On Saturday night in New Orleans at the Superdome, a crowd gathered to listen to the eloquent Michelle Obama at Essence Festival. The New York Times best-selling author and our forever First Lady sat in discussion with her friend, journalist Gayle King.
In a video montage that played before the highly-anticipated conversation, Obama’s mother, Marian Shields Robinson, and brother, Craig Robinson, spoke about Barack Obama courting her during the beginning of their relationship. Michelle Obama also spoke about how racist media attempted to sully her with racist caricatures during her husband’s election.
In the opening of their conversation, King asked Obama about her book, Becoming, and how the public related to her stories.
“I learned people are really hungry for stories, hungry for stories of people who look and feel like them,” Obama said.
“People have found and recognized themselves in the stories of this little Black girl who grew up on the South Side of Chicago…I knew it was important in writing Becoming, that I had to sit with the fact of how rare it is, that a Black woman gets to tell her own story in a book that will be read by millions,” she continued.
King noted that in chapter 17 of Becoming, Obama talks about how vicious people were, and asked how she got through it.
“It was important to tell that part of the story because they see me and Barack now, but they don’t know how many punches it took us to get there,” Obama said. “People from all sides, Democrats and Republicans, tried to take me out by the knees. And the best way they could do it was to focus on the strength of the Black woman, so they turned that into a caricature.”
King said she was curious how the Obamas kept their spirits up.
“Barack knew how to take punches, but I had never been at the center of it. For a minute I thought about quitting the campaign trail. But I wanted to share those moments because people tried to define us,” Obama shared, the steel evident in her voice. “I had to prove that not only was I smart and strategic, but I had to work harder than any First Lady in history.”
The End Of Barack Obama’s Term
King asked Michelle Obama what her thoughts were at the end of Barack Obama’s second term in the White House. Our Forever First Lady hilariously referred to the “other family” during the inauguration. She also mentioned how her children were crying and slow moving as they were moving out of the home they’d grown up in for eight years.
“And then we had to meet the Trumps. That day was very emotional and then to sit at that inauguration and to look around at a crowd that was not reflective of the country, and I had to sit in that audience as one of the handfuls of people of color, all that I had to hold on to over those last 8 years, and it was a lot emotionally. By the time I got on the plane, it was a release of 8 years of trying to have to show up,” she said.
King asked Obama about looking back over her husband’s presidency, and how it felt to watch everything his administration built be dismantled.
“People ask me that question all the time and I can h0nestly say, our upset wasn’t over our legacy. We weren’t there to instill our legacy, but the upset it would cause the country. What saddens me is what it’s doing to the country as a whole. What we have to be really conscientious of is what kind of country we’re leaving for our children or grandchildren,” Obama said.
Meeting Barack Obama
“The precursor to meeting Barack was that I was his advisor,” Obama recalled. She joked about how her colleagues were talking so great about this Harvard grad, but she just assumed when it comes to white people talking about an intelligent Black man that it didn’t take much for them.
“I was picturing what a Barack Obama on paper would look like. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and I didn’t know what a ‘Barack Obama’ looked like. I thought I was going to meet an intellectual nerd. But then I talked to him on the phone and he had that voice,” Obama laughed.
But even though he had that voice, Obama recalled his lack of punctuality.
“But then he was late and I was like, ‘Trifling Black man’,” she continued. “I was like alright dude, you’re late on your first date, and you’re not even rushing?”
“You know it was love, y’all. I had a job and a Saab. He had a car and picked me up in it and you can literally see the sidewalk [through a hole in the car].”
And the rest, as they say, is history. But not everything is a bowl of cherries in marriages, and Obama reflected on going through marriage counseling at one point.
“There are a lot of young couples that look up to me and Barack. We’re hashtag relationship goals. And young couples think, all they see of us are the fist bumps and love…Marriage is work, marriage is hard. But like a man, he was like, ‘Are you sure you want to talk about this?”
Obama advised people to be cautious of the man or woman who wants the easy parts of a relationship.
“Equality is not just measured in terms of the wallet. Equality in terms of the value that they carry. Honesty is the beginning, middle and the end. I wouldn’t want to be bothered with someone I couldn’t trust on a day-to-day basis,” Obama said. “It’s not just about how much money they make or title. Someone could have the right salary, but the wrong heart.”
King segued from relationships to politics and asked Obama if anyone in the upcoming relationship caught her eye.
“Barack and I will support whoever wins the primary. Our primary focus is on letting the process plays out. It is early and things will change,” Obama said. “The general election is so important and we have to get behind whoever comes out of that primary,” she continued.
When asked about the Kamala Harris and Joe Biden dust-up, Obama simply replied, “No comment.”
Wellness And Health
King brought up the fact that for the first time Essence Festival has a wellness house, and that’s something that has always been important to Obama.
“One of the reasons I took on the issue of wellness is because we’re dealing with an obesity epidemic that is shortening kids’ lives. I started with kids because my hope was that we can do for our kids when we can’t find the time to do for ourselves,” Obama said. “Starting with young people was a way to ease into the conversation.”
King brought up the lunch program that Obama initiated, that has now been erased.
“Food is a money industry. That is the bottom line. We have to own our health,” Obama replied.
Obama emphasized that women especially must take care of themselves when it comes to their health, and when King brought up her father who died at 55, she responded solemnly.
“Not a day goes by when my brother and I don’t think about the fact that he didn’t get to see who he raised. My father was an athlete but because of this disease, he died needing assistance to walk,” she said.
Obama spoke about her father not being able to see his granddaughters grow into beautiful women, and stated it’s why she’s taking her own health so seriously.
Sasha and Malia Obama
In the pre-tape to their conversation, King recalled that it was probably the first time people got to hear Sasha and Malia speak and asked how they raised such well-rounded kids.
“I credit my own upbringing. I credit my mother. She was in the house with us. Anyone who met Marian Robinson knows she’s not impressed with anything,” Obama joked. “Our focus was to make sure the girls did what they were supposed to do,” she continued.
Obama laughed when she recalled how her daughters had to have guards even when doing things like sleepovers; she also said they became good at figuring out who wanted to truly be their friends.
Now that Sasha and Malia are college students, Michelle said she and Barack both worry about whether or not the young women will end up on Page Six; still, they’re going to enjoy being empty-nesters.
“We are reconnecting, but the journey of marriage for all of you young people, just remember you go through phases. But if you can hang in there through the bad times, you get to the point where you look at the dark clouds, and you see your baby and you say, ‘I see you boo,’ that’s where me and Barack are,” Obama joked.
In closing, King asked if she was living her best life.
“The Obama family is fine. Because we have our health and we have each other. We sleep well at night.”Share :