Chuyện bâng quơ mùa ôn dịch: Về hai cựu công chúa của đồng chí Ô Bá Mà và bà cựu đệ nhất phu nhân Mỹ Michelle

When Malia And Sasha Obama Gave A Rare Interview, They Made A Heartfelt Confession About Their Mom

Caren Gibson

By Caren GibsonJuly 14, 2020

Image: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Malia and Sasha Obama are familiar faces from their time in the White House. After all, the American public watched the girls blossom from children to young adults while their father served as the 44th president of the United States. Yet Malia and Sasha have mostly shied away from the limelight and kept their private lives separate from their public duties. So when, in May 2020, the pair offered an astonishing revelation about what their mother – Michelle Obama – is really like behind closed doors, the world sat up and took notice.

You see, even though Michelle Obama is among the most well-known women on the planet, glimpses of her life behind the scenes are few and far between. We know, for instance, that the former first lady comes from a modest background. And that it’s perhaps her efforts to find a way in life that has made her such a relatable public figure. When her autobiography, Becoming, was published in 2018, in fact, people the world over embraced her life story.

And yet despite Michelle’s success, she wanted her daughters to have a normal upbringing. Not easy, of course – especially when you consider that her husband, Barack, served as the president for eight years. Nevertheless, according to O, The Oprah Magazine, Michelle and Barack were able to bring up Malia and Sasha in a way that their children could “pretend like all the craziness around them wasn’t happening.” So how do the girls truly feel about their private lives?

Well, public appearances by Sasha and Malia were minimal during their father’s incumbency. The Obama daughters were only seven and ten, respectively, when the family entered the White House, after all. So – save for the occasional official portrait, Thanksgiving pics and vacation photos – the girls were rarely seen by the general public.

Now, of course, Sasha and Malia are grown up. After their rather unconventional childhoods, the young women seem to have found their own identities. And when the pair chose to make a rare interview appearance earlier this year, everyone got to see just how grown up they really are. The clip appeared in the 2020 Netflix documentary Becoming, which was inspired by their mother’s best-selling memoir. So it seemed like the perfect opportunity for the sisters to reveal the truth about their famous mom.

But just how did Sasha and Malia suddenly become so grown up? Well, while their parents have continued to enjoy a high profile since moving out of the White House, the girls knuckled down with their studies. As a first lady, you see, Michelle has always seen education as a high priority. And it appears she’s passed this attitude onto her girls, too. When Barack gave his farewell speech back in 2017, for instance, Sasha was unable to attend as she had an exam the next day.

At the time, Sasha had yet to turn 16, and she still had two years of high school left to complete. The Obamas, therefore, opted to stay local to the area so as not to disrupt her education. And the youngest sibling eventually graduated from Sidwell Friends School in 2019. Interestingly, the establishment taught not only her elder sister, but also other former first children such as Al Gore III and Chelsea Clinton.

And after the Obamas enjoyed a well-earned summer vacation in southern France, Sasha got herself ready for life at the University of Michigan. Given that the former president and first lady wanted to lead as normal a life as possible, they dropped off their youngest daughter and helped to take her belongings to the accomodation themselves.

It seems leaving Sasha at university for the first time was an emotional moment for the Obamas. As Michelle recalled to the morning TV show Today in December 2019, “We were really good about it. We didn’t want to embarrass her because she had roommates, and it was at the end, after lunch, when we said that final goodbye.”

Michelle continued, “We got into a car, me, Barack and Malia, who was there with us, and then Sasha drove off on her own and said that last goodbye. That’s when we were like [she mimicked sobbing noises].” Not much is known about how Sasha got on as she settled in at university, though, as her fellow students have so far been respectful of her privacy. It’s anticipated that she has maintained the active social life that she enjoyed throughout high school, however.

Whereas Sasha continued her studies immediately after finishing high school, her older sister, Malia, decided to take a year out in 2017. During that time she enjoyed trips to both Peru and Bolivia and took on an internship at an independent film company. According to the website of British newspaper the Evening Standard, Malia even helped out with production duties on Steven Spielberg’s TV space drama, Extant.

Extant’s leading lady, Halle Berry, described what Malia was like on set to Watch What Happens Live TV talk show host, Andy Cohen. The actress recalled, “She was amazing. She is such a smart, beautiful young woman… Everybody couldn’t really see her as a PA. Although she tried and tried to be one, we just couldn’t really see her as one, but to her credit, she tried very hard.”

It’s also believed that Malia attended the Sundance Film Festival in her gap year. And she enjoyed quality time with her family, too, including a trip to Bali and a visit to Chicago’s Lollapalooza music festival with Sasha. By deferring her entry to Harvard until 2017, then, Malia was able to enjoy the transition to higher education without the hoopla that would likely have followed her as the child of an incumbent president.

Similarly, Malia’s visits to South America would have also given her the opportunity to have a break from the luxury that she’d experienced during her time at the White House. According to the company that supposedly arranged the trips, you see, they “aren’t touristic. They aim to broaden students’ perspectives about the world and themselves through these really intimate experiences.”

For now, though, let’s get back to the new Netflix show and, more importantly, what the girls had to say in their interview. Becoming – the documentary – follows Michelle Obama on a 34-date publicity round to promote her autobiography. Streaming platform Netflix describes the film as “an intimate documentary looking at her life, hopes and connection with others.” The flick takes a look at Michelle’s life before she and Barack entered the White House as well.

You see, as mentioned previously, Michelle comes from a lower-class background. And she explains in the documentary’s trailer, “I am from the South Side of Chicago. That tells you as much about me as you need to know.” How so? Well, poverty and segregation were rife in that area of the city during Michelle’s formative years.

But growing up without much money and facing racial discrimination weren’t the only obstacles Michelle had to overcome. She also watched on as her father, Fraser Robinson III, slowly lost his battle with multiple sclerosis, which eventually claimed his life in 1991. And there were the challenges that came with being a female, black student with lofty ambitions, too.

Michelle has described a moment when she had a meeting in high school, for instance. The young student had aspirations to follow her brother, Craig Robinson, to Princeton University. However, the careers advisor had other ideas, telling Michelle that she was “reaching too high” and should perhaps re-evaluate her ambitions.

But Michelle was undeterred. The student figured that she knew more about herself and her capabilities than the counselor, and so she sent off her Princeton application. As she recalled in her memoir, “I wasn’t going to let one person’s opinion dislodge everything I thought I knew about myself.” So Michelle “settled down and got back to work.”

Then, half a year down the line, Michelle received a notification informing her that Princeton had approved the application. Despite this, though, she apparently refused to gloat at the counselor’s misjudgment. Indeed, she’d all but blotted out the meeting from her memory. As the one-time first lady later explained, “In the end, I hadn’t needed to show her anything. I was only showing myself.”

Any feelings of inferiority at Princeton were short-lived, too. “I tried not to feel intimidated when classroom conversation was dominated by male students, which it often was,” Michelle recalled. “Hearing them, I realized that they weren’t at all smarter than the rest of us. They were simply emboldened, floating on an ancient tide of superiority, buoyed by the fact that history had never told them anything different.”

This kind of empowerment is a prevalent theme throughout the Becoming book and documentary. The former first lady often speaks of drawing from inner strength and holding yourself to a higher standard, for instance. After all, Michelle has always been determined to avoid conforming to the expectations of others – and that almost led to her refusing to date Barack.

Michelle speaks about her hesitation in getting together with her now-husband in the documentary, in fact. The film, you see, is peppered with footage of events in which Michelle is in conversation with various hosts – including chat-show presenters Oprah and Stephen Colbert as well as actress Reece Witherspoon. And during these discussions, the former FLOTUS offers candid insights into her pre-White House life.

So what happened with Barack? Well, after graduating from Princeton, Michelle took a job at a legal practice in Chicago. And it just so happened that it was the very same place that a certain future president was also employed. Yet Michelle refused his early advances because the thought of the two of them getting together seemed clichéd. She recalls, “That’s just what they are waiting for. ‘You two love each other, don’t you? You’re black, he’s black. This will be great!’”

Needless to say, though, Michelle eventually succumbed to Barack’s charm. Their first date was in mid-1989, and a couple of years later he proposed. The couple then wed in 1992, with their first daughter, Malia, arriving on Independence Day in 1998. Natasha – also known as Sasha – followed in June 2001. The new wife and mom subsequently put her own ambitions aside for the sake of her partner’s career.

Michelle’s presence during her husband’s 2008 presidential campaign was incredibly impactful, too. It seems that her forthright determination, fearlessness and dry sense of humor connected with voters. That no doubt helped Barack win the Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton, too. Yet not everyone was enamored by the soon-to-be-FLOTUS’ plucky charm – and she sometimes felt the sting of detractors.

The documentary highlights a moment between Michelle and Barack when they shared a fist bump on the campaign trail, for instance. At the time, certain factions of the media claimed that the gesture was some kind of “terrorist fist jab.” And when The New Yorker ran a tongue-in-cheek image portraying the Obamas as jihadis, Michelle was suddenly seen by some as anti-American and even a traitor.

The treatment Michelle received during that period was at times cruel. “The only thing I can share is that it hurts,” she reveals in Becoming. “That changes the shape of a person’s soul.” Indeed, despite her heavy involvement in her husband’s campaigning, she hadn’t expected to become a target for so much negativity.

“[The media] went after me like they went after candidates,” Michelle recalls in the film. “It blindsided me.” For some, though, Barack’s election as president marked a watershed moment in the battle against racism in the U.S. Michelle recognized many of the same signs she’d experienced since her youth, however. And, of course, her two daughters were privy to the effects of their mom’s mistreatment.

(to be continued)

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