I just didn’t want to become a meme
Michelle Obama says one of her main aims throughout her years as first lady was to not fall over and become a meme.
In an honest, funny account of her life and her time in the White House, Mrs Obama spoke frankly about the challenges she faced as the first black first lady – and that even one of the most famous women in the world still worries about falling over and looking stupid.
But she was far from making herself look anything but brilliant if the cheers and standing ovations at London’s Royal Festival Hall were anything to go by.
Speaking to author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the event, Mrs Obama recounted events that led to her publishing her first book, Becoming – from growing up in Chicago’s South Side, to marrying the man she mentored at a law firm after getting her law degree.
That man, named Barack, was late on his first day.
On growing up in a working class family with not a lot of money, Mrs Obama said one of the most valuable things she was taught as a child was that her feelings were important.
“My mother said I’m raising adults, I’m not raising babies,” she recalled.
“It was never ‘speak when spoken to’, she encouraged us to let our voices be heard.
“My parents believed my voice was relevant and my opinions were meaningful and my anger and frustration was real.
“That was the gift they gave me. They kept my flame lit – even though some people put that flame out or douse it because were scared they may not be ladylike.”
And of course, she told of the moment that she breached protocol and touched Her Majesty.
She said: “I touched her! After all those protocol lessons, I was human.”
But in all the trials and tribulations that come with being first lady, Mrs Obama said “if you wanted to know what I thought about” – it was falling over.
“One or my primary goals for the eight years was to never become a meme,” she admitted.
She also spoke of her marriage and how the former president treats her with love and respect, and had a few tips for the men who came to see her.
“He doesn’t play games fellas, that’s a very attractive quality,” she said.
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is much more than a former first lady, and that is the message she wanted to hammer home.
Although she was thrust into the spotlight as the president’s wife, she wants to tell all women and young people that it’s not about where they started, and they can build their own dreams like she did – even as the wife of one of the world’s most powerful men.
“I didn’t want to become an appendage to his dreams,” she said.
“I didn’t want to follow his jet stream. I wanted my own identity so I wouldn’t get lost in his journey.”