Joining the President was American Ballet Theater’s first Black principal dancer, Misty Copeland for a frank discussion on race, gender, body image and much more.
TIME’s Maya Rhodan led the interview off without a barrage of questions but more so sparking conversation. The connection between Obama and Copeland is solidified by the ballerina’s involvement with the president’s advisory Council of Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, but goes further when the topic of the societal pressures women face by way of their looks and figures.
From the onset, it was a largely unscripted conversation that covered several areas in just a half hour’s time. One of the chat’s several head-turning moments, however, came when the president gushed over his wife’s figure while mindfully discussing the struggles his two daughters might face about their own bodies.
A pivotal point of the discussion took place when Copeland began to explain how many people in her profession viewed her as too large to be a dancer, prompting Obama to interject with disbelief. From there, the discussion turned from race to how African-American women bodies are viewed in the mainstream.
TIME: As a father of two daughters, do you see that at all? Do you see that pressure in your own life?
OBAMA: Yeah. I mean some of this is just gender issues, generally. I mean when you’re a dad of two daughters you notice more. When I was a kid I didn’t realize as much, or maybe it was even a part of which is the enormous pressure that young women are placed under in terms of looking a certain way.And being cute in a certain way. And are you wearing the right clothes? And is your hair done the right way. And that pressure I think is historically always been harder on African American women than just about any other women.
But it’s part and parcel of a broader way in which we socialize and press women to constantly doubt themselves or define themselves in terms of a certain appearance. And so Michelle and I are always guarding against that. And the fact that they’ve got a tall gorgeous mom who has some curves, and that their father appreciates, I think is helpful. I do think that culture’s changing for the younger generation a little bit more. You see Beyonce or you see some of these pop stars and what both white, Latino, black children are seeing as representative of beauty is much broader than it was when I was a kid.
The chat between TIME, Obama and Copeland can be viewed in the clip above. To read the full transcript of the interview, follow this link.
SOURCE: TIME | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty | VIDEO CREDIT: TIME