Michelle Obama spoke with O Network’s Gayle King at the 25th annual Essence Festival, discussing a wide range of topics including her the 2020 election, healthy living, and her recent best-selling memoir Becoming. The festival, held in New Orleans, also featured 5 democratic presidential candidates including Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Beto O’Rourke along with musical legends Mary J. Blige and rapper Nas. Despite sharing the marquee with a cavalcade of star power, it was Michelle who received the loudest ovation.
The former first lady, rocking her natural hairstyle, was candid and open during the interview and spoke on many of the deeply personal subjects covered in Becoming along with her views on modern issues. “People have found and recognized themselves in the stories of this little Black girl who grew up on the South Side of Chicago.” she told King “I knew it was important in writing Becoming, that I had to sit with the fact of how rare it is, that a Black woman gets to tell her own story in a book that will be read by millions.”
The tone of the interview ranged from more serious topics like Obama’s legacy and the Trump presidency to a playful, lighthearted conversation about the Obamas becoming empty nesters as their children go off to college. Gayle asked Michelle if Barack would be running around “butt naked” now that the kids are out of the house to which Michelle responded, “Gayle, that is none of your business!”
Here is the full video:
Here are some of the highlights from the hour-long interview.
She Held off on Endorsing a Democratic Candidate for President
As the Democratic primary race heats up, voters and candidates have been anxious to see who the former president and first lady will endorse. An endorsement from the Obamas could signal who wins the race and would have a huge impact on voter decisions. But when asked, Michelle deflected.
“Barack and I will support whoever wins the primary. Our primary focus is on letting the process play out. It is early and things will change. The general election is so important and we have to get behind whoever comes out of that primary.”
The former first lady was also asked about the recent “dust up”, as Gayle called it, between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden during the democratic debates where the two candidates clashed over race. She was too savvy to take the bait. “I’ve been doing this rodeo far too long,” Obama responded, “And no comment.”
She Commented on the Hateful Comments She Received During Barack’s Presidency
It’s no secret that Michelle Obama received a lot of criticism during her time as the first lady. She spoke about covering it in her memoir, “It was important to tell that part of the story (in Becoming) because they see me and Barack now, but they don’t know how many punches it took us to get there,” said Obama, adding “People from all sides, Democrats and Republicans, tried to take me out by the knees. And the best way they could do it was to focus on the strength of the black woman, so they turned that into a caricature.”
She admitted that it took her some time to get accustomed to the attacks. “Barack knew how to take punches, but I had never been at the center of it. For a minute I thought about quitting the campaign trail. But I wanted to share those moments because people tried to define us. I had to prove that not only was I smart and strategic, but I had to work harder than any First Lady in history.”
She Talked About the Trump Presidency
Gayle asked Michelle about passing the torch to the Trumps and how it felt leaving the oval office at the end of Barack’s second term.
“That day was very emotional and then to sit at that inauguration and to look around at a crowd that was not reflective of the country, and I had to sit in that audience as one of the handfuls of people of color, all that I had to hold on to over those last eight years, and it was a lot emotionally.” She said of the experience “By the time I got on the plane, it was a release of eight years of trying to have to show up.”
She also spoke on her and Barack’s legacy and if it was at risk of being undone by the current President, “People ask me that question all the time and I can honestly say, our upset wasn’t over our legacy. We weren’t there to instill our legacy, but the upset it would cause the country. What saddens me is what it’s doing to the country as a whole. What we have to be really conscientious of is what kind of country we’re leaving for our children or grandchildren.”
She Gave Relationship Advice to Younger Couples
The interview wasn’t all serious subjects and political topics. Obama also opened up about her personal life and imparted some valuable advice to younger couples through sharing her personal experience.
“This is the beauty of finding a partner that you really love and respect, because after all the highs and lows and ups and downs, we have each other, which makes the journey worth it.” She continued “We are reconnecting, but the journey of marriage for all you young people who are in love…when you’re at the point where you wanna choke each other…you know you wanna choke each other every once in awhile, and that’s okay! When you’re like, just your breathing is getting on my nerves. The way you chew gets on my nerves! If you can hang in there through the bad chewing times, you get through the dark times and see the clouds and then you see your baby and say I remember you!”
She Ended the Interview Talking About Her Sex Life
During a lightning round of questions to end the interview based on Essence Festival sessions including “Great sex at every age”. King stared at Mrs. Obama and after a pregnant pause, she answered. “Yes. I support that principle. I mean, come on Gayle!” Obama said, laughing. “What I’m ‘sposed to say to that? ‘No, I take issue with that?’ Yes, Gayle, the answer is yes!”