Michelle Obama’s Best Moments of 2013

First lady Michelle Obama at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City for Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day on Aug. 24, 2013
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
First lady Michelle Obama at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City for Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day on Aug. 24, 2013
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

While her husband has had a somewhat rocky year, first lady Michelle Obama has continued to bask in the glow of sky-high approval ratings. As popular as ever, this year she got to begin a new chapter as a political wife, a chapter in which she no longer has to worry about another election ever again—unless, of course, she decides to run herself someday.


Her husband’s re-election seems to have imbued the first lady with a measure of newfound confidence and freedom, as shown by some of the risks she took this past year. So here are highlights from some of her best moments in 2013.

1. The Bangs Heard (and Seen) Around the World

Illustration for article titled Michelle Obama’s Best Moments of 2013

Presidents are rarely upstaged during their inauguration festivities. Theoretically the celebration is all about them. But even President Obama knew that during the last inaugural, few eyes were on him, and not just because his wife has become a style trendsetter. During inauguration 2013, she emerged as a hairstyle trendsetter, too. Michelle Obama decided to get bangs for her 49th birthday, which happened to occur just before the inauguration. Though she would later joke that they were part of her “midlife crisis,” her husband would joke at an inaugural gala that the bangs were “the most significant event of the weekend.” 

2. The Evolution of Mom Dancing

In February Michelle Obama went where no other first lady had gone before: She went mom dancing. She stunned viewers when she appeared as a surprise guest in a skit on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in which she spoofed, you guessed it, how moms dance. The video of the segment became a viral sensation, in part because it left nearly everyone who watched it with the same lingering question: Could you picture Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton or Barbara Bush pulling that off?

3. The First Lady Crashed the Oscars

OK, she didn’t really crash the Oscars. But she sure surprised a lot of people by being there. When the first lady appeared on a large screen at the 85th Academy Awards, she shocked many. While some continue to debate whether or not the first lady belonged there, others simply got a kick out of it, including Ben Affleck, who directed Argo, the film that won in the best picture category announced by the first lady. He described the moment as “very cool.”


4.  The First Lady Heckled a Heckler

Heckling is simply part of the package in politics. Politicians and their spouses are trained to grin and bear it. But in some ways that has always reinforced the phoniness of the political process. After all, if a normal person were giving a speech and were rudely interrupted by someone who simply disagreed, that person would probably tell the interrupter where she could go and how quickly she could get there. Which is why the way Michelle Obama handled a woman attempting to heckle her was so refreshing.


When a woman at a fundraiser attempted to interrupt and shout down the first lady, she was surprised to learn the hard way that the first lady would not be grinning and bearing it. Instead Michelle Obama stepped from her podium and confronted the woman—to cheers from the audience in attendance that evening, and from millions of us who later watched video of the incident.

5. The Water Campaign

Although her first term as first lady was spent educating Americans on the importance of healthy eating, Michelle Obama’s second term kicked off with a focus on educating Americans on the importance of healthy drinking. In September the first lady launched an awareness campaign to encourage Americans to drink more water.


6. Let’s Move! … Into College

In November the first lady revealed her plans to begin more actively encouraging young people from nontraditional backgrounds to pursue higher education. The effort marked a noticeable shift in her tenure as first lady. For much of her husband’s time in office, she had steered clear of any substantive policy, focusing instead on fairly safe topics. This has disappointed some first lady fans (including yours truly), which is why so many of us cheered this new effort and can’t wait to watch it blossom in 2014.


Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter