Prior to becoming the First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017, Michelle Obama was just trying to navigate life as any other little girl born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. The self-described hugger-in-chief, who tackled childhood obesity, female empowerment and much more while in the White House, joined Ryan Seacrest via Skype from Seacrest Studios at the Children’s Hospital in Denver on Friday, December 14, and dished on everything from redirecting her life after quitting law post-college to what it was like to move out of the White House and more.
Below is everything we learned from Mrs. Obama and more secrets from her new autobiographical memoir Becoming.
Michelle Obama Also Didn’t Know What She Wanted to Do With Her Life:
The Ivy league graduate told Ryan that she’ll never again ask a child what they want to be when they grow up.
"One of the things I wrote in my book — it’s one of the questions I hate that we ask young people — is ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” she explained. “As if growing up is finite and that you become something and that’s the end. … Especially when we ask that of little kids — it’s like, what do they know about life yet? They haven’t been exposed. … What kids tend to do is they pick a career or something that they know and … it puts them in a corner. … What would life be if we all just knew at 10 what we were all going to be and that was just it?”
Mrs. Obama continued that she, like a majority of us, didn’t know what she wanted to be either after attending both Princeton and Harvard Law School.
“I had to figure that out myself because I was one of those kids. I was a box checker,” she continued. “I picked law because people seemed to like that when I said I wanted to be a lawyer and then I accumulated all that debt and went to great schools and became a lawyer and realized after practicing a couple years, I hate this.”
“It was so difficult [to come to that conclusion and quit law],” Mrs. Obama added. “Nobody told me that you could switch gears, and, then again, I had debt … and my parents were working class parents who had made sacrifices for me. They helped me with undergrad, but I took out loans for college so I had all this debt and how do you go to them and say ‘I’m just not feeling passionate about law?’ … So it took a second for me to kind of forgive myself and then I had to [go] ‘Now how do I figure out who I want to be?’ How do you do that? Because you’re not taught that in college. You’re taught to pick a major and taught to pick a degree, but you’re not taught how to find your passion and the things you care about.”
Life As a Mom Wasn’t Easy In the White House — Or for Daughters Malia and Sasha:
“They were never really into any of this stuff,” Mrs. Obama said of daughters Malia and Sasha Obama, who weren’t even teens before moving into the White House. “They liked the campaigning because it meant lots of ice cream all the time. That’s what they thought campaigning was — a series of events where they got ice cream — they were so young.”
At the time former President Barack Obama was elected, the girls had barely entered middle school.
“I tell the story about Barack when he was thinking about running for president and he went to Malia and, at then, she was like 8 or 9 at the time, and he said ‘What do you think about Daddy running for president?’” Mrs. Obama recalled. “And she was like ‘Don’t you think you need to be vice president first?’ … At the end, they were like, ‘OK, Daddy, whatever you want,’ but the White House … just all the trappings of growing up in the national spotlight … they were little girls who went to school with a three-car motorcade filled with men with guns every day and they had to get used to being surrounded by adults all the time watching their every move and trying to make friends.”
Mrs. Obama said that to have a playdate, friends’ houses had to be literally swept and searched and the families had to be questioned.
“They had to learn how to live their lives … you know, [like], Malia having her first boyfriend with people asking questions about who this kid was,” she added, revealing that the secret service were more strict than husband Barack Obama.
“I mean Barack, that’s one of the reasons why I think he ran for a second term and was so desperate," she joked. "He was like ‘Look: Having teenage daughters traveling with men with guns’ he’s like, ‘It’s worth all of the’ … so he could play good cop and be like ‘Yeah, sure young man, you can do whatever’ and then there’s a tail of cars behind this kid so he could play cool dad."
She's an Ordinary Person Who Found Herself an Extraordinary Journey to Inspire Others:
Mrs. Obama’s memoir Becoming is available in multiple languages and platforms, including audio books, and offered On Air With Ryan Seacrest’s Patty Rodriguez a life-altering moment after she witnessed her mother read a book for the first time. Patty explained to Mrs. Obama on-air that her Spanish-speaking mother had never read a book until Mrs. Obama’s Spanish-translated copy of Becoming.
“This is the first time in my entire life we’ve seen my mother sit down and read a book and you’re inspiring so many women and we’re all thankful for that, but I think I’m especially most thankful that you have been able to inspire my mother who came here to this country to have a better life and to provide her children the opportunity to be able to dream and make those dreams a reality,” Patty told Mrs. Obama.
“That’s the kind of stuff that makes this whole journey — the highs, the lows, the bumps, the bruises — all worth it because in the end, if my little story can inspire people like your mom who are just like my mom, I mean, I think one of the reasons why the book resonates with so many people regardless of race, ethnicity, or party is because this is what connects us,” Mrs. Obama shared. “It’s these stories of parents who work hard and make sacrifices and are trying to do the best of what they have. My story is the American story and … hopefully this book gives them the understanding that their stories have value and power. That what your mom did for you is the stuff that makes us great. … Those are the kinds of things I get to hear as I’m out here on the book tour; people of all ages and backgrounds … are finding something they can identify with in this little journey of this girl Michelle Robinson because the truth is, most of the book is not about the eight years in the White House because those eight years were just a blip in a very long and interesting journey of this little girl who grew up as a working class kid and just tried to do her best and make her family proud.”
Making That Toast and Being Alone for the First Time Post-Oval Office :
Mrs. Obama opens her memoir by recalling a quiet night at home alone after leaving the White House.
“I tell the simple story which is a powerful story because it shows just how odd our life was for those eight years,” Mrs. Obama explained. “We moved into the home we are in now … but it was an unusual night because I was home alone. I think Barack was traveling and Malia was doing her gap year and Sasha was out with friends and it was just me, Bo and Sunny — no staff, no security — and … I was blissfully alone for the first time and I tell the story of how I walked down to my kitchen and opened up my own refrigerator without anyone making a fuss about it and I got some toast and some cheese and I made cheese toast and … then I walked outside and opened my door to my house with my dogs into the yard … and joyfully ate this toast and it felt like freedom. … I start the book with that story because living in the White House we couldn’t even open our windows.”
Living in the White House for eight years also meant they were rarely alone. When Ryan asked if Mrs. Obama and former President Barack Obama had a secret language or talked in code, she revealed they too like other couples have a few understanding glances.
“You know we’ve been together so long that it’s usually a look, it’s not even a code,” she dished. “You know you have those wife-to-husband kind of ‘Dude, are you kidding me?’ looks.”
Mrs. Obama Reveals What’s to Come and Wants to Keep the Conversations Going:
“I’m excited about hearing more stories of peoples’ journeys to become and I’m excited to see what those conversations that this book generates in peoples’ communities and in their homes — where does that take us? — because we are in a period where people need to be reminded that we are more alike than not and that there are reasons for us to hope,” Mrs. Obama concluded. “People are just connecting with strangers; They’re just excited to see people that aren’t like them who are so much like them because it’s a reminder that we are more united.”
“I’m excited about the work I plan to do with girls’ education around the world,” she added. “… Hopefully making sure more young women on this planet get the opportunities I did to fulfill their potential.”