Is the First Lady Setting a New Standard of Beauty?

~ I originally wrote this piece nearly three years ago on May 21, 2009.  It was shortly after the inauguration of President Obama, and even after only a few short months into his term, I knew that the world had shifted on it's axis. 

Yes, it was due to the obvious implications of the United States shocking the world by voting a black man into the highest office in the land, but also because the number one woman in the country was representing us, in all our glory, to that same world.  A world that had been told for centuries that we're angry, ugly, undesirable and unfeminine.  And then here comes this goddess named Michelle LaVaughn Obama, and in the blink of an eye, it was a whole new ballgame.

The world was going to see this beautiful, accomplished, brilliant, classy woman all the time and not just when Hollywood felt like throwing us all a bone once a decade.  Despite what she's had to endure these past few years (being called a monkey, fat, and angry too many times to count), she always rises above the haters and continues to dazzle the world.

Do I still think that the First Lady is setting a new standard of beauty?  Hell, yes.  As much as we loathe it, there's a reason the attacks on black women have been so overtly ramped up lately.  And that reason lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and is one of the most powerful women in the world.  And oh yeah, did I mention that even a hundred years from now, she'll still be relevant? 

It's not too hard to figure out why some folks are shaking in their platforms, huh?

~     *     ~ 

I’ve been pondering this question for the past few days after I received an email at work with photos of First Lady Michelle Obama looking gorgeous at last week’s Poetry Slam at the White House (pictured above).

It made me wonder whether this beautiful, intelligent black woman has begun to set a new standard of beauty in a country that has celebrated the blue-eyed, size two blonde look for decades. Our young girls have been subjected to the celebrated images of women who look nothing like them for so long that it’s easy for them to feel “less than.”

I vividly remember putting a towel over my own kinky curls when I was a young girl, pretending that it was actually the long, flowing, “good” hair that I’d wished I’d been born with. I used to wish I was light-skinned with green eyes, because to my young and impressionable mind, the boys thought those girls were far prettier than my own golden brown hue and dark-brown eyes.

That’s what I saw on TV, in movies, in music videos, in magazines, on catwalks, and on the arms of men of all races. It made an impression on me (and not a good one either). Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve come to love my brown skin, brown eyes, and thick, coarse hair. But some young girls aren’t there yet. For so long, black women have been marginalized and stereotyped; made to feel like the ugly stepsisters in American society’s version of Cinderella.

But now we have a black First Lady who is stunning, gifted, accomplished, enchanting, charismatic and kind. With her small waist and voluptuous curves, Michelle Obama more realistically represents normal women across America—black, white and brown. As a black woman, I find it intensely gratifying that this brilliant, brown-skinned African American woman is even more popular than her incredibly popular husband based on the incredible force of her personality and grace alone.

She looks like me; she looks like my mother; she looks like my grandmother. Most importantly, she looks like a whole generation of young black girls who see this smart, beautiful woman and realize that no matter what society dictates, they are smart and beautiful too. It’s important for them to see a happy, intact black family. It’s vital for them to see this strong, black woman being treated with love and respect by her powerful, black husband.

Is Michelle Obama going to set a new standard of beauty for our image-conscious country? I think so, and it's scaring the hell out of those folks who're trying to hold onto the status quo in a death grip. But the train has already left the station, folks. Things are changing and I can't wait.

I knew that the election of our country’s first black president would be a proud and profound moment in our history. What I wasn’t prepared for was how having a black First Lady would make me feel.

And let me tell you…it feels wonderful.


  1. She's awesome! I truly respect & admire her. We are so lucky to have her as First Lady. I relate to her just like you Cinnamon. She reminds me of so many wonderful Black women I know. I believe she is setting a new standard and we attack what we fear the most. Long may she reign!

  2. Hear! Hear! I am so happy to see a powerful positive black female role model who carries herself with grace and dignity all the while dealing with an ignorant, disrespectful society. Yes, it is common to satirize our political leaders, but the extent at which the Obamas are continually shown a lack of respect by their fellow politicians, news moderators and the general public is deplorable. As you said I believe her presence will hold a lasting image as to what we as black woman are capable of. She is not only the wife of the leader of our nation, but accomplished in her own right (something many choose to forget). She stands strongly behind her man, and involved mother not only to her own children, but concerned about the health and welfare of all America's children. Michelle is the personification of beauty to me.

  3. Michelle Obama is the ultimate hater-magnet. And no matter what broadside is leveled at her, she goes home to her mansion, looks at all her millions, her world-class wardrobe, and her gorgeous husband.

    God, that must sting for some people.

    But what amuses me more than anything are all the angry white men who just can't stop talking about her ass.

    1. "But what amuses me more than anything are all the angry white men who just can't stop talking about her ass."

      You know they secretly want her. They go to bed at night and dream about her. Heck...I'm fully convinced that it's one of the reasons why they hate the president so much.

  4. Perhaps it is too much to hope for, but I for one was always hoping that she would show black men how good it looks to have a woman like that on your arm, and how we've seen people around the world look admiringly at her when she walks in a room. Too many black men either eschew black women completely or buy into the idea that black beauty comes in only a couple of light shades.

    Of course, many Americans like to pretend that she is either just "average" (as if, which is what I feel as though I see/read from a lot of white women; they honestly act as though Carla Bruni, bad plastic surgery victim, looks better), or as you mentioned, there are angry white men who act like she is just hideous and they try to insult her amazing figure.

    My favorite was the South American leader (was it Chile?) that was totally checking her out and who said "my she's quite good looking."

    1. Probably was Chile. My parents visited and they both recieved more than one marriage proposal a piece. They find darker skin people beautiful in Chile.

  5. Great read!!! I hope ALL women will connect with their strength & beauty & seek out role models that are reflections of who they are... that is healthy self-love.

    I've had several powerful role models for years: Desiree Robinson (my outspoken cousin), Linda Day Clark (a great teacher & photographer whose life work captures & exhibits the beauty of Black people. & she makes it a point to share that work within the Black community), Lauryn Hill (an artist whose intellect, talent & beauty are unparalleled)... I could go on & on...but I think it is important to create lists like these so that we are reminded of the brilliance that surrounds us daily. & that we do not wait for permission from the outside world to love & appreciate ourselves.

  6. Michelle gives new meaning to the word "flawless." She is such an inspiration and she handles the hate in such a classy way; her and hubby. Mofos can call her (and him) everything but a child of God, diss her and insult her, but at the end of the day, she's still runnin' thangs with style and grace, and not a hair out of place.


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