Michelle and Barack Obama appear to have the kind of picture-perfect relationship that every couple aspires to. But in 2020 the former First Lady revealed that her marriage to the 44th President of the United States hasn’t always run smoothly. During an episode of her eponymous podcast, in fact, Michelle opened up in remarkably candid fashion about her time with Barack – and what she had to say was pretty stunning.
Michelle’s revelations may come as a surprise, too, as in public the Obamas present themselves as a loving unit. To celebrate his wife turning 56, for example, Barack uploaded some playful snaps to Instagram that had been taken in a photo booth. The former president spoke directly to Michelle in the caption, writing in January 2020, “In every scene, you are my star.”
And on Valentine’s Day two years earlier, the couple expressed their love on a different social media platform. Michelle took to Twitter to share a playlist for her “one and only.” Barack, meanwhile, returned the compliment with a loved-up picture of the pair and the comment that Michelle “makes every day and every place better.”
If that wasn’t enough, Barack and Michelle have even shared the odd smooch in public. But it’s worth noting that on one particular occasion they required a bit of prompting. While attending a basketball exhibition match featuring Team USA in 2012, the Obamas appeared on the Kiss Cam. And, interestingly, the couple initially decided against puckering up on screen first time around. When the cameras targeted them once more towards the end of the game, however, they threw caution to the wind and locked lips.
This on- and offline behavior all suggests – on the face of it, anyway – that the pair are still very much in love. And alongside all the public displays of affection, the Obamas gush about each other in interviews, too. For example, in a 2013 chat with Vogue, Barack said, “There’s no doubt I’m a better man having spent time with Michelle. I would never say that Michelle’s a better woman, but I will say she’s a little more patient.”
And in 2010 Michelle told Good Housekeeping what makes her relationship with Barack tick. “When the kids go to bed, and after he’s done a little reading, we’re usually curled up in our den, and we’ll watch a show together,” she said. “Or we’ll talk and catch up. It’s nothing major, but that’s what marriage is about. Not the big, splashy stuff.”
But every relationship changes over the course of ten years – and that’s as true of Michelle and Barack as it is of anyone else. Mind you, the power couple have been married for nearly 30 years now. They were first introduced to each other in a professional capacity when lawyer Michelle was tasked with tutoring Barack – still a student at the time. And when the future president walked into the Sidney & Austin offices for the first time, his boss recognized that there could be trouble ahead.
In a 2012 chat with Good Morning America, Michelle recalled, “Barack Obama has always walked like Barack Obama – like he’s got all the time in the world. And I was like, ‘Dude, you’re cute.’ But in my mind, I was like, ‘Off-limits.’ I’m not going to date one of the few black summer associates.”
Barack saw otherwise, however, and he eventually plucked up the courage to invite Michelle out on a date a few weeks after they met. Understandably, he was rebuffed at first over her concerns that mixing the professional and personal would be “tacky.” But Michelle eventually relented after realizing that the law student “was not a game player.”
Michelle and Barack watched Spike Lee classic Do The Right Thing on their first date after enjoying a walk in Chicago’s Hyde Park. And that all set the scene for a budding romance. Talking to Good Morning America, the former First Lady revealed, “When we stopped for ice cream, and [Barack] got the sense that I was starting to open up, he played it real smooth. He just leaned in for a kiss, and that really was it. From that kiss on, it was love, and he was my man.”
From then on, the pair became inseparable. But there was apparently some trouble in paradise. In 2008 Michelle admitted to The New Yorker that Barack took some convincing about taking their relationship to the next level. “We would have this running debate throughout our relationship about whether marriage was necessary,” she said. “It was sort of a bone of contention, because I was, like, ‘Look, buddy, I’m not one of these who’ll just hang out forever.’”
Thankfully, Barack finally committed to the idea and asked for Michelle’s hand in marriage during a meal out in Chicago eaterie Gordon. The former First Lady continued, “[Barack] got me into one of these discussions again, where, you know, he sort of just led me down there and got fired up. And it’s like, ‘You’ve got blah blah blah blah,’ and then dessert comes out, the tray comes out – and there’s a ring!”
The loved-up couple walked down the aisle of the Windy City’s Trinity United Church of Christ during the fall of 1992. Best man duties went to Barack’s half-brother Malik, while Michelle was given away by her sibling Craig. And the newlyweds enjoyed a first dance to “You and I” by soul legend Stevie Wonder before honeymooning on the West Coast.
Then, of course, came children. Barack and Michelle became parents for the first time in 1998 with the birth of daughter Malia. Younger sister Sasha followed in 2001. And in an interview with Vogue in 2013, Michelle acknowledged that her priorities changed when she became a mother.
“Our job is, first and foremost, to make sure our family is whole,” Michelle told the magazine. “You know, we have small kids; they’re growing every day. But I think we were both pretty straightforward when we said, ‘Our number one priority is making sure that our family is whole.’”
So far, so adorable. But what really goes on behind the scenes? Well, although Michelle often discussed her marriage during Barack’s eight-year presidential stint, she’s opened up even further following their departure from the White House. Since 2016 the Harvard Law School graduate has published a revealing autobiography, been the subject of an acclaimed Netflix documentary and launched a podcast. And she’s been more than happy to talk about her relationship in all three – sometimes revealing some jaw-dropping details.
In her 2018 memoir Becoming, for instance, Michelle freely admitted that she didn’t instantly fall head over heels in love with Barack. Referring to his glowing reputation as a law student, she wrote, “In my experience, you put a suit on any half-intelligent black man, and white people tended to go bonkers.” In fact, Michelle had first viewed her future husband as “a guy with a big smile and a whiff of geekiness.”
Yep, Michelle wasn’t a fan of Barack’s style during their initial time together. Looking back on a period when she’d arranged to meet Barack in a bar, the former First Lady wrote, “[Barack had] changed out of his work clothes, I noticed, and was wearing a white linen blazer that looked as if it’d come straight out of the Miami Vice costume closet. Ah well.” Ouch.
And in her eponymous 2020 Netflix doc, Michelle again recalled her early days with Barack. “He was very different, and he was different from me, and he challenged me in different ways,” she said. “I knew he was a tsunami coming after me, and if I didn’t get my act together, I would be swept up. I didn’t want to just be an appendage to his dreams. So that forced me to work and think and make decisions like leaving law.”
“My relationship with Barack was all about our partnership,” Michelle continued. “If I was going to have an equal voice with this very opinionated man, I had to get myself up. I had to set myself off to a place where I was confident that I was going to be his equal.”
But it’s on The Michelle Obama Podcast that the one-time First Lady has been at her most candid. Each week, the show, which was launched on Spotify in the summer of 2020, invites a famous name to dig deep into their relationship history and how it’s impacted them as a person. And the first guest was someone quite familiar to the host: a certain Barack Obama.
Funnily enough, though, the biggest revelations about Michelle and Barack’s long-lasting marriage came during a later episode that dropped in September 2020. On this occasion, talk-show legend Conan O’Brien was the man being interviewed. But it was Michelle’s contributions to the discussion that ended up making all the headlines.
That’ll probably come as no surprise when you hear what Michelle said. You see, while they often appear to be the ideal couple, the Obamas have had their fair share of problems. “People aren’t perfect. Marriage is hard. It’s a struggle for everyone,” Michelle admitted. “You’ve got to know that there are going to be long periods of time when you can’t stand each other.”
Michelle then made it crystal clear just how annoyed her husband of nearly three decades could occasionally make her. She added, “I said it on the book tour as a joke – there were times that I wanted to push Barack out of the window. And I say that because it’s like, you’ve got to know the feelings will be intense.”
Yet Michelle was also keen to point out that such feelings are part and parcel of being in a long-term relationship. “These periods can last a long time – they can last years,” she continued. “But we don’t talk about that. So young couples, they face these challenges, and they’re ready to give up because they think they’re broken.”
Speaking from experience, Michelle acknowledged that she’d have passed up “all the beauty that was there as well” if she’d walked away when times were tough. She continued, “If that breaks a marriage, then Barack and I have been broken off and on throughout our marriage. But we have a very strong marriage.”
Well, even though the Obamas may have a strong marriage, it’s worth reemphasizing that Barack took some convincing to get hitched in the first place. Michelle told O’Brien that while she was on board from a young age with the idea of walking down the aisle, her husband had initially been reticent. Apparently, the turbulent marriages of his parents and grandparents had deterred the future president from tying the knot.
But after learning that O’Brien himself hadn’t felt prepared to say “I do” before he was well into his 30s, Michelle showed understanding. The Harvard Law School grad applauded “a man’s inclination to wait and to kind of go out there and search and get himself ready,” adding that it was “a good instinct that more young women should think about.”
Perhaps inspired by her husband’s love of basketball, Michelle also compared marriage to the NBA Draft. She said, “You don’t want any weak links. You don’t want somebody that you can dominate, you don’t want somebody who’s kind of a loser. Also, if you’re on a team, you’ve got to be able to do everything – especially in basketball. It’s like, you would never pick somebody that says, ‘I only dribble. I don’t shoot, I don’t defend. I just dribble.’”
Continuing with her sporting analogy, Michelle added, “You want LeBron [James]. You don’t want the guy third row on the bench who didn’t make the team, but we often don’t think about that. What you’re supposed to say is, ‘I have married LeBron. My version of LeBron.’”
Indicating that she’d perhaps make a good relationship counselor, Michelle then offered some words of wisdom to those in the early stages of dating. She advised them to imagine themselves in various different circumstances with their partners before committing. “You can’t Tinder your way into a long-term relationship,” Michelle concluded.
“Do you want to build something with someone?” the former First Lady also asked her listeners. “There’s no magic way to make that happen except getting the basics of finding somebody, being honest about wanting to be with them, to date them seriously, to plan on making a commitment, to date them, seeing where it goes and then making it happen.” Of course, having children together is one of the biggest commitments of all – and it’s something that Michelle admitted also put a strain on her marriage.
“The first tough years came with kids. I had infertility issues, I was ready, I wanted kids, I worked hard for them,” Michelle told O’Brien. “We were mature, we had been together for four or five years before, so we had a wonderful amount of time together – which was helpful.”
Yes, while the Obamas had desperately wanted children, they had found the path to welcoming Malia and Sasha a little tougher than expected. Michelle added, “But even with all of that, when these little people arrived, and the whole process of pregnancy, conception, delivery… then they are there. That can suck the life out of all of that hard work and all of that wisdom.”
“It’s hard to get ready for the wonderful joyfulness that is having children,” Michelle continued. And while she doesn’t have any regrets about bringing Malia and Sasha into the world, life with them apparently hasn’t always been smooth. She joked of her daughters, “They are amazing and I would not trade them in, but they can mess up a marriage.”
Now very much adults themselves, the Obamas’ daughters have their own love lives to think about. In 2017 Malia was filmed at Harvard University locking lips with banker’s son Brit Rory Farquharson. A few months later, the pair were also spotted in the Big Apple.
Then in early 2020 the young couple were pictured walking around the fashionable London district of Islington. Malia had reportedly spent much of the festive period on the other side of the Atlantic with her partner. And she appeared to be enjoying life in England, too, if snaps of the former First Daughter are anything to go by.
An anonymous source reportedly told the Daily Mail at the time, “[Malia and Rory] were keeping a low profile but looked really happy and relaxed together. They were dressed down. Malia was in wide-leg white pants with a black jacket and had her hair down with no make-up. Rory was in a khaki coat and loose jeans. What surprised me was that they were rambling around Islington, a pretty busy area, entirely incognito. Few people recognized her as being the daughter to the previous American president.”
By contrast, Malia’s younger sister, Sasha, hasn’t been seriously linked to anyone romantically – not yet, anyway. That’s despite the fact that she got tongues wagging in 2019 with photos taken at her senior prom alongside fellow student Chris Milton. Since then, Sasha’s been busy with her studies at the University of Michigan.
And whatever Malia and Sasha’s romantic futures, their mother hopes that they “give themselves a moment to figure out who they want to be in the world.” While appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s Your Life In Focus show in 2020, Michelle said of her daughters, “They cannot define themselves by looking at each other or looking at me or their dad. They have to take the time to get to know themselves.”
Malia and Sasha have followed in their mom’s lead, too, by occasionally speaking out. Yes, while the former First Daughters don’t often go on the record about their famous parents, they did break the silence with a revealing interview in 2020. And the pair made waves when they dropped a tantalizing tidbit about Michelle’s behavior out of the public eye.
Malia and Sasha are familiar faces from their time in the White House. The American public watched the girls blossom from children to young adults while their father served as the 44th president of the United States. Yet Malia and Sasha have mostly shied away from the limelight and kept their private lives separate from their public duties. So when, in May 2020, the pair offered an astonishing revelation about what their mother – Michelle Obama – is really like behind closed doors, the world sat up and took notice.
You see, even though Michelle Obama is among the most well-known women on the planet, glimpses of her life behind the scenes are few and far between. We know, for instance, that the former first lady comes from a modest background. And that it’s perhaps her efforts to find a way in life that has made her such a relatable public figure. When her autobiography, Becoming, was published in 2018, in fact, people the world over embraced her life story.
And yet despite Michelle’s success, she wanted her daughters to have a normal upbringing. Not easy, of course – especially when you consider that her husband, Barack, served as the president for eight years. Nevertheless, according to O, The Oprah Magazine, Michelle and Barack were able to bring up Malia and Sasha in a way that their children could “pretend like all the craziness around them wasn’t happening.” So how do the girls truly feel about their private lives?
Well, public appearances by Sasha and Malia were minimal during their father’s incumbency. The Obama daughters were only seven and ten, respectively, when the family entered the White House, after all. So – save for the occasional official portrait, Thanksgiving pics and vacation photos – the girls were rarely seen by the general public.
Now, of course, Sasha and Malia are grown up. After their rather unconventional childhoods, the young women seem to have found their own identities. And when the pair chose to make a rare interview appearance earlier this year, everyone got to see just how grown up they really are. The clip appeared in the 2020 Netflix documentary Becoming, which was inspired by their mother’s best-selling memoir. So it seemed like the perfect opportunity for the sisters to reveal the truth about their famous mom.
But just how did Sasha and Malia suddenly become so grown up? Well, while their parents have continued to enjoy a high profile since moving out of the White House, the girls knuckled down with their studies. As a first lady, you see, Michelle has always seen education as a high priority. And it appears she’s passed this attitude onto her girls, too. When Barack gave his farewell speech back in 2017, for instance, Sasha was unable to attend as she had an exam the next day.
At the time, Sasha had yet to turn 16, and she still had two years of high school left to complete. The Obamas, therefore, opted to stay local to the area so as not to disrupt her education. And the youngest sibling eventually graduated from Sidwell Friends School in 2019. Interestingly, the establishment taught not only her elder sister, but also other former first children such as Al Gore III and Chelsea Clinton.
And after the Obamas enjoyed a well-earned summer vacation in southern France, Sasha got herself ready for life at the University of Michigan. Given that the former president and first lady wanted to lead as normal a life as possible, they dropped off their youngest daughter and helped to take her belongings to the accomodation themselves.
It seems leaving Sasha at university for the first time was an emotional moment for the Obamas. As Michelle recalled to the morning TV show Today in December 2019, “We were really good about it. We didn’t want to embarrass her because she had roommates, and it was at the end, after lunch, when we said that final goodbye.”
Michelle continued, “We got into a car, me, Barack and Malia, who was there with us, and then Sasha drove off on her own and said that last goodbye. That’s when we were like [she mimicked sobbing noises].” Not much is known about how Sasha got on as she settled in at university, though, as her fellow students have so far been respectful of her privacy. It’s anticipated that she has maintained the active social life that she enjoyed throughout high school, however.
Whereas Sasha continued her studies immediately after finishing high school, her older sister, Malia, decided to take a year out in 2017. During that time she enjoyed trips to both Peru and Bolivia and took on an internship at an independent film company. According to the website of British newspaper the Evening Standard, Malia even helped out with production duties on Steven Spielberg’s TV space drama, Extant.
Extant’s leading lady, Halle Berry, described what Malia was like on set to Watch What Happens Live TV talk show host, Andy Cohen. The actress recalled, “She was amazing. She is such a smart, beautiful young woman… Everybody couldn’t really see her as a PA. Although she tried and tried to be one, we just couldn’t really see her as one, but to her credit, she tried very hard.”
It’s also believed that Malia attended the Sundance Film Festival in her gap year. And she enjoyed quality time with her family, too, including a trip to Bali and a visit to Chicago’s Lollapalooza music festival with Sasha. By deferring her entry to Harvard until 2017, then, Malia was able to enjoy the transition to higher education without the hoopla that would likely have followed her as the child of an incumbent president.
Similarly, Malia’s visits to South America would have also given her the opportunity to have a break from the luxury that she’d experienced during her time at the White House. According to the company that supposedly arranged the trips, you see, they “aren’t touristic. They aim to broaden students’ perspectives about the world and themselves through these really intimate experiences.”
But what do we know of the young lady’s love life? Well, in 2018 it was rumored that Malia was dating Rory Farquharson, a law student whom she allegedly met at Harvard. Reports suggested that the pair had spent time together during Christmas breaks on at least two occasions. It’s also thought that the former president’s daughter enjoyed low-key visits to London, which is where Farquharson’s parents live. Yes, it seems she could go about her daily business without being recognized that much.
For now, though, let’s get back to the new Netflix show and, more importantly, what the girls had to say in their interview. Becoming – the documentary – follows Michelle Obama on a 34-date publicity round to promote her autobiography. Streaming platform Netflix describes the film as “an intimate documentary looking at her life, hopes and connection with others.” The flick takes a look at Michelle’s life before she and Barack entered the White House as well.
You see, as mentioned previously, Michelle comes from a lower-class background. And she explains in the documentary’s trailer, “I am from the South Side of Chicago. That tells you as much about me as you need to know.” How so? Well, poverty and segregation were rife in that area of the city during Michelle’s formative years.
But growing up without much money and facing racial discrimination weren’t the only obstacles Michelle had to overcome. She also watched on as her father, Fraser Robinson III, slowly lost his battle with multiple sclerosis, which eventually claimed his life in 1991. And there were the challenges that came with being a female, black student with lofty ambitions, too.
Michelle has described a moment when she had a meeting in high school, for instance. The young student had aspirations to follow her brother, Craig Robinson, to Princeton University. However, the careers advisor had other ideas, telling Michelle that she was “reaching too high” and should perhaps re-evaluate her ambitions.
But Michelle was undeterred. The student figured that she knew more about herself and her capabilities than the counselor, and so she sent off her Princeton application. As she recalled in her memoir, “I wasn’t going to let one person’s opinion dislodge everything I thought I knew about myself.” So Michelle “settled down and got back to work.”
Then, half a year down the line, Michelle received a notification informing her that Princeton had approved the application. Despite this, though, she apparently refused to gloat at the counselor’s misjudgment. Indeed, she’d all but blotted out the meeting from her memory. As the one-time first lady later explained, “In the end, I hadn’t needed to show her anything. I was only showing myself.”
Any feelings of inferiority at Princeton were short-lived, too. “I tried not to feel intimidated when classroom conversation was dominated by male students, which it often was,” Michelle recalled. “Hearing them, I realized that they weren’t at all smarter than the rest of us. They were simply emboldened, floating on an ancient tide of superiority, buoyed by the fact that history had never told them anything different.”
This kind of empowerment is a prevalent theme throughout the Becoming book and documentary. The former first lady often speaks of drawing from inner strength and holding yourself to a higher standard, for instance. After all, Michelle has always been determined to avoid conforming to the expectations of others – and that almost led to her refusing to date Barack.
Michelle speaks about her hesitation in getting together with her now-husband in the documentary, in fact. The film, you see, is peppered with footage of events in which Michelle is in conversation with various hosts – including chat-show presenters Oprah and Stephen Colbert as well as actress Reece Witherspoon. And during these discussions, the former FLOTUS offers candid insights into her pre-White House life.
So what happened with Barack? Well, after graduating from Princeton, Michelle took a job at a legal practice in Chicago. And it just so happened that it was the very same place that a certain future president was also employed. Yet Michelle refused his early advances because the thought of the two of them getting together seemed clichéd. She recalls, “That’s just what they are waiting for. ‘You two love each other, don’t you? You’re black, he’s black. This will be great!’”
Needless to say, though, Michelle eventually succumbed to Barack’s charm. Their first date was in mid-1989, and a couple of years later he proposed. The couple then wed in 1992, with their first daughter, Malia, arriving on Independence Day in 1998. Natasha – also known as Sasha – followed in June 2001. The new wife and mom subsequently put her own ambitions aside for the sake of her partner’s career.
Michelle’s presence during her husband’s 2008 presidential campaign was incredibly impactful, too. It seems that her forthright determination, fearlessness and dry sense of humor connected with voters. That no doubt helped Barack win the Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton, too. Yet not everyone was enamored by the soon-to-be-FLOTUS’ plucky charm – and she sometimes felt the sting of detractors.
The documentary highlights a moment between Michelle and Barack when they shared a fist bump on the campaign trail, for instance. At the time, certain factions of the media claimed that the gesture was some kind of “terrorist fist jab.” And when The New Yorker ran a tongue-in-cheek image portraying the Obamas as jihadis, Michelle was suddenly seen by some as anti-American and even a traitor.
The treatment Michelle received during that period was at times cruel. “The only thing I can share is that it hurts,” she reveals in Becoming. “That changes the shape of a person’s soul.” Indeed, despite her heavy involvement in her husband’s campaigning, she hadn’t expected to become a target for so much negativity.
“[The media] went after me like they went after candidates,” Michelle recalls in the film. “It blindsided me.” For some, though, Barack’s election as president marked a watershed moment in the battle against racism in the U.S. Michelle recognized many of the same signs she’d experienced since her youth, however. And, of course, her two daughters were privy to the effects of their mom’s mistreatment.
Malia and Sasha spent a large part of their formative years in the White House, after all. Yet Michelle and Barack aimed to provide their daughters with as normal an upbringing as possible. So whenever the girls’ circumstances were affected by their father’s position, they were told to “pretend like all the craziness around them wasn’t happening.”
Michelle discussed her daughters’ upbringing in conversation with journalist Gayle King at New Orleans’ Essence Festival in 2019. She said, “For eight years, we were like, ‘Yup, your dad’s president. That doesn’t have anything to do with you. Take your butt to school. Yes, you have security, just ignore them, they’re not here for you.’” Home life was made as normal as possible, too.
Upon entering the White House in 2008, for instance, the Obamas made the dress code of their staff less formal. That move was primarily about setting a standard for their daughters. Michelle says in Becoming that she didn’t want Sasha and Malia to believe it was normal to have “grown African-American men serve them in tuxedos.” The girls couldn’t escape housework, either.
Michelle recalls, “I also had to beg the housekeepers: ‘These girls need to learn how to clean their own rooms and make their beds and do their laundry. You cannot do this every day because they will not live here forever, and I am not raising kids who don’t know how to make a bed.’”
“You want them to be able to have wonderful experiences privately, and you want them to be able to fail and stumble privately, like any other kids,” Michelle continues. “And when they’re not allowed to do that, it’s unfair and you feel guilty about it, you know, because they didn’t choose this life.”
So, when Sasha and Malia made a rare cameo in Becoming, the world was excited to hear what they had to say. The young women are, of course, very different from the girls who entered the White House in 2008. Indeed, 21-year-old Malia is now studying at Harvard, while Sasha, 18, is in her first year at the University of Michigan.
As we’ve heard, too, Sasha and Malia’s parents shielded them as best they could from media scrutiny. The two girls were painfully aware of what their mom went through during their father’s presidency, though. And in the sisters’ first sit-down interview, they revealed the contrast in Michelle’s life since the family left the White House in 2017.
As Malia explains, their mom is “no longer facing that same scrutiny.” Referring to the media circus that followed her mom around, the 21-year-old adds, “Being able to let all of that leave your mind creates so much more space.” Meanwhile, her sister expresses a sense of pride in what their mom achieved as the first lady.
“I’m excited for [Mom] to be proud of what she’s done,” Sasha explains. “Because I think that that’s the most important thing for a human to do, is be proud of themselves.” During a more candid moment in the documentary, though, viewers gain a sense of the affection that exists between Michelle and her daughters.
In the film, Malia comes to talk with her mom, who’s seemingly just finished one of those sit-down interviews on the promotional rounds for her book. The former first lady greets her daughter and refers to her as “my little potato.” And without the formality of an interview, the 21-year-old offers a sincere reflection of her mom and how she feels about her.
“You’re so good, I love you too much,” Malia tells Michelle. She then admits, “I cried again.” Her mom asks, “Why you always crying?” Malia tries to explain how she was feeling, saying, “It’s always so…” before trailing off, seemingly struggling to find the right words to express herself.
“This has demonstrated in a way – it’s just like, damn, those eight years weren’t for nothing. You know?” Malia explains to her mom. “You see that huge crowd out there and that last kind of speech you gave about – people are here because people really believe in hope and hope in other people.”
Indeed, inspiring others is perhaps the main legacy that Michelle Obama created as the first lady. Though it was a position she was initially uncertain of, it’s one that Michelle eventually very much came to terms with. And among her major topics of discussion in the film is higher education – particularly for women and people of color. It’s something that she continues to advocate throughout her Becoming tour, too.
Michelle doesn’t see the role of first lady as something that has defined her, either. “Little of who I am happened in those eight years,” she states in the documentary. “So much more of who I am is what happened before.” Despite the difficulties she encountered during her upbringing, then, Michelle still recalls her childhood with fondness.
“It was a typical working-class community: some good music, some good barbecue, some good times,” the former FLOTUS says. If anything, it laid the foundations for creating normalcy for her children in an incredibly abnormal situation. It’s the music that Malia most closely and most fondly associates with her mother, after all.
“Every time you guys play Stevie Wonder, I don’t know, I cry a little bit,” Malia confesses in the documentary. In fact, throughout her life in the public eye, the former first lady has become known for her eclectic tastes in music. “This is what I do in the car,” she admits as she scrolls for the right track to suit her mood while sitting in the rear seat of an SUV.
Michelle learned many years ago not to bend to others’ expectations – particularly as a black woman. “We can’t afford to wait for the world to be equal to start feeling seen,” she states. “I feel like I got to share with you all that the energy that’s out there is much better than what we see.”
So while the former first lady has learned over time to play the media game adeptly, she’s nevertheless carried herself with authority and charisma. And in recent years, Michelle has spent time figuring out how to live post-White House. Her daughters growing up has perhaps added an extra dimension to that challenge, too.
“Barack and I are empty-nesters,” Michelle admits in the film. “And that has been exhilarating: to watch the two little beans you were in charge of grow up.” She then says of her life after the White House, “It’s a whole new track. It’s just all different, and it’s different forever. So it’s not getting back on track; it’s creating my next track.”
It’s perhaps her honesty that makes the former first lady so endearing. “As my mother would say, Michelle and Barack Obama aren’t special,” Michelle states. “There are millions of Michelle and Barack Obamas all over the world. [But] if we can open up a little bit more to each other and share our stories, that’s what breaks down barriers.”