The presidential terms of Barack Obama were historical. We saw the election of America’s first Black leader and the introduction of a Black First Lady, Michelle Obama. During their two terms in the White House, the Obamas were the standard for class and ushered in a new level of style for the Oval Office. Replicas of the former First Lady’s dresses flew off the shelves, and her hair and makeup were always flawless.
Now that they have been relieved of their duties, we see a more relaxed side of Mrs.Obama, including wearing her hair in the ultimate “Black girl magic” hairstyle — braids. And as simple as that may seem, Obama had a different reality for eight years.
Obama stopped by the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 15. This was the kick-off for a 13-night cross-country tour to promote her new book, The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times.
Obama shared some images from the tour stop on her Instagram, thanking D.C. for “bringing such great energy.”
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In front of a sold-out crowd, along with moderator Ellen DeGeneres, Obama discussed her novel and the beautiful braids she donned during the talk.
According to the Washington Post, Obama was the first to acknowledge her crown. “Braids, y’all!” she exclaimed to the sold-out crowd as she grabbed her back-length box braids.
Obama claimed she considered wearing her hair in braids during her time in the White House, but thought of the people who had just put her there.
Obama stated the American people were “just getting adjusted” to having a Black family in the White House. With that in mind, she decided to keep her hair straight to help with an easier transition.
She acknowledged that keeping her hair in braids would have been easier to manage, but the ultimate thought was, “Nope, they’re not ready for it.”
Per the Washington Post, Obama went on to explain there were just more important issues than the way she wore her hair.
She opted for her husband’s administration to put all efforts into meeting their goals versus putting time toward her choice of hairstyles.
“Let me keep my hair straight,” the former First Lady stated. “Let’s get health care passed.”
She also mentioned she didn’t want to deal with any possible backlash that could from a natural hairstyle. She recalled the uproar the former President caused in 2014 when he wore a tan suit to address the press instead of the traditional black attire. The Hill reported that Obama jokingly said, “They tripped out when Barack wore a tan suit.”
She continued, saying she could only imagine the outlandish things that critics would have said if she chose to wear the protective style of braids while she served as First Lady.
“Remember when she wore braids? Those are terrorist braids! Those are revolutionary braids!” Obama said, imagining what commentary would’ve been like.
The Harvard Law graduate stated that the question of showing up with our natural hair is a battle many Black women have faced.
“Black women navigate the politics and sensibilities of their workplaces.” She continued, “They often find wearing braids, dreadlocks or Afros easier, healthier and safer, but feel the pressure from white beauty standards and workplace norms to chemically straighten their hair for a more professional, ‘clean-cut’ appearance.”
Thankfully, the pressure to show up with a “clean-cut” appearance or dismiss the fact that clean-cut can be natural hair has been lessened. Earlier this year, the House passed the Crown Act, the legislation backed by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. The bill prohibits discrimination based on someone’s hairstyle, including those “in which hair is tightly coiled or tightly curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots and Afros.”
According to CNN, The CROWN Act stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair.
It took almost six years for the former First Lady to wear braids comfortably, but it’s never too late for a little Black girl magic.