By the time he left office, Barack Obama was as much of a rockstar celebrity as he was a United States president. And the public spotlight on his presidency helped transform the rest of his family into celebrities as well.
The biggest example of this is Michelle Obama. She wasted no time using her platform as first lady to advocate for a healthier and more inclusive world. And in recent years, her skills as an author and public speaker help her spread these messages far and wide.
However, there is a hidden side to Michelle Obama that goes far beyond her perfect public persona. And these shocking facts about Michelle Obama’s life and marriage may forever change how you view the former first lady.
Michelle and Barack went through marriage counseling
Publicly, Michelle and Barack Obama seem like the perfect couple. That’s why it’s so surprising to learn that the two previously went through marriage counseling. But Michelle dropped this bombshell in front of the entire world when she appeared on The Tonight Show in 2018, to promote her memoir Becoming.
To her credit, Michelle used this platform to help normalize marriage counseling and the perception that “marriage is work.” And she hopes her own counseling revelation — “that it wasn’t up to my husband to make me happy” — is one that can help partners around the world.
Michelle thought Barack would lose the election
They say that behind every great man is a great woman. When you look at the success of Barack Obama, you may imagine that Michelle believed in him every step of the way. But the truth is that she didn’t even think he’d win the election!
This was mostly due to what she saw as the political climate in the U.S. in 2008. While promoting Becoming at an event in London, Michelle said she “didn’t believe that America was ready for a black president, let alone a black president named Barack Hussein Obama.” The latter remark, of course, was in reference to Barack sharing a middle name with Saddam Hussein!
Michelle hoped Barack’s presidential bid would be one small step in the right direction. Instead, it ended up being a giant leap into the history books.
Michelle doesn’t think women ‘can have it all’
To women around the world, Michelle Obama is a genuine feminist icon. She is someone who has used her wealth, position, and power to move the needle forward for women in a number of areas. But at the end of the day, her feminism is more complicated than you think.
Way back in 2013, the chief slogan for feminism was “lean in.” It was in reference to Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, a bestselling book by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Her book’s thesis was that women need to lean in and demand positions in male-dominated industries so that they can affect change from the inside.
While that sounds like an uplifting philosophy, Michelle Obama was having none of it. When she stopped in Brooklyn as part of her own book tour she shocked the crowd with her message. “I tell women, that whole ‘you can have it all’ — nope, not at the same time; that’s a lie…. It’s not always enough to lean in, because that shit doesn’t work all the time.”
Her strong feelings on the leading feminist message of yesteryear reveal that Michelle’s own feminism is complicated and nuanced.
Michelle might not be able to “have it all,” but her net worth reveals she has a lot!
Michelle doubled down on her ‘when they go low, we go high’ comment
We’ve talked a lot about the power and influence of Michelle Obama. But what if that influence ended up making a bad situation even worse?
When Donald Trump began his political rise, Michelle coined an iconic phrase: “When they go low, we go high.” The message was simple: Democrats must take the moral high road instead of resorting to Trump’s unique brand of mudslinging.
However, that mudslinging was enough to win Trump the presidency, even amid a crowded field of veteran Republicans. To this day, many Democrats wonder if the election would have been very different if they had fought fire with fire instead of taking Michelle Obama’s high road.
But in a 2018 interview with Blavity, Michelle doubled down on her comment. “I absolutely still believe that we’ve got to go high — always and without exception,” she said. “It’s the only way we can keep our dignity. Because if we lose our dignity, what do we have left?”
Michelle broke royal protocol by touching Queen Elizabeth
For the British, “God save the Queen” is more than just a saying. It’s also a pretty good description of all of the social protocols surrounding interactions with her Royal Highness. At the top of those protocols: nobody touches the Queen for pretty much any reason.
That’s why Michelle’s surprise move in 2009 took the world by surprise. When she met Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace, she actually put her arm around her. Many British citizens were aghast at the move. But the queen herself didn’t mind and even returned the gesture!
Buckingham Palace even released the following statement to quash the controversy: “It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection.”
Michelle suffered a miscarriage and conceived her daughters through IVF
Michelle Obama’s legacy is largely defined by children. This includes her own daughters Sasha and Malia, and children around America that she tried to help through her anti-bullying and health initiatives.
That’s why it was so shocking when Michelle revealed in her memoir Becoming that she suffered a miscarriage before her children were born.
“I felt like I failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were because we don’t talk about them,” Michelle said on Good Morning America. ″We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken.” She spoke honestly about the isolation and misery of her miscarriage in the hopes that more women will “share the truth about our bodies and how they work, and how they don’t work.”
Michelle and Barack ended up conceiving their daughters through in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Michelle is close pals with George W. Bush…
For better or for worse, the majority of American voters treat politics like sports rivalries. Everything gets boiled down to winners and losers and teams who are constantly at each other’s throats. Despite this popular mentality, Michelle Obama appears to be buddies with former Republican president George W. Bush!
Their unusual friendship first made headlines when Michelle was captured on video hugging Bush during the dedication ceremony for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016.
In 2018, Michelle described George W. Bush as “a beautiful, funny, kind, sweet man,” speaking to his daughter Jenna Bush Hager on NBC’s TODAY. Michelle even called him her “partner in crime” during any event that brings former presidents and their families together because they are “forever seatmates because of protocol.”
“I don’t know that I agree with him on everything,” Michelle explained. “But the truth is much more complicated and complex than that. And I’d love if we as a country could get back to the place where we didn’t demonize people who disagreed with us. Because that’s essentially the difference between Republicans and Democrats.”
But Michelle says she’ll never forgive Donald Trump
While Michelle may be all about hanging and laughing with George W. Bush, it doesn’t look like that will ever happen with Donald Trump.
In case you’ve forgotten, Donald Trump was one of the leading voices of the birther conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Even when Barack produced his birth certificate, Trump claimed on Twitter that the “birth certificate is a fraud.” It’s just one of the many controversial things Trump has said.
Michelle Obama saw Trump as someone trying to “stir up the wingnuts and kooks,” she revealed in Becoming. She worried his rhetoric would cause an assassination attempt on her children. “Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him,” she wrote.