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Amy Sheridan’s portrait of Michelle Obama

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michael lavaughn robinson Some reviewers noted on the surprising sensitivity conveyed by Amy Sheridan’s portrait of Michelle Obama when it was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery earlier this year.

Michelle Obama has been referred to as graceful, forceful, an asset, a liability, and the “angry black lady,” among other things. But are you vulnerable?

There never seemed to be a name that adequately characterised who the nation’s first African-American first lady, fondly known as FLOTUS, was.

Amy Sheridan’s portrait of Michelle Obama

michael Obama

I am not going to bend this into any kind of ideal shape,” Michelle Obama writes in her autobiography, “Becoming.” It appears toward the end of the book, but it might be the biography’s subtitle. She is refreshingly frank, honest, and vulnerable.

The first quarter of “Becoming” presents Michelle LaVaughn Robinson’s early childhood as a plain, unremarkable framework. Craig, her older brother, had a natural need to protect his little sister.

Craig is cradled by his father, Fraser C. Robinson, in a family photo, his small toddler hand embracing the tiny wrist of newborn Michelle, who is being held by her mother, Marian Shields Robinson.

Michelle graduates from one of Chicago’s most prominent high schools, then moves on to the Ivy League world of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, thanks to her family’s dedication. Michelle Robinson develops a “framily” of friends and family wherever she goes, carrying her through undergraduate, law school, career, and the White House.

When I think about all of the unusual things that have happened in her life, the love storey between Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama strikes me as the most implausible of them all.

He came from a shattered family, was a dirty, socks-on-the-floor sort of person who loved solitude and exhibited a calm confidence all the time.

Michelle’s meticulousness, longing for a close community, and the small voice inside her head that kept asking, “Am I good enough?” were in stark contrast.

Barack Obama’s decision to run for president of the United States is one of the most moving parts in the book. He had served as a state senator in Springfield, Illinois, and a U.S. senator in Washington by that time.

Michelle Obama did not sign on for the political cycle of campaigns, public scrutiny, and absences. So it’s no wonder that Barack Obama’s wife was the most difficult vote to obtain in order for him to become president.

But, if you listen to it from her perspective, you, too, begin to imagine the beauty of a tranquil, private Obama family loving, living, and thriving in Chicago.

You recall sound bits, images, or costumes worn during a college or factory address after reading “Becoming.” Maybe you recall the joy you had when you saw the first African-American first lady, or maybe you just remember witnessing a style with substance, a determined FLOTUS carving out a niche for herself with her statement, “No handbook on how to be First Lady.”

You also recall the frequently absurd criticisms levelled at her actions: a hand on a queen, a sleeveless dress, or shorts. So much criticism was levelled, and so many non-issue issues were raised.

Michelle Obama doesn’t always agree with the perception, but she recognises that the “optics” didn’t always work. The reader could not be blamed for wondering, “You must be kidding?” at points. What’s the harm in saying/doing/wearing something like that?”

When you read “Becoming,” you realise that you only grasped a fraction of what happened. Larger pieces are offered in “Becoming,” which are untidy, honest, and real. Michelle Obama doesn’t have to be concerned about her appearance. She has no intention of ever running for public office.

Most Americans understand that claiming Michelle Obama was “like a first lady we have never seen before” was wrong, with the exception of many in newsrooms who do not reflect the rich multicultural reality of this country.

She looked like the ladies we meet on a daily basis at schools, churches, and offices, as well as as neighbours, friends, and family. She’s a woman who juggles work and family life.

A lady who is dedicated to her community and to her responsibilities. The only difference is that she now has a national and international platform, complete with all of the highs, lows, and responsibilities that come with it.

Michelle Obama’s mother’s remark that she and her brother, Craig, were “not special” is a tribute to their abilities. “There are kids like them all over the South Side,” her mother remarked. We understand because there are others like her all around the country — and the world.

In Pittsburgh, there are folks like Michelle and Craig. You aren’t paying attention if you don’t know a “Michelle Obama” personally or professionally.

That is, after all, the point of her book. She is “Becoming” in the same way that we are all “Becoming” as individuals and as a nation. Of course, we have complete control over who we become.

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