And, best first lady con­tro­versy Os­car goes to...

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Dar­lene Superville

CHICAGO — Michelle Obama says it was “ab­so­lutely not sur­pris­ing” to her that her satel­lite ap­pear­ance at the Academy Awards cer­e­mony pro­voked a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about whether it was ap­pro­pri­ate, af­ter some con­ser­va­tive crit­ics ac­cused her of self­ishly crash­ing the event in an at­tempt to up­stage it.

She at­trib­uted the chat­ter to a cul­ture shift that has spawned le­gions of blog­gers, tweet­ers and oth­ers who talk about any­thing and ev­ery­thing all the time.

“Shoot, my bangs set off a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion. My shoes can set off a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion. That’s just sort of where we are. We’ve got a lot of talk­ing go­ing on,” the first lady said only some­what jok­ingly Thurs­day be­fore an ap­pear­ance in Chicago, her home­town.

“It’s like ev­ery­body’s kitchen-ta­ble con­ver­sa­tion is now ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­body else, so there’s a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about any­thing.”

In what was not the first-ever Os­car ap­pear­ance by a first lady, Mrs. Obama was beamed live from the White House into Sun­day’s cer­e­mony in Los An­ge­les to un­seal the en­ve­lope and an­nounce that the night’s fi­nal award, for Best Pic­ture, would go to Argo. In 2002, Laura Bush ap­peared at the cer­e­mony on video­tape.

Amer­i­cans have long been fascin- ated by their first ladies, scru­ti­niz­ing ev­ery­thing from their clothes and hair to the is­sues they pro­mote and how they raise their chil­dren. Obama ac­knowl­edged that she and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama have added ap­peal, and per­haps some­times are sub­ject to ex­tra scru­tiny, be­cause they are the first black fam­ily in the White House but also a young cou­ple (she turned 49 last month; he’s 51) with young chil­dren (daugh­ters Sasha, 11, and Malia, 14).

She said she doesn’t give a sec­ond thought to crit­i­cal com­ments about what she does as first lady.

Her strat­egy, she said, is to do things that fur­ther her larger goals and Os­car night fit with her sup­port for the arts. She re­cently in­vited the di­rec­tor and cast mem­bers from the Os­car-nom­i­nated film Beasts of the South­ern Wild to the White House to par­tic­i­pate in a ques­tion-an­dan­swer ses­sion with stu­dents from Washington and New Or­leans who had seen the film at the ex­ec­u­tive man­sion.

“I just don’t think about that stuff,” said the first lady, who was asked for her re­ac­tion to the wave of crit­i­cism dur­ing an in­ter­view with a small group of re­porters who were in­vited to ac­com­pany her on a three-city tour mark­ing the third an­niver­sary of her “Let’s Move” cam­paign against child­hood obe­sity.

She said she was as­tounded by the buzz about cut­ting her hair to add bangs, which she un­veiled on her birth­day, just be­fore in­au­gu­ra­tion week­end.

Asked if she was sur­prised that the bangs made the news, Obama said: “I was, I have to say. I’m like, ’it’s a hair­cut.”’

In the in­ter­view, she also re­vealed that she used a lot of salty lan­guage as a 10-year-old, which she said she didn’t re­al­ize un­til the year it cost her the ti­tle of “best cam­per” at the day camp she and her brother, Craig, at­tended ev­ery sum­mer. The ex­pe­ri­ence taught her a les­son, she said.

“I was go­ing through my curs­ing stage,” she said. “I didn’t re­al­ize un­til my camp coun­sel­lor at the end came up and said, ’You know, you would have been best cam­per in your age group but you curse so much.’

“And I was think­ing, ‘Really? Was it that no­tice­able? And I thought I was be­ing cool. Lit­tle did I know I lost ‘best cam­per.’ I didn’t curse again.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS AR­CHIVES

Obama, ap­pear­ing on screen, and ac­tor Jack Ni­chol­son (on­stage) present the award for best pic­ture last Sun­day at the Academy Awards cer­e­mony in Los An­ge­les.

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