Our Forever First Lady Michelle Obama has been on the road promoting her new book, “The Light We Carry,” dropping little nuggets of wisdom for us along the way. This week, Angie Martinez moderated a special conversation for Revolt TV with a panel of intergenerational Black girl magic that included Mrs. Obama, Tina Knowles, Kelly Rowland, Grammy-award-winning recording artist H.E.R. and supermodel Winnie Harlow. And during their talk, Mrs. Obama got real about her real hair.
Since leaving the White House, the former First Lady has blessed us with some beautifully braided styles. I don’t know about you, but we all lost our collective minds at The Root when she stunned with a braided bun at the White House portrait unveiling.
But Obama tells the group that she made a conscious choice to wear more conservative hairstyles during the eight years she spent in the White House, because although the country had it’s first Black First Lady, it might not yet be ready for a Black braid-wearing First Lady.
In an environment that criticized her husband for wearing a tan suit to a White House press conference, Obama knew her hair would dominate the news cycle and overshadow any good she tried to do. “I remember the second term when I cut bangs. That was every story,” she said. “I’m talking about nutrition, and the article leads with her bangs.”
Ms. Obama called straightening her hair a strategic move meant to keep the focus away from the way she looked. “We were the first. And I was like, first of all, they’ve got to get used to us,” she said. “When we did a fist bump with each other, they turned that into a terrorist act. Who needs the hassle?”
Obama says weaves and extensions were necessary to protect her natural hair from heat damage caused by the excessive pressing and curling she had to go through to look her best. “I had protective styles because you get your hair done every day and sometimes twice a day if you’re outside jumping jacks in the rain,” she said. “I would not have any hair on my head if I straightened it as much as I had to straighten it.”
Let’s hope that now that the country has had a chance to get used to its first Black Supreme Court Justice, first Black Vice President and first Black First Lady, there will be room for more firsts that feel comfortable enough to be their authentic selves.