Michelle Obama Answers 20 Questions for Oprah Magazine

You want to be Michelle Obama’s friend. That’s understandable. She’s a person of wholly admirable intelligence, grace, kindness and dedication to making the world a better place. Of course, Michelle Obama would be the first one to downplay that kind of hype about Michelle Obama, but (a) she won’t read this till it’s in print, so she can’t stop me, and (b) some people live up to the hype. 

One of the most remarkable things about the former first lady is that if you’re lucky enough to spend time with her, you feel like maybe you could be her friend. She seems to accept her place in history without letting it define her or dictate her behavior. Despite her extraordinary achievements and experiences, she’s ordinary folk. She’s fun. She’s funny. She shares her fires. She’ll get in a blanket for a comedy hit, then punch you on the shoulder like a sister for sassing her. She’ll ask you call her Michelle, and someday you might have the guts to do it. 

In her memoir, Becoming, she candidly discusses the challenges she’d faced in her life and her feelings about what that life has become for her and her family. Millions read it and were moved by her honest and open humanity. On her Becoming tour, I saw what her story means to tens of thousands of people here and abroad. Now, does that last sentence imply that I traveled with Michelle Obama? Yes, it does. Because while I admire her motto “When they go low, we go high,” I’ve yet to attain it. 

The point is, I’m not saying Michelle Obama and I are friends…but even if I did, I think she’s nice enough to not publicly contradict me. 

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Michelle Obama and I are friends.

20 Questions for Michelle Obama:

1. What’s your no-fail, go-for-it motivational song? 

Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours) by Stevie Wonder—even after hearing the song hundreds of times at Barack’s campaign events!

2. What’s most important for your mental health?

 Not looking at too much social media.

3. Who’s your hero? 

My mom, Marian Robinson. She’s always been my rock, my guiding light through whatever fog was clouding my path. And she’s quick with a joke when I just need to laugh.

4. If you could send a note to yourself in 2030, what would it say?  

“I hope you’re still waking up every morning excited by the possibilities of who you might become. I hope you never think you’re done growing.”

5. What’s the one thing in life you’re so happy you did? 

Getting married and having kids. Life with Barack, Malia, and Sasha has been one grand adventure, and I’m so proud of the two brilliant, bold young women that Barack and I raised.

6. Who’s the one person who changed your life? 

See above! Before I met Barack, I was all about checking off the next box—law school, law firm, nice car. But he taught me the art of the swerve, how to take life as it comes and follow your passions wherever they lead.

7. What gives you hope? 

All the essential workers who are risking their lives on our behalf during this crisis give me hope. As do the people across America who are stepping up to help, from checking in on their neighbors to bringing groceries to folks in need. 

8. What the world needs now is…

For all of us to look out for each other. This pandemic is teaching us how interconnected we really are, and long after this is over, I hope we can remember that we are so much stronger when we are working together. 

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9. What’s your favorite place on earth? 

Right now it’s my home! It’s been an adjustment, but I’m so grateful to be able to do work I’m passionate about—and catch up with my girlfriends—just fine from my living room.

10. What should be required reading for every human? 

At least one novel by Toni Morrison. Every one of her stories demands that the world take the lives of black girls seriously. We were so lucky to have her.

11. Fill in the blank:____________ is underrated. 

Admitting you don’t have all the answers.

12. When in your life have you needed courage? 

I think we all need to be courageous right now. And whenever I have moments of fear or anxiety, I try to find ways to connect with others. I might call someone who I know is struggling and just let them know that I’m thinking of them. That simple act of reaching out lifts my spirits, too. 

13. Cats or dogs? 

I don’t know what I’d do without Bo and Sunny!

14. When is the last time you felt awe? 

I traveled to Vietnam recently, and I’m still thinking about the incredible young women I met there, so determined to get an education despite unbelievable barriers.

15. What do you think about on long drives or flights? 

Honestly, I don’t think about anything—I listen to music! Or if someone else is around, I’m chatting them up, just passing the time. Sometimes you’ve just got to unplug, and I think airplanes are great for that.

16. What is your biggest pet peeve? 


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17. What ignites your sense of injustice? 

Seeing young people denied opportunities because of who they are. Too young. Too dark. Too poor. It’s all infuriating, plain and simple.

18. How do you define “soul mate”? 

Someone who’s committed to growing with you, who doesn’t let you off the hook when you want to give up on a big dream or play it safe.

19. What’s the greatest gift we can give ourselves?  

Letting go of external markers of success. Job titles and fancy awards come and go, but our lives are really made up of the little moments and connections in between.

20. What’s the greatest gift we can give each other?  

Sharing our stories—in all their messy, broken glory. When we stand in the truth of who we are, we invite others to do the same.


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