Do you think that Michelle Obama is stern? Wonder why she still has such high approval ratings? Suspect many of the magazine covers which America’s First Lady has appeared on in the last eight years have been airbrushed?
It turns out Chirlane McCray, the outspoken wife of controversial left-wing New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, reckons all those things too.
McCray makes her observations in a spiky essay entitled Two Black First Ladies Walk into a Room, a tribute to the outgoing First Lady that appears in an anthology The Meaning of Michelle, to be published by St. Martin’s Press next month, a copy of which has been seen by Heat Street.
McCray candidly recounts her first meeting with her national counterpart in which she sought Obama’s counsel. She writes: “With a sternness that is refreshing in retrospect but was quite a bit to absorb at the time, she talked about the kind of practical support and staffing I would need, including a chief of staff, scheduler and communications director.”
She adds: “As she was standing up to leave, her tone softened and she said with assurance, ‘You’ll be alright.’ I smiled. She smiled. And then she put her game face on and went out to meet the people.”
— Veronica Chambers (@vvchambers) October 2, 2016
Whilst the tone of McCray’s essay is supportive, she can’t resist making some unflattering asides about the First Lady’s appearance set against the reality: “As I write this, the First Lady’s approval rating is remarkably high, given this era of scorched-earth media coverage. But while I think she deserves every percentage point and more, I wonder: To what degree is her popularity a function of how divine she looks in a dress?
“And how many of us envy her toned arms as much as her intellect? Just like every woman, she is still judged first and foremost by her appearance, and where she falls on a scale of ‘fierce’ to ‘frumpy’.
“Because we are pummeled with airbrushed, magazine-cover versions of Michelle Obama, it’s easy to forget who she was before becoming First Lady.”
The book, edited by veteran magazine editor Veronica Chambers, also contains essays by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson and Hamilton actress Phillipa Soo that are a good deal less edgy in the glowing tributes they bestow on Michelle Obama.