It’s been an incredible week for First Lady Michelle Obama.
Last Thursday, she gave a moving stump speech for Hillary Clinton that will go down in the history books and now she’s followed it up with a stunning spread in The New York Times Magazine that might be her best yet.
What would you say in a letter to @michelleobama? For @tmagazine’s #tgreats issue, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, @gloriasteinem, Jon Meacham and @rashidajones wrote thank-you notes to the first lady, who @gloriasteinem describes as “a tall, strong, elegant and seriously smart woman” who happens to live in the @whitehouse. “The important thing,” Jon Meacham writes, “is that Mrs. Obama, a clear-eyed lawyer, found a way to withstand the scrutiny of the spotlight. … To borrow a phrase from William Faulkner, she not only endured it; she prevailed over it.” @rashidajones writes that #MichelleObama was the first #firstlady so show women that they don’t have to choose. “If feminism’s goal is equal opportunity and choice, Michelle makes me feel like every choice is available,” she writes. “You can go to Princeton and Harvard, you can rap with Missy Elliott, you can be a mother and a lawyer and a powerful orator.” And Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes that, watching @michelleobama speak at the 2016 @demconvention, “I realized then that she hadn’t been waiting to exhale these past 8 years. She had been letting that breath out, in small movements, careful because she had to be, but exhaling still.” Visit the link in our profile to read 4 letters to the first lady. The photographer Collier Schorr took this photo while on assignment for @tmagazine.
“To the First Lady, With Love” features a series of beautiful black and white and color photos of Mrs. Obama accompanied by four love letters crafted by some of her biggest supporters. Written by African novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, executive editor of Random House Jon Meacham, feminist icon Gloria Steinem, and actress Rashida Jones, the letters “pay testament to Obama’s historic tenure as First Lady, examining the particular pressures that she faced, as well as the race-based criticism that haunted her throughout her time in the White House,” Jezebel noted.
Adichie’s letter touches on the First Lady’s sense of style and how that her fashion embodies a sense of authenticity and “full female selfhood.”
“She had become an American style icon. Her dresses and workouts. Her carriage and curves. Toned arms and long slender fingers. Even her favored kitten heels, for women who cannot fathom wearing shoes in the halfway house between flats and high heels, have earned a certain respect because of her. No public figure better embodies that mantra of full female selfhood: Wear what you like,” Adichie wrote.
The award-winning novelist also wrote that despite of all the unfair scrutiny that she faced throughout the past eight years, FLOTUS will leave behind an impeccable legacy that we all should be proud of.
“She embraced veterans and military families, and became their listening advocate. She threw open the White House doors to people on the margins of America. She was working class, and she was Princeton, and so she could speak of opportunity as a tangible thing. Her program Reach Higher pushed high schoolers to go further, to want more. She jumped rope with children on the White House grounds as part of her initiative to combat childhood obesity. She grew a vegetable garden and campaigned for healthier food in schools. She reached across borders and cast her light on the education of girls all over the world. She danced on television shows. She hugged more people than any first lady ever has, and she made ‘first lady’ mean a person warmly accessible, a person both normal and inspirational and a person many degrees of cool.”
Jones also spoke about racially charged criticisms and how FLOTUS rose above them all.
“Her reputation as the perfect hostess invited criticism from progressives. Enter Michelle Obama, outspoken activist, a woman who isn’t afraid to remind us she is a proud African-American woman, which is, in itself, revolutionary. A former lawyer who speaks out on behalf of gay rights and gun control, she delivered an unforgettable speech at the Democratic National Convention earlier this year, shining a clear, bright light on our country’s shameful history. Suddenly, the progressives were pleased and the traditionalists were confused. The media wants to pin her down — they’ve been trying since Barack Obama took office in 2009. But you simply can’t,” the “Angie Tribeca” star wrote.
She also talks about FLOTUS’ feminism.
“All women struggle to reconcile the different people that we are at all times, to merge our conflicting desires, to represent ourselves honestly and feel good about the inherent contradictions. But Michelle manages to do this with poise, regardless of the scrutiny. That, to me, is the best thing for feminism. Her individual choices force us to accept that being a woman isn’t just one thing. Or two things. Or three things. The position of first lady is, unfortunately, symbolic, and that makes it fair game for media analysis ad nauseam. But no think piece can fully encompass a real woman.”
Jones ends her piece on how the First Lady’s legacy isn’t just based on her connection with husband President Barack Obama—but on her own merit and influence.
“Michelle Obama will have her own legacy, separate from her husband’s. And it will be that she was the first first lady to show women that they don’t have to choose. That it’s okay to be everything,”Jones concluded.
Read all four incredible love letters in their entirety here.