In this iconic American city, known for producing some of the most legendary musical inspirations, it’s befitting that former First Lady Michelle Obama is welcomed like a rock star.
Wearing a black and white jumpsuit that bared her strong shoulders, white stilettos, and sparkly jewelry, the woman we dubbed “our Forever FLOTUS,” hit the stage of Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Tuesday night. She immediately hugged comedienne Phoebe Robinson before settling in for a sista chat to promote her blockbuster book “Becoming.”
Before a multicultural, multi-generational audience—albeit mostly packed with Black women—Obama was candid, funny, cool and eager to share nuggets of wisdom.
“You basically, like, mic dropped with this book,” Robinson enthused, asking Obama why she thought her memoir has resonated so strongly with the public. Released in mid-November by Crown Publishing (part of Penguin Random House), the book has already sold more than three million copies.
“For me, I knew that in order for folks to really understand me, they needed to know my whole story and the context of my life,” Obama explained.
“We see the superficial. … It tells us nothing about each other,” she noted. “We have to share ourselves with each other if we want to break this cycle of discontent and fear, we have to be brave enough to open ourselves up to each other. …It’s hard to hate up close.”
Obama, 54, spoke of her loving childhood in a working class family on the South Side of Chicago “finding joy in the little things.” She recalled “playing jacks on the kitchen floor,” and watching the soap operas. Going outside and “having a fight with that girl who was jealous of you,” she chuckled.
Praising her parents, Marian (“my rock”) and Frazier Robinson (“grace and sacrifice”), she noted that her late father was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, but never complained nor allowed his illness stop him from working hard.
In an attempt to clear up a misconception, Obama pointed out that her dad wasn’t the only Black male role model in her community, who proudly provided for their families, she recalls. “We act like they don’t exist. They exist in spades in the Black community.”
Obama had equally fond words for her brother Craig Robinson, who was in the audience and had joined her earlier in the day for a surprise event at the Motown Museum. “He was my first crush, my big brother,” she smiled.
One in a million
Years later, another man—who goes by the name of Barack Obama—would steal her heart. The couple met at a Chicago law firm; he was a Harvard Law student and summer associate while his future wife, a Princeton and Harvard Law alumna, was his mentor.
Her white co-workers had ample praise for Barack, but initially, “I wasn’t that impressed,” Obama shared with a smile. That is, until they chatted by phone.
“Oooo…” she thought upon hearing his deep voice. “He was late the first day of work,” Obama recalled, which annoyed her, but she still noticed that infamous “swag.”
Eventually, they became friends and then more.
“There was a certainty and a confidence about him,” she said, noting he didn’t play games and clearly stated that he wanted a relationship. “…That’s not something you learn the first date or two. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t believe in love at first sight. Love is just so much deeper. …I got to see that in Barack before I even considered him as a person to date.”
When in 2008 the nation elected Barack Obama president, the couple and daughters Malia and Sasha became the first African American family in the White House.
The pressure was intense, and Obama lamented that amid the political scrutiny of her husband, she was also often mischaracterized as an “angry Black woman.” She pushed forward, leading White House campaigns around childhood obesity, military families, and education.
Without mentioning the Trump Administration by name, Obama compared the treatment.
“We can’t make mistakes. We can’t get indicted,” she said pointedly. “There is a difference in standards. We are seeing that right now.”
In one of her most revealing talks on the sold out tour, Obama talked about her passion for public service, which includes inspiring people—particularly girls, women and young people—too deliver the message that there’s no one journey to “becoming” who you’re meant to be in the world.
“It’s that struggle, it’s that journey. Own it.”