Michelle Obama Brings ‘Becoming’ to Brooklyn

Published December 21, 2018

 

It’s a measure of Michelle Obama’s inimitable star power that the former First Lady can bill a sold-out appearance in a 19,000-seat arena as an “intimate conversation.” On Wednesday night, when a crowd of mostly women descended upon Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to catch a glimpse of Michelle speaking in support of her new memoir, Becoming, “intimate” may have been an undersell. The collective energy of an audience wearing “Michelle 2020” T-shirts while hollering and snapping their fingers — especially when she extended her leg to reveal her sparkling thigh-high Balenciaga boots — served as a clear measure of Michelle’s broad, rock-star level appeal. It also felt like a rare break with a cynical strain of corporate feminism, one co-opted by corporations preaching Lean In platitudes and pantsuits. I, for one, have not felt so united in a crowd since the 2017 Women’s March. The event was sparkly, like her boots, but with a signature Michelle candor — one that radiated with vigor and sharp wit —requiring few “experiential” bells and whistles, beside a Beyoncé-soundtracked video reel and a handful of celebrity drop-ins, such as Alicia Keys, Ina Garten, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who interviewed her. Instead, Michelle opted to speak directly to the hearts in the audience during her conversation with Parker, addressing the trials of navigating her new kind of celebrity, the trauma of the Trump presidential victory, and her rare moments of marital stress where she fantasizes about pushing Barack out of the window.

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On grace and dignity — and the lack thereof in the current White House:

“It can be buried with fear and doubt and hate and greed. I’ve seen this country in its glory and its grace. I know it’s out there. You have to actively work for hope, you have to be an active participant of hope.”

On changing standards

“Barack and I spent eight years trying to operate in complete perfection because we didn’t feel like we had a margin for error. Oftentimes, when you’re the first and the only, the bar shifts a lot. The bar gets set, you meet it, you exceed it, they move the bar. And we’re watching that right now: the bar just swinging around and around and around. It’s totally a new bar. Never seen this bar before, ever, ever, ever. When we were in office, the bar was very different. Not getting indicted and telling the truth. Small things like that. People criticized Barack because he golfed too much, go figure.”

On that day in 2016:

“My daughters’ friends wanted a sleepover the night before, so I have a house full of crying girls with their stuffed animals trying to get their last breakfast in. I was like, you all have got to go. We are leaving. So I’m trying to get them out the freight elevator, pushing the kids out, and the Trumps are coming, and it’s a Tiffany’s Box … and then sitting through an inauguration that didn’t look anything like ours. There was no representation. There was no diversity on that stage, and it saddened me. By the time we got on that plane and I closed the door, I weeped because I said, ‘That was so hard. What we did and how we had to do it was so hard.’ It was the first time I could say that out loud. The exhaustion just waved over me. We were acting like, we got it. I’m good. What’d you call me? That didn’t hurt. It was the release of all that. I literally blocked that out. It was sheer exhaustion from it all.”

On staying in D.C.:

“People were like, you didn’t run! Run girl, run. Get out. Get out. We have a Get Out situation. Don’t look at the tea cup. Don’t look at the spoon.”

On marriage: 

“For all the couples that look to Barack and I with those hashtag Relationship Goals, I want to share that truth. Too many young people quit because nobody ever told them, No, this is what marriage is. This is how it works. For you to get to 30 years and 40 and 50, there are times when you want to push him out the window. Now, you don’t do it, but you dream, as you’re cleaning the toilet. Just push him, not out of a high window — a low one. Don’t want him to get hurt, because I want him in here cleaning this toilet tomorrow.”