Michelle Obama is reflecting on how important it was for her to share the hurtful comments she endured during her husband Barack’s presidency.
The former FLOTUS graced the stage at Essence Fest for a conversation with Gayle King. The Becoming author showed up at the 25th anniversary of the festival in tight curls with blonde highlights at the tips of her hair. She also wore a Sergio Hudson jumpsuit complete with a chunky belt and Sutra Jewels accessories, according to her stylist’s Instagram.
During the interview, Michelle described the difficulty of dealing with public scrutiny on numerous occasions during her time in the White House. She then revealed to King how she was able to cope with the harsh words she faced both in the media and online.
“It was important to tell that part of the story (in Becoming her 2018 best-selling autobiography) because they see me and Barack now, but they don’t know how many punches it took us to get there,” she said, according to Essence. “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.”
TMZ reports that Michelle also said she faced having the label of being an “angry black woman” during her husband’s presidency. Michelle began to face backlash as early as 2008 when she gave a speech at a gala in Atlanta. A Clinton supporter reportedly said that she was delivering a speech that was both lengthy and something that the attendee deemed “inappropriate.”
During her role as FLOTUS, Michelle was also reportedly criticized by the public for what she decided to wear to events. The Harvard graduate was often deemed to be “too flashy” for events like her husband’s State of the Union address in 2009.
Michelle also reflected on her experience with leaving the White House in 2017. She said that her daughters, Sasha and Malia, were both sad to say goodbye to their home of eight years. She described entering the inauguration and meeting the Trumps for the first time as “emotional.” She also said that witnessing an audience with very few people of color made her feel “relieved” to let go of her obligation to “show up” for eight years.
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As we prepare for #MothersDay on Sunday, I wanted to take a moment to shine a light on those women in our lives who may not be our mothers, but have nonetheless played an important role in nurturing us. I’ve been grateful to be surrounded by so many strong, intelligent, warm-hearted women who, along with my mother, have made me who I am. They include my soft-spoken grandmother LaVaughn, whose work managing a Bible book store showed me some of my first glimpses of a woman in charge. I sparred with my Aunt Robbie, who lived below us, during piano lessons—but her teaching showed me the importance of hard work and preparation, and she was always there for me when I needed her most. My mentor at Princeton, Czerny, saw potential in me and did her part to get me to step outside of my comfort zone—to be a little more bold, a little less cautious. And then there’s Eleanor Kaye Wilson, who we call “Mama Kaye.” She’s sweet-hearted and deep-rooted, a second mother or grandmother for all four of us—Malia, Sasha, Barack, and me. She’s been there to help with mealtime, craft time, been to all of our events over so many years—a wonderful friend and confidant to my mother. We love her, just like we love so many supportive women whose stories and contributions often go unrecognized, but who deserve just as much appreciation and love this time of year. So if there’s a Mama Kaye or a Czerny, a Grandma LaVaughn or an Aunt Robbie in your life, make sure to show them some love this weekend, too.
Now that she and her family are civilians, the bestselling author is reportedly hoping that viewers who saw the discussions at Essence Fest are now, “inspired, focused and ready to do some work.”