Michelle Obama online
Ali   September 2, 2020   Books   Leave a Reply

The former First Lady muses on what makes a house a home in the foreword for interior designer Michael S. Smith’s Designing History: The Extraordinary Art & Style of the Obama White House

When The Obamas moved into the White House in 2008, former First Lady Michelle Obama had one concern: making sure her daughters, then 7 and 10 years old, felt at home.

Interior designer Michael S. Smith helped her achieve that and more, she reveals in the foreword of his new book, Designing History: The Extraordinary Art & Style of the Obama White House.

“Immediately, he understood that we were a young family with two little girls who preferred Crate & Barrel over antique credenzas and a grandmother who bristled a bit at any whiff of pomp,” she writes in the design tome, out September 1. “But we were also the Obamas: the first Black residents of the White House.”

She praises Smith for the balance he ultimately struck in the space.

“The pressure on any First Family is enormous. The pressure on the first Black one would be even greater. Michael never lost sight of that,” she writes. “He made sure our values and vision for America—one based in inclusivity and a love for all of its people—were reflected in every detail of this remarkable home.”

Smith’s other clients include George Clooney, Harrison Ford and Shonda Rhimes. His good friend former Architectural Digest Editor in Chief Margaret Russell also contributed to the book.

Exploring what home has meant to her over the years and throughout her childhood in Chicago, Obama, 56, writes, “Home was a specific place, with specific people and specific memories. But more than that, it was a specific feeling. It was comfort and warmth and security, an enveloping richness of our family’s story.”

The Becoming author strove to recreate that environment for her daughters Sasha and Malia, now 19 and 22, as they grew up, explaining, “My husband and I had done our best to achieve it in our home in Chicago, but when the vortex of a presidential campaign concluded and sent our family to the White House, my biggest worry was the most basic: Would our daughters be able to have a childhood that in any way approached normalcy?”

She goes on to note that while the White House is both an “office” and a “museum,” it’s also “a place where real families with real lives spend four or eight years together, in and out of the spotlight.”

With that in mind, “in addition to its vital role in our democracy, I also needed the space to play a very practical purpose,” she explains. “A place where our girls could sprawl out on the floor with their Polly Pockets and stuffed animals, where they could invite friends over for popcorn and a movie, where they could play ball in the halls and go outside to play in the snow.”

One of Smith’s most practical updates was to the “old-school” lighting throughout the private residence.

When the Obamas moved in, most of the rooms were still lit primarily by crystal chandeliers. “These chandeliers are gorgeous works of art unto themselves, but they weren’t always the most practical choices for bringing warm light into a family space or illuminating the masterpieces hanging in our halls,” Obama explains. Smith brought in some modern recessed lighting and added dimmers in some of their personal spaces.

The Michelle Obama Podcast host continues, “That’s the magic of Michael—shining a light on the past to bring more life to the present.”

Beyond the upgrades in lighting and “meticulous research” that went into furnishing the residence with the work of American artists and craftspeople, what Obama appreciated the most was how the Los Angeles-based interior designer helped to make their house feel like a home.

“From his very first projects, Michael helped us foster the warmth and comfort for our family that I’d hoped. Our daughters had rooms to call their own, where they could swap out a great work of art for a poster or a photo of their friends,” she writes, painting a picture of what her family life in the White House was like. “There were cozy couches to cuddle up with our dogs, Bo and Sunny, after a long day. And I had my own space where I could hide out in sweatpants and catch up on bad TV.”

With Smith’s help, “The residence became a true refuge where our family could simply be a family, where our girls could grow into young women with voices of their own,” Obama writes. “What I know now is that home isn’t somewhere you go — it’s something you create.”


Ali   September 2, 2020   Podcast   Leave a Reply

Tomorrow morning Michelle’s releases her newest episode of the Michelle Obama Podcast this time she sits down with Conan OBrein and Esquire gives us a sneak peek.

In the newest episode of Obama’s podcast, the O’Brien explains why it’s not the worst thing to be unfunny—or un-famous—at home.

he Michelle Obama Podcast is already five episodes in— and the former First Lady has already had quite a few public figures open up about things we’ve hardly heard them discuss on such a massive platform before. There’s journalist Michele Norris, Dr. Sharon Malone, and of course, Obama’s husband, former U.S. President Barack Obama.

Next up? In the next episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast, which drops Wednesday morning at 5 a.m., Obama interviews a man with a pretty popular podcast himself—comedian Conan O’Brien. In an exclusive clip from the new episode, called My Gravity, Obama and O’Brien talk about the importance of having a spouse who doesn’t fawn over you, when you’re a celebrity—or even treat you like one.

“I’ve had the experience of doing a week of shows at the Chicago Theater and I walk out every night and there’s lines around the block… and then walking into a room with my wife, and she’s not having any of it,” O’Brien says. “I find it to be life saving… the fact that, that, your husband has this relationship with you, and with your daughters, where you guys are not saluting him. In fact, You’re trying to push him out a window occasionally.”

“Right, he is the butt of every joke at the table,” Obama quips back.

You might be used to O’Brien in his goofy, one-joke-per-10-seconds mode you’ll usually find him in during one of his Conan remotes. So it’s a refreshing change of pace to hear him be a little more meditative (but of course, still a riot) with Obama. In the rest of the episode, Obama and O’Brien talk about what it means to have gravity in your home life, from both your wife and children.

“I could go out in front of an audience and have an amazing transcendent experience, where people are bowing to me and saying that was so… and not that this has ever happened, but, like, Wow, a great experience,” O’Brien says. “And then I can walk into this room, and these people are my gravity. They’re saying, ‘No, we know you, we’ve seen you be, really unfunny, at the breakfast table.’”

Ali   August 27, 2020   Articles, Podcast   Leave a Reply

Elle gives us a highlight from Michelle’s newest Podcast – Episode Five.

Michelle Obama spoke candidly about experiencing racism as a Black woman in America, both in and out of the White House, on the latest episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast. On the episode, she also spoke with her longtime pals—Kelly Dibble, Denielle Pemberton-Heard, and Dr. Sharon Malone—about the power of their friendships.

When the recent incident involving a white woman calling 911 on a Black bird watcher in New York City’s Central Park came up, the discussion turned to racism. “That incident in Central Park, which infuriated all of us, as we watched it, it was not unfamiliar,” Obama said. “I mean, this is what the white community doesn’t understand about being a person of color in this nation, is that there are daily slights. In our workplaces, where people talk over you, or people don’t even see you.”

Obama said that even from her eight years as First Lady of the United States, she had “a number of stories” of white people treating her as invisible. “When I’ve been completely incognito during the eight years in the White House, walking the dogs on the canal, people will come up and pet my dogs, but will not look me in the eye. They don’t know it’s me,” she recalled, later adding, “That is so telling of how white America views people who are not like them, like we don’t exist. And when we do exist, we exist as a threat. And that’s exhausting.”

One such incident involved not only Obama and Pemberton-Heard, but Malia, 22, and Sasha, 19. Obama recounted a time that the four women got ice cream at a Haagen-Dazs during Barack Obama’s presidency. “We had just finished taking the girls to a soccer game. We were stopping to get ice cream and I had told the Secret Service to stand back, because we were trying to be normal, trying to go in,” Obama remembered. “There was a line, and… when I’m just a Black woman, I notice that white people don’t even see me. They’re not even looking at me.”

She continued, “So I’m standing there with two little Black girls, another Black female adult, they’re in soccer uniforms, and a white woman cuts right in front of us to order. Like, she didn’t even see us. The girl behind the counter almost took her order. And I had to stand up ’cause I know Denielle was like, ‘Well, I’m not gonna cause a scene with Michelle Obama.’ So I stepped up and I said, ‘Excuse me? You don’t see us four people standing right here? You just jumped in line?'”

The Becoming author added: “She didn’t apologize, she never looked me in my eye, she didn’t know it was me. All she saw was a Black person, or a group of Black people, or maybe she didn’t even see that. Because we were that invisible.”

Amid an unprecedented chapter in the Black Lives Matter movement, Obama said she has leaned on her friend group—particularly the Black women in it—for support. “My girlfriend group, while it is diverse, it has been so important for me to have Black women in my crew,” she said. “There’s just a certain relief that comes when you don’t have to walk into your friend group and explain yourself.” Obama concluded, “My group of female friends aren’t calling me to say, ‘What can I do?’ They’re calling me to say, ‘How you doin’ girl? Let’s talk.'”

Ali   August 26, 2020   When We All Vote   Leave a Reply

CNN shares the fun news that the West Wing cast is coming back together to support the When We All Vote Movement.

Add “The West Wing” to the list of TV reunions in the age of coronavirus, but this time, they’re coming together for a specific cause: To benefit Michelle Obama’s voter-participation organization When We All Vote by staging an episode for the streaming service HBO Max.

The service announced that series creator Aaron Sorkin and the cast would unite for a staged theatrical presentation of the “Hartsfield’s Landing” episode from the Emmy-winning drama’s third season.

According to HBO Max, the event — which will be shot in a Los Angeles theater over several days in October — will be directed by Thomas Schlamme, who masterminded the White House drama’s walk-and-talk style. The program is expected to air on an as-yet-unspecified date prior to the election in November.

Sorkin also has a theatrical background, including the play “A Few Good Men” and the acclaimed recent Broadway revival of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” He’s writing additional original material as part of the special.

“The West Wing” aired on NBC but was produced by Warner Bros. Television, which, like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia, which will make a donation to When We All Vote in conjunction with the effort. When We All Vote is a nonprofit organization, created to inspire increased voter participation in every election.
Rob Lowe, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford and Martin Sheen will reprise their roles for the special, which will include additional guest appearances and a message from co-chair Michelle Obama.

Originally broadcast in 2002, the episode focuses on a tense moment in US-Chinese relations over Taiwan, while Whitford’s character, Josh, worries about a small town in New Hampshire whose voting results are believed to predict who will win the state’s primary.

The full seven-season run of “The West Wing,” which premiered in 1999, is currently available on Netflix. But all the studios have used their own libraries to beef up their streaming services, and the series is expected to shift to HBO Max at some point in the future.

Other series that have mounted reunions since the pandemic began include NBC specials devoted to “Parks and Recreation” — which benefited the charity Feed America — and “30 Rock,” which served as a cheeky promotion for the network’s upfront presentation.

Ali   August 20, 2020   When We All Vote   Leave a Reply

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, several powerful women are coming together this week to empower others to register to vote. When We All Vote, a non-profit launched in 2018 by Michelle Obama, is holding a week-long “week of action” featuring celebrities like Meghan Markle, with a goal of registering more women to vote.

The When All Women Vote Week of Action began on August 17 with nightly, virtual panels and parties, focusing “on voter registration and turnout, and celebrating the women of color who have fought and continue to fight for their right to vote since the amendment’s passage,” according to the event’s website.

On Thursday, the organization will host a virtual “Couch Party” featuring Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. A live stream of the event will begin at 5 p.m. ET.

United State of Women Co-Chair Valerie Jarrett, as well as Glamour Magazine Editor-in-Chief Samantha Barry and actress Yvette Nicole Brown, will be present for the online event, which will feature a set from DJ Diamond Kuts.

For the 2018 election, When We All Vote organized thousands of local voter registration events and texted nearly four million voters about voting resources. This year, it is focusing on fair and safe elections during the coronavirus pandemic by supporting the expansion of access to vote-by-mail, early in-person voting and online voter registration so every American can make their voices heard on Election Day.

When We All Vote is co-chaired by famous faces like Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monáe, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, Selena Gomez, Liza Koshy, Megan Rapinoe, Shonda Rhimes, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kerry Washington and Rita Wilson.

The organization partnered with The United State of Women for this year’s week of action. The week-long event coincides with the Democratic National Convention, which is also being held virtually and during which Michelle Obama spoke.

“If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election,” she said in an impassioned speech on Tuesday. “If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.”


Ali   August 17, 2020   Guest Appearances, Videos   Leave a Reply

Former first lady Michelle Obama addressed Democrats on Aug. 17 during the first night of the Democratic National Convention. The coronavirus pandemic upended both parties’ traditional conventions. Instead of in-person events, the program each night features a number of speakers and musical performances virtually across the country.

Ali   August 6, 2020   Articles, Podcast   Leave a Reply

The New York Times did this highlight from Michelle’s most recent podcast and Michelle’s discussing her mental health.

In her new podcast, the former first lady connected her experience with the effects of quarantine and news about civil unrest and politics.

Michelle Obama said this week that she was experiencing “low-grade depression” and seemed to suggest that it was because of a combination of quarantine, racial unrest and the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

In the second episode of her new podcast, which was released on Wednesday, Mrs. Obama, the former first lady, told the Washington Post columnist Michele Norris that she has had low points recently.

“There have been periods throughout this quarantine where I just have felt too low,” Mrs. Obama said, adding that her sleep was off. “You know, I’ve gone through those emotional highs and lows that I think everybody feels, where you just don’t feel yourself.”

“I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression,” she added. “Not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting.”

She suggested that her depression was related to the ongoing protests and racial unrest around the United States since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.

“I have to say, that waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not responded, waking up to yet another story of a Black man or a Black person somehow being dehumanized or hurt or killed, or falsely accused of something, it is exhausting,” she said. “It has led to a weight that I haven’t felt in my life — in, in a while.”

Mrs. Obama said she had benefited from keeping a routine, including exercise, getting fresh air and having a regular dinner time.

The psychological effects of the pandemic are not yet fully clear. But the World Health Organization warned in May of a “massive increase in mental health conditions in the coming months,” fueled by anxiety and isolation as well as by the fear of contagion and the deaths of relatives and friends.

Read More

Ali   July 29, 2020   Articles, Interviews, Podcast   Leave a Reply

Michelle Obama officially released the debut episode of her new podcast and the first guest was none other than her husband, our former president, Barack Obama. The two got together for a lengthy conversation—their first publicized one-on-one talk—all about our relationship to our communities and our country.

“Sometimes this relationship might be a source of fulfillment or meaning or joy,” Michelle says in the episode. “Other times, it might provoke questions that we don’t quite know the answer to. What we’re really talking about is our place in this world, how we feel about it and what we can do with the power we have.” Below, some of the highlights from their conversation:

On how our perception of community affects our politics
The two began by discussing the communities in which they were raised—Michelle in Chicago and Barack in both Indonesia and Hawaii—and how they both grew up with the idea that communities provide structures that help families succeed.

Michelle says to Barack, “One of the reasons I fell in love with you is because you are guided by the principle that we are each other’s brother’s and sister’s keepers, and that’s how I was raised. My values, in terms of what I think my obligation—my personal obligation, Michelle Obama—is that it is not enough that I succeed on my own…if something good happens to you, if you have an advantage, you don’t hoard it. You share it. You reach out. You give back.”

They discussed how costly changes in our country have led to people focusing more intently on their singular success. “You then have all these institutions that used to be support systems shrinking,” Barack says. “So more and more, people start thinking in terms of ‘me.'”

On the legacy they want to leave behind for Sasha and Malia
Toward the end of the episode, Barack shares what he and Michelle most want to give their daughters. He explains, “Maybe one thing everybody can take away from this podcast, relative to the other shows and guests that you are going have on, is just that you can isolate healthy friendships, marriages, parenting that goes on from the communities that they are in. All these relationships are valuable by themselves, but they thrive, they prosper when the whole society is reinforcing these relationships. When you and I think about, ‘What’s the inheritance that we would like to leave Malia and Sasha?’ More than anything, what it would be is that they are living in a country that respects everybody and looks after everybody, celebrates and sees everybody. ‘Cause we know that if we’re not around, [if] those girls are in a society like that, they’ll be fine.”

On the notion of “having it all”
“I think that culturally, we become much more focused on stuff and much less focused on relationships and family,” Barack says in the show. “And part of being an adult, part of being a citizen is you give something up.”

Michelle then shares what she says when she talks to young mothers who ask, “How do I have it all?”

“The motto has become not that you sacrifice, but you should be able to have it all,” she says. “And how do you get it? And if you’re not getting it, then something is wrong. And I always joke, it’s like, that was the opposite of how we were brought up. You were never supposed to have it all. In fact, if you had it all, you were being greedy. Cause if you have it all, that meant that someone didn’t have anything.”

“But that’s what we’re teaching young people,” she continues. “You should have a career, and you should earn a lot of money. You should be fulfilled. You should have your passion. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice that much. You should have it all.”

Their subtle digs at President Trump
While the two refrained from saying President Trump’s name, they did have two subtle jabs at him and his leadership. At one point, Barack says, “The only time [citizens] know about what government doing is when…” Michelle finishes his sentence: “When it doesn’t work, right?” Barack then responds, “We’re getting a good lesson in that right now.”

At another point in the show, Michelle says to Barack, “As you pointed out, as a former president who reads and knows history… Let’s just take moment to pause and think about that.”

On the idealism of young people
Because it wouldn’t be an Obama show without talking about the younger generation, they had several messages for the young people listening to the episode.

“Young people are idealistic as they have ever been,” Barack says. “I think they are more idealistic now than they were when I was growing up. The difference though is that…they feel as if they can channel it outside of governmental structures and outside of politics. The problem is, again, we’re getting a pretty good lesson in this right now, there’s some things we just can’t do by ourselves or even groups of us can do by ourselves…we can’t build infrastructure by ourselves, we can’t deal with a pandemic by ourselves.”

And again, they drive home the importance of working as a collective unit. Michelle says, “It is much more hopeful, it is much more gratifying, much more effective to live this life as a ‘we.’ And I think as young people listen to this, as they are starting to shape their paths, I would really strongly encourage them to think about building lives that are selfless, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but it truly is the better way to live.”

You can listen to their entire conversation, here.


Ali   August 26, 2019   News   Leave a Reply

Variety shares that Lifetime is making a series about the lives of the First Ladies of the United States. Actress Viola Davis has been cast as Michelle in the series … I love this casting.

It’s fair to say that Viola Davis’ potential next TV role will come with a lot of pressure.

The actress has signed on to play former First Lady Michelle Obama in a series titled “First Ladies” which is in the works at Showtime. The network has given the prospective one-hour drama a three-script commitment, with novelist Aaron Cooley on board to write and executive produce.

The series will peel back the curtain on the personal and political lives of First Ladies from throughout history, with season one focusing on Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford and Michelle Obama. “First Ladies” will turn it lens on the East Wing of the White House, as opposed to the West, where many of history’s most impactful and world changing decisions have been hidden from view, made by America’s charismatic, complex and dynamic First Ladies.

Davis and her partner Julius Tennon serve as non-writing executive producers on the project via their JuVee Productions banner, alongside Cathy Schulman via Welle Entertainment, Jeff Gaspin via Gaspin Media, and Brad Kaplan via LINK Entertainment. The series hails from Showtime and Lionsgate Television.

Michelle Obama has been portrayed on film before, but never on television. She was notably played by Tika Sumpter in the 2016 picture “Southside With You.”

The Obamas are making the leap into content production themselves via their recently launched Higher Ground Productions. So far, the company’s originals slate is staying away from anything directly involving politics, with “Bloom,” an upstairs/downstairs drama series set in the world of fashion in post-WWII New York City, and a feature film adaptation of author David W. Blight’s “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom” high up on the list.

Davis’ TV schedule is set to clear up in early 2020 as her five-year, six-season stint on “How to Get Away with Murder” comes to an end. Speaking at Variety’s Inclusion Summit earlier this year, Davis discussed some of her upcoming projects with JuVee and how to stop Hollywood from “dictating the storytelling” for people of color.

“If you look to the past and look at storytelling where there’s a huge deficit in terms of our voice and our presence, that’s not a good place to start,” she said. “What we have to fight for, and this is what I’m proud about with JuVee, is autonomy in storytelling and production and all of it. Don’t just tell me that the only way Viola can exist in the story is if a white person is leading the charge and I’m in the background.”

Ali   August 23, 2019   American Factory, Films   Leave a Reply

American Factory hit Netflix and select theaters on Wednesday

Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are hoping that the first film released through their highly anticipated production deal with Netflix can help viewers “get outside of themselves.”

American Factory, a documentary on post-industrial Ohio, hit Netflix on Wednesday, marking the first project from the former first couple’s Higher Ground production company.

In a special conversation with the film’s directors, Mr. Obama, 58, and Mrs. Obama, 55, explained their decision to select American Factory as part of their slate, noting that it accomplished the important feat of classic storytelling.

“One way of looking at what we’ve both been doing for the last 20 years, maybe most of our career, was to tell stories,” Mr. Obama says over coffee in the clip. “You want to be in relationships with people and connect with them and work together with them.”

That idea particularly struck directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, who said their aim in making the documentary was to give a voice to the voiceless — in this case, blue-collar workers employed at a factory opened by a Chinese billionaire at a former General Motors plant.

The concept was familiar for Mrs. Obama, who said the beginning of the film reflected the life of her late father, Fraser Robinson III, who worked at a water filtration plant in Chicago.

“Those first scenes of those folks on the floor in their uniforms, that was my background, that was my father,” she says. “And that was reflected in this film.”

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, stressed the idea of getting viewers to learn how to relate to those with whom they didn’t have things in common.

“We want people to be able to get outside of themselves and experience and understand the lives of somebody else, which is what a good story does — it helps all of us feel some sort of solidarity with each other,” he says. “Let’s see if we can all elevate a little bit outside of our immediate self-interest and our immediate fears and our immediate anxieties and kind of take a look around and say, ‘Huh, we’re part of this larger thing.’”

The former president and first lady announced a production deal with Netflix in May 2018.

In April, they revealed their initial slate of projects, which covered everything from TV series to films and documentaries, both fiction and nonfiction.

Among those are a children’s show for preschoolers called Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents, a narrative film adaptation of the biography Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, and a new series from Nashville creator Callie Khouri called Bloom.

A news release at the time said the various movies and shows would be released on Netflix “over the next several years.”

“We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it’s all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives,” Mrs. Obama said in a statement at the time. “We think there’s something here for everyone — moms and dads, curious kids, and anyone simply looking for an engaging, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can’t wait to see these projects come to life — and the conversations they’ll generate.”

American Factory, which won the Directing Award for U.S. Documentary at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, hits Netflix and select theaters on Wednesday.