What could we possibly say about our former First Lady Michelle Obama that has not already been said a million times? Probably not much, but after eight flawless years at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, there is so much that we are going to miss now that her time there has come and gone. From her outstanding fashion sense, to her love of gardening, we hope that she doesn’t fade too far into the background now that the national spotlight no longer shines on her beautiful face.
It is impossible to think of Michelle Obama without the words “fashion icon” popping into your mind. For most of the past decade she has appeared on countless magazine covers, attended thousands of events and made many television appearances all while looking fabulous. If she wears a designer, it is a statement that reverberates across the globe. Take for example the openly gay fashion designer Jason Wu. Mrs. Obama wore a Jason Wu on 60 minutes in 2008 before her husband was even president and then again at the Inaugural Ball after President Obama’s first win. Those appearances changed the designer’s life. When asked if Mrs. Obama wearing his designs increased interest in his brand, Wu recently told Vogue Magazine: “It was an incredibly emotional, life-changing moment for me—I knew that my life and career would never be the same again. Global interest for the Jason Wu brand peaked immediately and yielded tremendous recognition and publicity that normally would take years to grow as a brand. “
Wu, however, is hardly the only gay designer Mrs. Obama has put on the map. She has also worn dresses by Thakoon, a Thai-American gay man who is also an immigrant who moved to the US as a youth. Besides Thakoon, she has also helped make Brandon Maxwell a household name, though admittedly Lady Gaga found him first, he’s one of her best friends. Even veteran designer Christian Siriano, has hinted that his brand has been helped by the First Lady wearing his dresses. With so many choices for designers, it is certainly not a coincidence that Mrs. Obama has chosen so many designers who are “family.”
Choosing gay designers is hardly the only thing that Michelle Obama has done for our community. Like her husband, she has spoken out time and time again in support of LGBT Americans. In 2016 she was invited to speak at a college graduation in Jackson, Mississippi. Despite being in the deep south and speaking at Jackson State University, a historically black university (HBCU,) she took the opportunity to speak on LGBT rights and to help the audience understand that LGBT rights ARE civil rights. She told the graduates: “..we’ve got to stand side by side with all our neighbors — straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender; Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu immigrant, Native American — because the march for civil rights isn’t just about African-Americans, it’s about all Americans. It’s about making things more just, more equal, more free for all our kids and grandkids. That’s the story you all have the opportunity to write. That’s what this historic university has prepared you to do.”
We are certainly going to miss the Obamas in the White House but we are hopeful Mrs. Obama will continue her good work that she has started during her role as our nation’s First Lady. Hopefully, thanks to her, a whole new generation of kids will understand how important it is to eat healthy and to get enough exercise. Thanks to her, a new generation of little gay designers will have heroes to look up to, and thanks to her, we have a role model who will set the standard for First Ladies just like Jacky O did over 50 years ago.