Michelle Obama says her girlfriends are an “essential” part of her life.

The First Lady is serving as guest editor of iVillage this week, and revealed she relies on her female friends to “implicitly to be able to talk frankly and complain without being judged, and to let off steam knowing that you really don’t mean it.”

With her high-profile and constant scrutiny, Mrs. Obama says, besides her husband, it’s the women she’s known for a long time who provide her the kind of support she needs. “It has just been essential for me in this role, being in such a highly visible, highly scrutinized environment to have people that you’ve known for that long where you can just be yourself and be vulnerable.

“And that’s one of the reasons why I encourage women to take care of our friendship, because while my husband is my best friend — and I love and respect him dearly — my female friends just provide a different kind of support.”

Mrs. Obama also tells the site that her husband understands her need to have her “girls” around. “He is grateful to those women in my life as well,” she said.