Since leaving the White House in 2017, Michelle Obama has been busy. The former US First Lady authored the bestselling memoir Becoming in 2018, launched a YouTube series for college students and hosted an insightful podcast featuring notable guests such as Conan O'Brien and of course, husband and former president, Barack Obama.
While the rest of us have been busy making Christmas plans, Michelle has been travelling across America to promote her latest book, The Light We Carry: Overcoming In Uncertain Times, which also features prominent voices such as Gayle King and Tracee Ellis Ross.
The book, described as a "glimpse inside [her] personal toolkit", is a helpful, modern guide to managing difficult moments and coping with adversity. It's a practical self-help read in Obama's signature articulate style.
During a recent stop at Revolt TV for a panel talk that also included the musician H.E.R, Tina Knowles, and Kelly Rowland, Obama touched on her hairstyle choices while serving as First Lady. She opted out of wearing braids, she explained, because she felt at the time that the American people needed first to adjust to having a Black family in the White House.
“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, who back then relied on straighter styles and wavy blowouts, used weaves and extensions to protect her hair from excessive heat styling. "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.”
Last month, Obama told the crowd during the Washington leg of her book tour that her White House hairstyles were also strategically chosen, so as to not overshadow her husband's political goals. "Let me keep my hair straight," she said. "Let's get healthcare passed".
It's a heartbreaking sentiment, but not an altogether surprising one, given just how ruthless the media can be to women in the public eye—and especially to women of colour.
Since leaving the White House, Obama has been having fun expressing her personal style through both fashion and beauty, and has recently been spotted wearing a braided high ponytail, curly up-dos and long box braids. With the passing of the Crown Act (which prohibits hair discrimination) in the US and the new wave of Black hair innovators and creatives getting their due recognition, there's never been a better time to celebrate and embrace the beauty of Black hair.
Lead photo credit: @MichelleObama | Twitter
Square photo credit: michelleobama | Instagram
This piece originally appeared in Harper's Bazaar UK