Jennifer Gates — who was born in April 1996 — is the eldest daughter of Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, who announced their divorce in May 2021. That in and of itself tells you a lot about Jennifer, as when you’re the child of one of the world’s richest people, you have quite a shadow over you from the start. Of course, that also comes with a staggering amount of privilege, but no doubt it’s tough to find a way to stand out from the rest of your family.
However, that’s one thing that Jennifer has been able to do, thanks to her innate smarts, her impressive talents, her poised self-awareness, and her propensity for compassion (via Sidelines). So while she could have just rested on her laurels and let life come at her, Jennifer nurtured her ambitions and showed the world that she’s more than a wealthy heiress with everything handed to her on a plate.
So what else is there to know about the eldest child of Bill and Melinda? Read on to discover the stunning transformation of Jennifer Gates — her evolution just might surprise you.
From the start, Jennifer Gates’ parents were supportive
Growing up in some families, there can be intense pressure for kids to live out the lifestyle that their parents believe is best for them. That’s not always a bad thing, per se, but it certainly can put the pressure on a kid from an early age.
While you may be tempted to think that Jennifer Gates’ parents had her life mapped out for her, that wasn’t the case; instead, they adopted a strategy of straight-up nurturing. "They’ve always had my back," she recalled in an interview with Sidelines. "When I was younger, they told me to pursue whatever it was I was interested in, whether it was math or science or reading or writing." That had to be incredibly liberating.
Additionally, Gates’ parents didn’t sugarcoat the world and refused to keep her sheltered from the more difficult things in life. "As a young kid, they always talked to me like I was an adult and weren’t willing to shy around difficult conversations," she continued. Not surprisingly, those discussions would have a real impact on Gates later in life.
Jennifer Gates started riding horses at a young age
By all accounts, it looks as though Jennifer Gates had a pretty idyllic childhood growing up in Seattle, Washington (via Instagram). One major part of that included her love of all things equestrian, which started when she was a young girl. "I started riding at the age of 6, when my childhood best friend and I decided we wanted to take pony lessons," she told Sidelines. "A couple years after that, I switched to a barn that introduced me to hunters and jumpers and set me on a more serious path — including introducing me to my current trainer." Clearly Gates had a real aptitude for the sport that was evident right away.
Interestingly enough, Gates is the only one in her family who got into competitive horseback riding. "But they love being around my horses and riding occasionally for pleasure when we’re on vacation," she continued. "I feel so lucky to have a family that supports me and just wants me to be happy."
Perhaps surprisingly, Jennifer Gates’ dad, Bill Gates, limited her screen time
Given all that Bill Gates accomplished with computers in his time, you may find yourself wondering if he started his kids on screens super early in life. But as he tells it, Jennifer Gates didn’t start using computers regularly until she was 10 at school. "She became very avid and discovered a lot of computer games, including one that runs on the Xbox 360 called ‘Viva Pinata,’ where you take care of your garden," he shared (via Reuters).
In fact, Bill and Melinda Gates set some pretty strict limits on Jennifer’s screen time growing up, giving her only an hour on weekend days and 45 minutes (not counting homework) on weekdays. "Up to some age, to be determined, it’s very appropriate for a parent to get a sense of what they’re seeing out there and be able to have conversations about it," he continued.
And it was only when Jennifer turned 14 that she was allowed to have a mobile phone, as noted by the Mirror, but never at the dinner table.
Jennifer Gates went to a swanky high school
Following in her father’s footsteps, when it came time for Jennifer Gates to enter high school, she didn’t enroll in public school. Rather, she was one of the lucky 17% of applicants to be admitted to the swanky Lakeside School in Seattle, a private institution that sits waterfront on Lake Washington (via Insider). Fun fact: that’s where Bill Gates met Paul Allen, with whom he later co-founded Microsoft.
According to the school’s website, "The mission of Lakeside School is to develop in intellectually capable young people the creative minds, healthy bodies, and ethical spirits needed to contribute wisdom, compassion, and leadership to a global society." And you can get all of that as long as you can afford the total cost of over $38,000 per year, as the Gates family obviously could.
Attending the Lakeside School clearly worked out for young Jennifer, as it no doubt later helped her get admitted to one of the top universities in the country.
Jennifer Gates attended a top university
After graduating from the prestigious Lakeside School, Jennifer Gates packed up and moved to California. That’s where she attended Stanford University, one of the best universities in the country, if not the world (via U.S. News & World Report). "I’m studying Human Biology," she revealed in a 2016 interview with Horse Network. "I’m really interested in children’s wellbeing, especially here in the United States. I find that fascinating." She added that at the time she’d just taken a class about "children, youth, and the law," which gave her an inside look at both the foster care system and the juvenile justice system in the United States.
At the time, Gates was still pursuing her career in horseback riding, too, which naturally had her running around quite a bit. "I’m at Stanford during the week, then horse shows on the weekend," she continued. "It’s a little busy but I love doing both." A little busy? That sounds more like a lot busy.
Gates graduated from Stanford in 2018, as noted by CNN Sport. Well done, Jennifer!
Even Jennifer Gates has struggled with self-doubt and mental health
Being born into the Gates family isn’t too different from winning the lottery. You have all the money you need and then some, and can pretty much do whatever you want in life. However, that didn’t insulate Jennifer Gates from having insecurities, as she did with both her academics and her career in horseback riding. "Everyone struggles with self-doubt, or feeling like we’re not good enough, all these different things," she revealed in a chat with Sidelines. "Self-care is a bit of a buzzword, but for me it’s about doing the internal work and coming to a place where you can accept and love those parts of yourself, and really feel whole." We’re 100% on board with this, Jennifer.
Gates also has to work to maintain her mental health, as she’s sometimes prone to anxiety. "Mental health and mindset are both super important to me, and I encourage everyone to learn more about yourself and prioritize this," she wrote in a piece for The Chronicle of the Horse. "I also meditate and journal regularly." Well, that makes us feel less alone!
After graduating from college, Jennifer Gates took a year off to ride horses
After graduating from Stanford University in 2018, rather than immediately pursue post-graduate work, Jennifer Gates decided to take a year off. But it wasn’t to go backpacking through Europe like so many young adults do during their gap year. Rather, Gates had gotten so good at horseback riding that she was performing at an elite level internationally. "I never knew that I would be competing at this level today," she told CNN Sport in 2019. "I always thought it would just be a childhood hobby, but I’m so grateful that it still has a place in my life." Impressive!
As for whether or not Gates would continue to ride once she returned to her educational endeavors, she said she’d figure it out as she goes along. "I found that when I was at Stanford, I was able to compete, and I’ll just have to play things by ear," she continued. "But whether I can compete at this level or not, I know that horses will be a huge part of my life."
Jennifer Gates enrolled in medical school
Once Jennifer Gates enjoyed a year of equestrian competition following her tenure at Stanford University, she made the decision to go to medical school. To that end, in 2019, she enrolled at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. However, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for Gates. "The first week of medical school, I was so overwhelmed by the amount of content we had that I kind of forgot about my self-care, which has become really important for me," she shared in an interview with Sidelines. "Since then, I’ve learned to rebalance and make sure I have time for sleep, relationships, exercise, quiet time — all of the fundamentals that help me show up…" We love to hear it.
In February of 2021, Gates updated her social media followers on Instagram, sharing that she was in the midst of her second year of medical school — thanks to a little help she had along the way. "I wasn’t always convinced I was smart enough to go to medical school, but during my freshman year at Stanford I was lucky to meet amazing mentors who helped me realize my passion for science and helped me pursue this path," she confessed. We’re so glad they did!
In 2020, Jennifer Gates got engaged to Nayel Nasser
For as beautiful and as talented as Jennifer Gates is, you know that the lucky person who steals her heart is going to be someone special. Well, it turns out that Gates’ forever person, Nayel Nassar, is every bit as dreamy as you’d expect. Not surprisingly, he and Gates bonded over horseback riding. "He’s a professional, and I do this as an amateur," she explained in a chat with CNN Sport. "So, to be able to share our love and passion for horses with each other is just incredible."
Gates and Nassar took their relationship to the next level in January 2020, when Nasser proposed to Gates on a snowy getaway, as noted by her Instagram page. "Absolutely swept me off my feet this past weekend, surprising me in the most meaningful location over one of our many shared passions," she gushed in the caption. "I can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives learning, growing, laughing and loving together. Yes a million times over."
While Nassar and Gates clearly have it all, their day-to-day life sounds surprisingly low-key. "We currently live together on the East Coast with our energetic Jack Russell Terrier, Earl," she wrote in another Instagram post. Cute.
In lockdown, Jennifer Gates had to adapt like everyone else
In March of 2020, just two months after Jennifer Gates got engaged, the world was brought to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, Gates had to adjust to her life in quarantine, just like everyone else. "With the precautions being taken nationwide around the coronavirus, I am studying remotely from Florida," she wrote in an essay for The Chronicle of the Horse. "And all of my medical school classes have temporarily been moved online."
In order to stay sane in the strictest of lockdowns, Gates turned to exercise to help keep her grounded and stable. "I have found incorporating fitness breaks throughout my day to be extremely beneficial," she continued, noting that she does Pilates. But Gates doesn’t push it if she’s not feeling suitably inspired. "It’s all about balance and finding activities that you enjoy doing," she added. That’s advice that we all know to take to heart in hindsight!
Jennifer Gates may give up horseback riding one day
Given that Jennifer Gates is working to become a doctor — a profession known for being demanding both while studying for it and actually doing it — she may find herself with less and less time for other activities. To that end, it’s possible that one day, Gates will have to give up horseback riding on a competitive level. "You have to have an open mindset and really think about what you’re prioritizing in any given week or month," she explained in an interview with Sidelines, acknowledging that "things can change."
No matter what happens and however the chips may fall, Gates is sincerely thankful for all that she’s gotten out of her equestrian endeavors. "I might be too busy someday or I might make mistakes," she continued, "but I think that’s all part of life and the process."
And of course, there’s nothing that can stop Gates from riding horses on her own time, so they will always be in her life in some capacity.
These are Jennifer Gates’ career goals
If there’s one thing we all know for certain, it’s that Jessica Gates is on a path that’s moving her toward tremendous success. With her elite education, she’s most definitely going to develop into a woman who makes real changes in the world. And given that she’s had the support of her parents at every step, there’s going to be no stopping Gates from nurturing all of her ambitions.
To that end, are you wondering exactly what Gates’ career goals are? Fortunately for us, she shared them on social media. "I am deeply interested in studying factors that impact children’s growth and development, most specifically adverse childhood experiences," she wrote in an Instagram post. "Long term, I also hope to contribute by giving people a clear understanding of their conditions and circumstances, so they feel supported by medicine and science." Wow, Gates has really become an inspiring young woman!
Jennifer Gates is a ‘lifetime learner,’ thanks to her parents
In addition to supporting Jennifer Gates, Bill and Melinda Gates have also set a real example of how to move through the world. They could have just sat back and enjoyed all of their money on their own, but instead they decided to become true philanthropists in every sense of the word. It’s no wonder, then, that they’ve made a real mark on Jennifer. "They’ve inspired me to be a lifetime learner but also inspired me to think about ways to give back," she explained to CNN Sport.
That applies to every aspect of Jennifer’s life, something that she’s both aware of and ready to be responsible for. "I’m incredibly fortunate to have the resources that I do, so whether that’s in the equestrian world or in other pursuits," she continued, "just thinking of ways to help others is a message that I will carry with me forever."
Jennifer Gates knows she’ll need to provide for herself
Bill Gates is a billionaire hundreds of times over. According to CNBC Make It, the Microsoft mogul’s total net worth is at least $134.1 billion dollars — an unfathomable amount of money.
However, if you thought that Bill was going to leave all of that money to his children, you’d be sorely mistaken. "I don’t think that amount of money would be good for them," he told the Daily Mail. "It will be a minuscule portion of my wealth. It will mean they have to find their own way." Some estimate that each child will receive approximately $10 million, which is indeed a lot, but nowhere near $134.1 billion.
Of course, that inheritance would exclude everything that daughter Jennifer Gates has received thus far, says Gates. "They will be given an unbelievable education and that will all be paid for," he continued. "And certainly anything related to health issues we will take care of. But in terms of their income, they will have to pick a job they like and go to work." Fortunately, it looks like Jessica has all of that on lock.