For­mer First Lady MICHELE OBAMA tells us how life af­ter the White House has led to a new chap­ter in her mar­riage

TELLS HOW LIFE AF­TER THE WHITE HOUSE HAS LED TO A NEW CHAP­TER IN HER MAR­RIAGE

Hello! Middle East - - THIS WEEK - RE­PORT: TRACY SCHAVERIEN

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When Michelle Obama vis­its Lon­don next month as part of her book tour, she is likely to re­ceive a wel­come more be­fit­ting roy­alty or a pop star. De­spite leav­ing the White House al­most two years ago with her hus­band, for­mer US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, it’s clear that the for­mer First Lady has lost none of her pulling power.

The an­nounce­ment that she will be spend­ing three days in the English cap­i­tal, where she will ap­pear at the South­bank Cen­tre’s Royal Fes­ti­val Hall to talk about her me­moir Be­com­ing, trig­gered an in­ter­net frenzy. Some 60,000 peo­ple at­tempted to pur­chase one of the 2,700 tick­ets, which sold out within min­utes. A hand­ful of tick­ets then ap­peared for re­sale on the in­ter­net for as much as AED338,340 [US$92,110].

In Brix­ton, south Lon­don, a 30ft-high mu­ral of Michelle, com­mis­sioned by her pub­lish­ers, now graces a wall be­side a Marks & Spencer store.

BACK TO RE­AL­ITY

While in the UK, Michelle will also catch up with the Bri­tish-based friends she grew close to dur­ing the eight years her hus­band was in of­fice. Ge­orge and Amal Clooney are said to be host­ing a din­ner for her at their home in Ox­ford­shire, with the Duke and Duchess of Sus­sex also in at­ten­dance.

The buzz sur­round­ing her visit shows her global in­flu­ence is as strong as ever, as is her pas­sion for mak­ing the world a bet­ter place.

That said, she is em­brac­ing her life away from the spot­light and the free­doms it brings, in­clud­ing liv­ing in her own home with­out staff or White House-level se­cu­rity.

“It’s the first reg­u­lar house, with a door and a door­bell, I have had in about eight years,” she told Amer­i­can talk show host Oprah Win­frey in an

“Barack and I have chunks of time where it’s just us – what we were when we started this thing”

event in Chicago to kick off the book tour.

“As First Lady, you’re not alone much. There are peo­ple in the house al­ways, there are men stand­ing guard. There is a house full of Swat peo­ple, and you can’t open your win­dows or walk out­side with­out caus­ing a fuss.”

Over the past 22 months, Michelle has been able to re­con­nect with her hus­band and their two daugh­ters. She and Barack have even en­joyed hol­i­days alone to­gether – some­thing that was im­pos­si­ble a few years ago.

“We are find­ing each other again,” she said in an in­ter­view ear­lier this month. “We have din­ners alone and chunks of time where it’s just us – what we were when we started this thing: no kids, no pub­lic­ity, no noth­ing. Just us and our dreams.”

Hol­i­days aside, Michelle is as busy as ever fight­ing for her be­liefs. Last month she launched the Global Girls Al­liance, a programme run by the Obama Foun­da­tion to sup­port ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion for mil­lions of teenage girls world­wide.

“While times change and I may no longer live in the White House, I have no in­ten­tion of walk­ing away from these girls,” she said last year when talk­ing about her work.

She also con­tin­ues to cam­paign for bet­ter nu­tri­tion in Amer­i­can schools to tackle child­hood obe­sity, and for tech com­pa­nies to make more room in their ranks for women. And in Septem­ber, she was back on the cam­paign trail with her hus­band, ral­ly­ing Amer­i­cans to vote in the mid-term elec­tions.

HIS­TORY LES­SON

Michelle’s me­moir gives a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into how she rose from hum­ble be­gin­nings to be­come one of the most fa­mous women in the world.

The daugh­ter of a wa­ter-plant worker and a sec­re­tary, she grew up in Chicago’s South Side, where her fam­ily lived in a one-bed­room apart­ment on the top floor of her great aunt’s house.

A high achiever at school, she won a

“As First Lady you’re not alone much… you can’t open your win­dows or walk out­side with­out caus­ing a fuss”

place at the pres­ti­gious Prince­ton Univer­sity, then went to Har­vard Law School be­fore join­ing a cor­po­rate law firm, where she was as­signed to men­tor an­other young lawyer – Barack Obama.

She re­counts how he pro­posed to her in the mid­dle of an ar­gu­ment about mar­riage by drop­ping to one knee, hav­ing ar­ranged for a waiter to present her with a di­a­mond ring on a domed plat­ter.

“Well, that should shut you up,” he told her as the other din­ers clapped.

Their time in the White House saw Michelle travel the world with her hus­band, meet­ing lead­ers and roy­alty. They vis­ited the Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge at Kens­ing­ton Palace in 2016, where they fa­mously chat­ted to Prince Ge­orge in his dress­ing gown.

And in 2009, Michelle bonded with the Queen over their sore feet, putting her arm around Her Majesty – a pro­to­col breach that raised eye­brows.

De­scrib­ing them as “two tired ladies op­pressed by their shoes”, Michelle writes in her me­moir: “I did what’s in­stinc­tive to me any time I feel con­nected to a new per­son.”

FIRST AMONG EQUALS

Michelle be­came a fash­ion icon, too, reg­u­larly ap­pear­ing on best-dressed lists and spark­ing a “Michelle ef­fect”, with la­bels re­port­ing a spike in sales when­ever she wore their clothes.

But there were dif­fi­cult times, too, and she re­veals in her me­moir that she and

Barack turned to IVF fer­til­ity treat­ment to con­ceive their daugh­ters Malia, now 20, and

Sasha, 17.

She also tells how the cou­ple had coun­selling to deal with the ef­fect Barack’s job was hav­ing on their mar­riage, frankly stat­ing:

“I feel vul­ner­a­ble all the time.”

An out­spo­ken critic of Barack’s suc­ces­sor Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Michelle has fended off spec­u­la­tion that she might run for the White House her­self in 2020.

It’s an in­trigu­ing idea – es­pe­cially since, when she was put head to head with Don­ald Trump in a Zogby An­a­lyt­ics poll in May, her ap­proval rat­ing was 48% com­pared to the Repub­li­can’s 39%. But it seems un­likely that she will be­come Amer­ica’s first fe­male Pres­i­dent.

“I’ve never had a pas­sion for pol­i­tics,” she says. “I just hap­pened to be mar­ried to some­body who has the pas­sion for pol­i­tics, and he dragged me kick­ing and scream­ing into the arena.”

“I’ve never had a pas­sion for pol­i­tics. I just hap­pened to be mar­ried to some­body who has”

Michelle, pic­tured with her hus­band, for­mer US Pres­i­dent, Barack Obama is en­joy­ing time away from the spot­light and be­ing able to re­con­nect with her fam­ily

Michelle talks about their strug­gle to con­ceive and how they have IVF to thank for their daugh­ters Malia and Sasha (above in 2015, with their par­ents and fam­ily dogs Sunny and Bo). In her me­moir, Michelle re­flects on her ed­u­ca­tion (far left, on grad­u­a­tion day), her re­la­tion­ship with Barack (left, at their wed­ding), and meet­ing roy­alty (be­low, at Kens­ing­ton Palace in 2016, and be­low right, with the Queen in 2009)

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