Michelle Obama was one of the most beloved people in America when she was First Lady, and her popularity has only skyrocketed since she and her and husband Barack Obama left the White House in 2017.
On Tuesday’s episode of YouTube Original’s Supporting Girls, which was taped last month, Mrs. Obama reflected on the experience of being the first Black woman in that role. Speaking with Liza Koshy, Prajakta Koli and Thembe Mahlaba, Obama revealed how she navigated the often stressful role.
“Well it goes back to an education. I came into my role as first lady, I just wasn’t Michelle Obama. My education put me in positions to have jobs where I was able to start my own organizations and manage staffs,” she says in the clip. “I was a corporate lawyer, I was an associate dean at an academic medical institution, I started a nonprofit organization, I was the vice president at a hospital. So all those skills, because of my education, lo and behold prepared me for this role of being the first, right, because you sort of get used to being the first. Oftentimes when you’re the first you’ve been the first at many tables.”
She continues: “But being at the table doesn’t mean acting like a man, and sometimes I think we get that wrong — we think, Okay we have to shed all of our womanhood to sit at this table. But the truth is, what we need is the balance of who we are. What we provide is the balance that isn’t there and that’s a good thing. Yeah, there are differences. They’re not better or worse, they’re not negative or positive. They’re different. And we don’t have to be anything other than our natural selves to add huge value to the table, but we have to believe in that.”
Obama then pivots to another key piece of advice for the young women at the table: “We need to find — and sometimes build — our own tribes,” she says. “That’s what I think a lot of these programs do for these girls: They pull them out of the isolation of their own homes, because the truth is you’re never the only one, it’s just sometime we’re so scattered that we don’t know we’re out there.”
Obama continues: “And these programs call these girls into one place and say, ‘These are the girls that believe they can run, these are the girls who are interested in economics, these are the girls who want to find their voice,’ and you’re not alone.”
Since leaving the White House, Michelle Obama released a record-breaking memoir, Becoming, accompanied by a sold-out book tour. She’s also focused on her own daughter’s education – both of whom are currently enrolled in college. Malia is studying at Harvard University while Sasha is at University of Michigan.
The episode profiles various education and wellness initiatives, including India’s Study Hall Educational Foundation and Vietnam’s Room to Read, which Obama visited last year with actress Julia Roberts.
Watch the preview clip below.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images