Role models matter. It’s important for small children to see people who look like them in positions of power and influence. One photo that captured this point especially poignantly is a candid shot of a small African-American child, Parker Curry, staring entranced at the official painting of former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Since another museum-goer noticed the tiny child standing transfixed in front of the Michelle Obama painting at the National Portrait Gallery, and snapped a photograph in March 2018, the story has gone viral. Now Parker, just 2, was able to meet her idol, and the meeting was captured on video.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Michelle Obama & Parker Curry Danced Together in the Video
Michelle Obama, upon learning about the viral photo of the little girl, met with her, and then posted a photo of them dancing together.
“Parker, I’m so glad I had the chance to meet you today (and for the dance party)! Keep on dreaming big for yourself…and maybe one day I’ll proudly look up at a portrait of you!” Michelle Obama wrote with the adorable video, which she posted on Twitter.
Michelle Obama also posted the same message on Instagram on March 6, 2018 along with a photo of her with Parker that you can see at the top of this story.
When the portrait was first unveiled, Michelle Obama had said, “I’m also thinking about all of the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who, in years ahead, will come to this place and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution.”
2. Parker Curry’s Mother Couldn’t Get Her to Stop Staring at the Portrait
In the now candid photo, Parker Curry stares at Michelle Obama as if she is fascinated or in awe. Her mother, Jessica Curry, told CNN, “Parker was in front on the portrait, and I really wanted her to turn around so I could get a picture with her, and she genuinely, honestly would not turn around. She was uncooperative with me because she was just so focused on the portrait and studying it, and she was just so fascinated.”
Jessica Curry owns a small business in Washington D.C. She has filled her Instagram page with many more adorable photos of Parker.
Jessica’s Instagram page links to a website called Happy Mama, Happy Babies. She wrote in the about me section of the website, “Millennial Mama to two happy little girls, Parker & Ava. Firm believer that happiness is a choice and a happy Mama makes happy babies. Follow along as we share all the people, places and things that make us happy.” The website has a blog about parenting and a shopping section.
3. A Man From North Carolina Took the Now Iconic Photo
Ben Hines of North Carolina posted the photo on Facebook. He took it on a visit to the gallery. “Donna Hines & I made a pilgrimage today and we were delighted to wait in line behind this fellow art lover & hopeful patriot. — at National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution,” he wrote with the photo.
It’s since been shared more than 35,000 times just from his Facebook post alone. On March 2, Hines also shared a Buzzfeed story on the photo, writing, “Thank you to everyone who has joined in celebrating the power of art to touch and uplift us! You can find out much more about the remarkable young woman from the photo I posted in the link below. Thanks to Parker & her family for inspiring us all!”
4. Parker Curry Thinks Michelle Obama Is a Queen & the Artist Says Representation Matters in Art
There’s video of the small child in an interview saying that she wanted to see Michelle Obama (she got her wish!) The young child also repeats that she thinks Michelle Obama is a “queen.” You can watch the video above.
In another incredibly adorable video, Parker shouted out “Michelle Obama!” when she was asked what the former first lady’s name was, and she repeated again that she thinks Michelle Obama is a queen.
The artist, Amy Sherald, posted another photo of Parker along with a lengthy comment on Instagram. “Feeling all the feels. 😭 When I look at this picture I think back to my first field trip in elementary school to a museum. I had only seen paintings in encyclopedias up to that point in my life,” she wrote. “There was a show up of work by painter @thebobartlett whose work still inspires me to this day. There was a painting of a black man standing in front of a house. I don’t remember a lot about my childhood, but I do have a few emotional memories etched into my mind forever and seeing that painting of a man that looked like he could be my father stopped me dead in my tracks. This was my first time seeing real paintings that weren’t in a book and also weren’t painted in another century. I didn’t realize that none of them had me in them until I saw that painting of Bo’s. I knew I wanted to be an artist already, but seeing that painting made me realize that I could. What dreams may come? #representationmatters.”
5. The National Portrait Gallery Unveiled Portraits of Both Obamas in February
When Parker Curry stood in front of it, the Michelle Obama portrait was still relatively new. The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery “unveiled its commissioned portraits of former President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively” in February 2018, according to the gallery’s website.
“The artworks were revealed in a private ceremony in the museum’s Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard as part of the Portrait Gallery’s 50th anniversary celebrations,” the gallery’s website says. “President Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama delivered remarks as did Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton, National Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet and artists Wiley and Sherald.”
According to the Gallery, “Before President Obama’s departure from office, he and Mrs. Obama selected Wiley and Sherald to paint their likenesses for the Portrait Gallery’s collection. This is the first time that African American artists have been commissioned for the National Portrait Gallery’s official portraits of a President or First Lady.” If you want to see the portrait of Michelle Obama, the gallery notes that it is “featured in the Recent Acquisitions gallery on the museum’s first floor.”