Michelle Obama and Gayle King Talk Relationships and Inauguration Feels at Essence Festival

By: Katie Cherrix

Photo via  Vogue

Photo via Vogue

Former First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage at the Essence Festival on Saturday night for a “real-talk” interview with “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King. Topics discussed includedMichelle and Barack’s relationship, raising Sasha and Malia in the White House, and Michelle’s recollection of her feelings during President Trump’s 2016 inauguration. During this pivotal interview, Obama gave insightful commentary on how life in the White House shaped her family’s past, present, and future. 

“Rediscovering Each Other”

The former First Lady sees her newly empty nest as a way for her and her husband to “rediscover each other.” Mrs. Obama stresses the importance of finding someone you respect; she says that having each other makes the journey worth it, through the highs, and the lows. In the interview, Michelle recalls her first time meeting her husband at the law firm at which they worked. She had imagined him as the nerdy type; when she heard his voice on the phone, his smooth voice didn’t match the man she pictured in her head. 

When asked about her marriage, Mrs. Obama says that it is easy for outsiders to look at her and her husband and call “relationship goals,” but she wants people to know that there were hard times. She noted that she and Barack had been through marriage counseling to help them navigate life as the Presidential Family. "Barack Obama has never disappointed me in the things that matter."

Michelle also recalled her initial response to Mr. Obama’s decision to run for president. In the interview, she boldly admitted that she wasn’t happy about his choice. She knew the impact it would have on their personal lives and their children. She tells King what it was like to put her selfish feelings aside and allow her husband to live up to his potential. 

Family Life in the White House

Michelle tells King that she constantly said to the girls, “This isn’t about you.” While she raised her kids to compartmentalize everything that was unfolding around them daily, she described times when things weren’t so easy for the girls to brush off, particularly in the context of friends and dating. Michelle told Gayle she was surprised they had any friends. Armed guards were present for every moment of the girls’ lives; sleepovers and first kisses were no exception to this rule. 

Michelle says the most important thing is to marry someone who is your equal. It will be important when the babies come. Mrs. Obama warns against having “weak players” in a marriage team. “People see Barack and me now, but they don’t remember how many punches we took to get here.” Michelle recalled what it was like to be personified as an “angry black woman” before she got to tell her story to the world. 

Michelle Talks Trump’s Inauguration

The former First Lady describes the days leading up to the 2016 inauguration as “a very emotional time.” The White House was the place she raised her daughters; it was the only home they had ever know. Her daughters begged her to let them have a sleepover the night before the inauguration, and she agreed but told the girls that everyone had to leave early in the morning. None of the girls left on time; everyone departed in tears that morning as she hurridly ushered kids holding teddy bears into the elevator. She was taking her girls out of their childhood home that day, and even the staff members were emotional about it. 

“Then we had to meet the Trumps.” Obama told King that she made sure that the tears left her eyes before meeting them. She didn’t want them to think she was crying for other reasons. At the inauguration, she describes seeing a crowd that was “not reflective of a diverse country.” Getting on the plane was a relief; it felt like she could finally breathe after eight years of striving to be “more than perfect.” 


In the interview, King asked Obama, “Do you have any idea how much you are missed?” to which Michelle replied, “I miss us too.” Obama talked about her “Becoming” book tour; she described people’s hunger for stories and their desire to relate to someone who is like them. Obama reflected on how she felt it was rare for a black woman’s story to be read by millions of people worldwide. 

Light in the Darkness

When King asked Obama how she got through all the negativity, Mrs. Obama says she took it one day at a time. She talks about shining her light by being a “North Star from within” to overcome the challenges she and her family faced during her husband’s administration. One of the most important lessons, Mrs. Obama says she learned, is letting go of resentment. She describes it as a “toxic emotion” and says, “forgiveness is for you.” When King asked the Former First Lady if she and Barack were living their best lives, Michelle responded, “Barack and I aren't living our best life until we're all living our best life. It’s about making life better every day.” 




Kayla Pasacreta