Pete in a parody of the daytime talk show The View. The sketch managed to hit on some Buttigieg trademarks. Rudd self-effacingly commented, “I may only be 37, but I do feel like I represent everyday Americans. I’m just a Harvard-educated, multi-lingual veteran Rhodes scholar. I’m just like you.”

That same year, Jimmy Fallon lampooned Pete in a sketch that was so spot-on, it was scary.

Fallon spoofed Buttigieg’s down home and folksy persona, nailing the then-candidate’s speech patterns and gestures. Fallon pokes fun at how popular Pete’s husband, Chasten, had become, and how smart the candidate is. If you’re going to get made fun of, having a high IQ and good taste in men is about as good as it gets.

7. He speaks seven languages conversationally, including Norwegian

Pete Buttigieg speaks at a press conference in New York to green light Gateway Tunnel Project at Amtrak Concourse of Penn Station in 2021
Shutterstock Pete Buttigieg speaks at a press conference in New York to green light Gateway Tunnel Project at Amtrak Concourse of Penn Station in 2021

An amazing story about then-presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg from TIME Magazine’s editor-at-large, Anand Giridharadas, revealed his incredible knack for languages.

Giridharadas was backstage before an event with Buttigieg and introduced the candidate to his colleague, Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad. To Giridharadas’ surprise, “Instantaneously, Mayor Pete starts talking to her in Norwegian, like a magic trick.”

Apparently, Pete, “once read a Norwegian author in translation. The trouble is that was the only book available by the author in English. So he learned an entire language to read more books.”

Buttigieg became entranced with the Norwegian novel Naïve. Super by Erlend Loe, according to a friend, and taught himself Norwegian so he could translate another of Loe’s books. Then he started attending a Norwegian church in Chicago to keep up his language skills. Sounds reasonable, no?

8. He plays four instruments (that we know of!)

Then-mayor Pete Buttigieg plays the guitar at a local neighborhood festival.
Screenshot Then-mayor Pete Buttigieg plays the guitar at a local neighborhood festival.

As if being a cabinet secretary who speaks seven languages isn’t quite impressive enough, Buttigieg also plays at least four musical instruments.

While President Clinton would gladly play the saxophone for anyone who’d listen, Buttigieg’s musical abilities became part of his mystique when videos of him playing the guitar, bass, piano, and harmonica started circulating in 2019.

“Is there anything this man can’t do?” one enamored video creator asks at the end of their video.

9. His go-to karaoke song is the ultimate dad jam

Then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a town hall event on the campus of Southern New Hampshire
Shutterstock Then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a town hall event on the campus of Southern New Hampshire

Picture it — you’ve reluctantly accepted a friend’s karaoke birthday invitation and have just about reached your bad singing threshold when you realize the next performer looks an awful lot like Pete Buttigieg. That’s because it is Pete, who confidently takes the microphone as one of the most recognizable guitar intros in musical history fills the room.

And while the Eagles’ “Hotel California” might not have been your first choice, Pete is clearly into it. That’s because it’s his “go-to karaoke song,” but seeing as he declined to sing a few bars after revealing the tune, the chances of catching it live might be fairly low.

10. He turned down style advice from a fashion icon

Designer Tom Ford walks the runway at the Tom Ford Spring Summer 2018 fashion show during New York Fashion Week
Shutterstock Designer Tom Ford walks the runway at the Tom Ford Spring Summer 2018 fashion show during New York Fashion Week

Designer and filmmaker Tom Ford offered to personally style then-presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, but the campaign declined the gesture. Ford told Vogue he realized that Buttigieg’s clothing didn’t match his words. While Mayor Pete’s speech is perfectly scripted, his suits were a little big for his frame.

He texted Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, with an offer to personally style the candidate. The campaign declined the offer.

“Obviously he can’t wear my clothes,” Ford explained to Vogue. “They’re too expensive, they’re wrong, they’re not made in America. And besides, whatever he’s doing is working. So does anyone need to f**k with it?”

Don't forget to share:


Good News is your section for queer joy! Subscribe to our newsletter to get the most positive and fun stories from the site delivered to your inbox every weekend. Send us your suggestions for uplifiting and inspiring stories.



This article includes links that may result in a small affiliate share for purchased products, which helps support independent LGBTQ+ media.

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated