Malia and Sasha Obama have already had such interesting lives. Being the daughters of the president and first lady, however, they’ve had to stay quiet about their private lives, their thoughts, and feelings over the years, too.
While we’ve followed them from afar as they both left the White House and moved on with their lives, graduating high school and heading to college, we haven’t heard them speak out about much. Now we’re getting to hear from the Obama girls in an extremely rare interview. And the two are opening up about a topic that’s close to their heart — their mother, Michelle Obama.
The documentary, called Becoming — the same name as Michelle’s best-selling memoir — was just released.
It follows the former first lady on her 34-stop book tour. But it wouldn’t be complete without commentary from Malia, 21, and Sasha, 18, whom we have so rarely seen or heard from in the past few years.
It’s no secret that raising daughters is hard work. Raising daughters in the public eye, though — that’s another feat entirely. While so many people struggle to feel close to their own mothers, it seems like the Obama girls have managed to maintain a truly special relationship through the White House years and beyond.
Now we’re getting to hear a bit from the girls themselves. Sasha and Malia got the opportunity to speak about their mother in the new documentary. And it seems like both of them have so much admiration for the woman who brought them into the world. “I’m excited for her to be proud of what she’s done because I think that’s the most important thing for a human to do is be proud of themselves,” Sasha says in the documentary.
Those words have to be incredibly touching for Michelle to hear. But based on clips from the documentary, it appears that Michelle and her two daughters are all incredibly close. So perhaps it’s no big surprise that her daughters look up to her so much. Either way, for Michelle it has to feel like a tremendous accomplishment. While she’s admired by many, having the approval of your own daughters can feel like the biggest gift of all.
It has to be incredibly tough at times. The girls were both young when their father was elected president. Malia, who now attends Harvard, was 10. Sasha, a freshman at the University of Michigan, was just 7. But during their years in the White House, Michelle and Barack had to work hard to keep them out of the public eye. It wasn’t always possible — there were certain events they had to attend. But the couple was very much focused on giving them as normal an upbringing as possible.
Michelle talked to Today in 2018 about the struggle to keep the girls’ childhood sacred. “You want them to be able to have wonderful experiences privately and you want them to be able to fail and stumble privately, like any other kids,” she said. “And when they’re not allowed to do that, it’s unfair and you feel guilty about it, you know, because they didn’t choose this life.”
A lot of kids might grow up to resent having to be in the spotlight, even somewhat, no matter how hard their parents try to protect them from it. Malia and Sasha seem to have a different take. It feels like they understand that their parents’ work is important and worth doing.
In one moving clip from the film, Malia stands backstage, admiring her mother at a reading. She later says to Michelle, “What this has demonstrated in a way just, d*mn, those eight years weren’t for nothing, you know?” Malia says. “You see that huge crowd out there and that last kind of speech you gave about … people are here because people really believe in love and in hope and hope in other people.”
Having that special bond is incredible on its own. But feeling deeply proud of your own mother, and wanting to encourage her to keep doing her best in the face of criticism, is really something special. While most kids are their parents’ worst critics, the Obama girls appear to be standing strong beside their mother. Lifting one another up seems like an important family value they all share.
Michelle appeared in Elle recently and talked about the impacts that stay-at-home orders have had on their family. Some of it, she said, is good. “I know for us, it’s forced us to sit down with each other, to have real conversations — you know — really ask questions and figure out how to keep ourselves occupied without just TV or computers,” she said.
Having real conversations definitely seems like a priority for their family, and it’s likely one reason they’ve managed to stay so close. But while we’re heard a lot from Michelle over the years in regard to her parenting, this is really the first time we’ve heard from Sasha and Malia themselves about their relationship with their mom.
Becoming is available to stream now on Netflix, and it’s bound to be something special.