AN OPEN BOOK

For­mer first lady Michelle Obama re­flects on her mar­riage and time in the White House.

OK! (USA) - - Contents - Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama knows first­hand that life can be dif­fi­cult. “When you’re a woman and you’re a mi­nor­ity, you hear the ‘can’t s.’ The ‘No, I don’t think you should do that,’ or ‘No, you’re reach­ing too high.’ It hap­pens way too of­ten,” says the 54-year-old, who ad­mits the con­stant doubts took a toll on her self-es­teem. But Michelle — who went on to grad­u­ate from Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity and Har­vard Law School, and even­tu­ally be­came the first African Amer­i­can first lady of the United States — proved the naysay­ers wrong. “If we can be brave enough, we can get out­side of the fa­mil­iar [and] break down these crazy bar­ri­ers of fear that were built up be­cause of the color of our skin or who we love. [These peo­ple] don’t know what they’re do­ing, they’re just try­ing to keep you from do­ing it.” As she cel­e­brates the suc­cess of her memoir Be­com­ing, which was the best­selling book of 2018, Michelle opens up about find­ing her­self, her mar­riage to for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and her mes­sage to young women.

When did you find your con­fi­dence?

Go­ing to Prince­ton helped me go, “Ah, I see how it works!” You get there and then you look around and go, “Huh — are you kid­ding me?” There are kids there who may be smart but they don’t know how to set their alarm, they can’t get up on time, they don’t know how to do their laun­dry, they fall apart when they get a C and they flip. There’s a lot of flam­ing out that hap­pens.

Your high school coun­selor told you that you weren’t Prince­ton ma­te­rial. What does she think now?

I went back to my high school re­cently and the prin­ci­pal was like, “She doesn’t work here any­more.” [laughs] But it’s OK. I’m good.

Af­ter col­lege you met Barack. Was it love at first sight?

I don’t per­son­ally be­lieve in love at first sight. I fell in love with him as a per­son first and fore­most, be­cause he was smart and funny and self-dep­re­cat­ing. So I al­ways tell my daugh­ters [Malia, 20, and Sasha, 17] to take time to get to know a man, let him un­peel him­self for you. You’re go­ing to see some chips. I looked for the chips in Barack and there weren’t any that con­cerned me.

What was your first im­pres­sion of him?

[Be­fore we met] I saw his name and I started pic­tur­ing what I think a black guy named Barack Obama — who grew up in Hawaii and ended up at Har­vard — would look like. And that im­age was nerdy, geeky, fla­vor­less. [When I met him I was] like, “Oh! You’re not what I ex­pected.” He was cute!

Barack was the first African Amer­i­can pres­i­dent. How did you both ap­proach tak­ing of­fice?

Like we’ve got to be bet­ter, smarter, faster, we have to work harder — be­cause the bar is dif­fer­ent for us. On the plane ride af­ter [Don­ald] Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, I cried for 30 min­utes. It was the cul­mi­na­tion of eight years of feel­ing like we had to be per­fect. The mar­gin of er­ror is small, and we felt that.

Is there any­thing you wish you could tell your younger self?

Don’t be driven by fear. Learn to live in that fear a lit­tle bit be­cause it keeps us from grow­ing. Leav­ing one thing and mov­ing to the next thing isn’t ter­ri­fy­ing, it’s en­light­en­ing. I want more young peo­ple to get used to that.

What’s next for you?

I have no idea what the next chap­ter will hold, and that’s ex­cit­ing. OK!

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