Both Melania Trump and Michelle Obama had modest upbringings: one is White, born in Yugoslavia. The other is Black, raised on the South Side of Chicago. When Melania married Donald Trump in 2005, he was already a real estate magnate. When Michelle married Barack Obama in 1992, he had just become a law school professor.
Both Trump and Obama went on to become president of the United States, and both women who hail from different walks of life, found themselves thrust in the job of first lady.
So who has worn the FLOTUS title best? I submit, Michelle, 53. Not because she was the first Black FLOTUS or because she’s wicked smart or because she’s super stylish or because she has always worked to improve her community, including her legendary Let’s Move! campaign. She endured the most criticism of any first lady, including name-calling, body shaming, and questions about her love for America. Yet she still manages to be a great role model, supportive wife, mother, daughter, and friend.
While Melania is not safe from the cyber bullying, Michelle endured eight years of racist and sexist attacks, not just against her, but also her daughters, Malia, 18, and Sasha, 16. She stood by as racists called for the first Black president of the United States to be hung. Just last month, a man was sentenced for a conviction of making physical threats to Obama and his daughters. By the way, shouldn’t children be left out of political fights?
And toward the end of last year, a West Virginia mayor resigned after agreeing with a social media post that the first lady was an “ape in heels.” Finally, but unfortunately nowhere near the least of the degradation that Michelle endured, a big (and ridiculous) controversy embroiled about of her wearing a sleeveless dress for her first official photo. Some called it “too informal” for the occasion. In other words, she doesn’t belong in the House.
The first lady, who just last week arrived at the White House, came under attack for choosing to stay in New York City while the couple’s son, Barron, 11, completed the school year.
On the campaign trail last summer, nude photos of the former model surfaced, prompting folks to go to social media to shame the woman who would be first lady. Some said things as cruel as “we’ve never before had a first lady who was introduced to her husband by a pimp.” Unlikely supporters like Octavia Spencer rose to her defense. The star of Hidden Figures and The Help, tweeted, “Melania Trump isn’t running for president, her husband is. This is a below the belt attack and shouldn’t be condoned.”
Melania suffered another big blow during the Republican National Convention when she was accused of plagiarizing Michelle’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. Because of similarities in speeches, Melania was accused of being poorly educated. Some say she may not have known the speech was plagiarized; others weren’t as sympathetic. Most recently, she endured seeing comedian Kathy Griffin pose for photos holding a mock image of Trump’s bloody head.
Granted since Melania has held the title for less than six months, I shouldn’t be so quick to judge how she’s wearing her title, right? However, history has traditionally been most unkind to Black women, especially those in positions of authority, which is why I think Michelle will go down as the winner of wearing the title best. Not because of her style, but because of her courage and perseverance.
China Dickerson has worked in politics, government, and community organizing for over 10 years. The Charleston, South Carolina, native currently lives in Washington D.C., where she works as a political strategist, and executive director of D.C. Young Democrats. Follow her on Twitter at @MsChinaD