Nearing the end of her historic eight-year tenure, First Lady Michelle Obama was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey about her journey as America’s first African American first lady.
Their candid conversation in the White House, which aired Monday night on CBS, covered topics including the presidential election, Obama’s initiatives, her hope for America and how she dealt with name-calling and negativity.
Obama first opened up about her experience as first lady during her 2015 commencement address at Tuskegee University in Alabama. In her speech, she explained how she eventually realized “the chatter, the name calling, the doubting” she endured as a Black woman during her husband’s 2008 White House campaign “was just noise.”
Obama also said in her speech, “Over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited ‘a little bit of uppity-ism.’ Another noted that I was one of my husband’s ‘cronies of color.’ Cable news once charmingly referred to me as ‘Obama’s Baby Mama.’”
Winfrey played a clip of Obama’s speech and asked her thoughts on being label as an “angry Black woman.”
“That was one of those things where you think, ‘Dang, you don’t even know me,’” Obama said. “You just sort of feel like, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’ And that’s the first blowback.”
She continued, “You think, ‘That is so not me.’ But then you sort of think, ‘Well, this isn’t about me. This is about the person or the people who write it. That’s just the truth.
“You start thinking, ‘Oh, wow, we’re so afraid of each other,’” she told Winfrey. “Color. Wealth. These things that don’t matter still play too much of a role in how we see one another.”
Obama continued, “[I]t’s sad because the things that least define us as people is the color of our skin and our bank accounts. It’s our values. It’s how we live our lives.” She said she was determined to live out loud, so that people could see her authentic self.
“I thought, ‘Okay, well, let me live my life out loud so that people can then see and then judge for themselves,’” Obama said. “And that’s what I want young people to do: Just live.”
Winfrey asked Obama what her desire is for the United States.
“My desire for this country is that we remain hopeful and we find a place in our hearts to love each other. It’s really simple.”