In an excellent interview conducted by Jonathan Van Meter, both the President and the First Lady share their experiences of what it was like as a “normal middle class family” before their meteoric rise to the White House and how they’ve been able to maintain their personalities even with all of the fame.
“We were pretty much who we are by the time I hit the national scene. We didn’t grow up or come of age under a spotlight. We were anonymous folks,” said the President. “I was a state senator, but nobody knows who a state senator is. So most of our 30s and 40s were as a typical middle-class family. . . . That really didn’t change until I was 45 years old. And there’s something about having lived a normal life and raised kids.
The President continues, “We had to figure out how to make a mortgage, payin’ the bills, goin’ to Target, and freakin’ out when . . . the woman who’s looking after your girls while Michelle’s working suddenly decides she’s quittin’. . . . All those experiences made us who we were, so that by the time this thing hit, it was hard for us to. . .”
“Be different people,” Mrs. Obama chimes in.
Obviously, there have been some changes since relocating to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Among them, the President points out, is his nice suit collection: before becoming President, Obama says he owned only two suits and an undesirable pair of khakis that he bragged about having since age 20.
President: “Now, in fairness there is one thing that’s changed.”
First Lady: “What’s that?”
President: ” Which is, I used to only have, like, two suits.”
Meter: Now you must have dozens….
First Lady: Thank God. Now, let me tell you: This is the man who still boasts about, This khaki pair of pants I’ve had since I was 20.”
Here, the President jumps in to say that, like Beyonce‘s “Upgrade U” song, Mrs. Obama — and his daughters — have improved his style:
President: “Michelle’s like Beyoncé in that song. ‘Let me upgrade ya!’ She upgraded me.”
First Lady: “The girls and I are always rooting when he wears, like, a stripe. They’re like, ‘Dad! Oh, you look so handsome. Oh, stripes! You go!’ ”
Since 2008, when Mrs. Obama’s style took the nation by storm, the First Lady has been commanding attention for her colorful, price-conscious, and inventive couture, causing women everywhere to praise and mimic her instinctive fashion sense. When asked how she determines what to wear, Mrs. Obama replied that she took her fashion cues from the inside rather than the outside:
“I always say that women should wear whatever makes them feel good about themselves. That’s what I always try to do. . . . I also believe that if you’re comfortable in your clothes it’s easy to connect with people and make them feel comfortable as well. In every interaction that I have with people, I always want to show them my most authentic self.”