A lawyer, an author and the first black First Lady of the US.
Born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, she grew up in the South Side of Chicago – sharing one attic, divided by wood paneling, with her parents and a brother.
She was an excellent student, who skipped the second grade, enrolled into a gifted class in elementary school, and graduated as the salutatorian of her class.
After high school, she studied at Princeton and later at Harvard Law School, where she became more aware of discrimination based on socioeconomic status, gender, and race. Later on, she advocated against those discriminations, using her political power and social position.
At the age of 25, she sat in a 47th-floor office, working for a Chicago-based prestigious law firm, a job she hated for it felt like “document production”. There she met her future husband, Barack Obama, whom she mentored as a summer associate.
As her husband climbed his way to US presidency, she left corporate law for public service practice, working for Chicago’s City Hall and the University of Chicago.
At her time in the White House, she became a role model for women and an icon of “relatability” – making her position less official and distant from the public, using familiar language and expressing her opinions openly, even if controversial. She also advocated for healthy nutrition and lifestyle, mostly for children.
As a First Lady, she became one of the most popular women in the US history, and in 2018, she was voted the most admired woman of the year in Gallup’s Most Admired List.
The post-White House years secured her status as an icon.
She published a memoir, “Becoming”, which was the best-selling book of 2018.
In it, she writes about professional and personal matters, including the fertility treatments the couple went through to conceive their two daughters, and with courage, she tells about the feelings of her being a ‘damaged woman’ due to her difficulties to conceive.
By that, she brought great awareness to a sensitive subject that causes many women great pain, along with the political issues of the cultural and social definitions of fulfillment as a woman first and most by becoming a mother.
“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves” (about the White House)
More Interesting Anecdotes:
- 5’11 high, she shares with Eleanor Roosevelt the title of “the tallest First Lady” in recorded history of US.
- In her Instagram account bio, she describes herself as “always hugger-in-chief”, referring to her instinct to hug people.
- In 2015 she and her daughter Malia tried to escape the Secret Service to participate in the same-sex marriage legalization celebrations on the White House lawn.
- In 2016, she delivered a speech supporting the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, in Philadelphia.
- Her best seller book was accompanied by a sold-out promotional tour of talks, hosted by prominent women, such as Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Norris, and Elizabeth Alexander. Obama refers to Oprah as her “cultural godmother”.
- She is the only First Lady ever to hold two Ivy League degrees.
- Her childhood hero was the book character Pippi Longstocking.