Just over two weeks ago, Netflix released “Becoming,” a documentary that takes you behind the scenes of Michelle Obama’s book tour. I couldn’t wait to see it because I am still a little sad I missed the actual tour. I wanted to be there and experience the joy and gleam some of that inspiration she exudes first hand. But I had to settle for the documentary which turned out to be almost as good as being there.
I smiled with the audience as she talked about her big brother. I laughed at the tales of Barack, whom she thought was trifling for a split moment when he was late for the first date. I was proud all over… Allll….OOOVverr again when she sat with the church ladies and one lamented that her parents didn’t live to see that moment, that moment when a black man was inaugurated as the President of the United States and with him stood a black woman! They said, “You will always be our First Lady.” And I still agree. I was so proud and even wrote a play for Black History month that the children at church performed about that day.
Yes, Michelle Obama will always be “our” First Lady. It is amazing to see how she bridges races and generations. Young and old, black and white, male or female, she inspires us and with “Becoming” was able to move us. Some critics have said that the documentary was too scripted…like you don’t get to see the real Michelle Obama. They say it was like one of those behind-the-scene looks at a rock star’s stadium tour. What’s wrong with that? I mean it wasn’t a documentary just about her life. It was about the book tour that showed us parts of her life. And let’s face it, “Aren’t the Obamas rockstars?” Not the kind of rockstars that play music but they are revered for their accomplishments. But they don’t feel elusive or untouchable or unrelatable. No. They are more like the friend or fam that made it and want to elevate you too.
Becoming was filled with relatable moments that took me back to my childhood, high school, college days and now. First of all, I look at her and I can see myself – tall, dark, educated, stylish. Did you see the off white, high-waisted slacks with the dramatic off-the-shoulder shimmery blouse?? The fashionista in me was clapping and screaming, ” YAASS, Honey. YAASS!” (And if you are wondering what I wrote there, I was screaming, “Yes. Honey. Yes!”) I don’t have a dedicated Pinterest board entitled “First Lady Flawless” for no reason. Inside and outside the White House, she is #fashiongoals.
But Becoming isn’t about fashion. It is about connecting. It is about sharing your story. Who you are and what makes you who you are and who you will become. In 90 minutes, it was her stories – stories that highlighted the experience of many black women, as we navigate this world – that grabbed my attention. In the film, Mrs. Obama exclaims, ” If we can open up a little bit more to each other and share our stories…[we can] breakdown barriers.” Listening to her as she shares tales of the guidance counselor who had little faith in her potential (To which Michelle said, “It worked out.”) to her college roommate moving out because the roommate’s mom thought she was in danger living with a black person, I found myself shaking my head and nodding because I could relate.
As a child who’s school was closed due to budget cuts and forced to attend the new middle school, I have similar stories that can fill another blog post. Let’s be real. They can fill a book and someday they probably will. One of my teachers proclaimed that all of us that transferred were “dumb and hoodlums” to another who told my mom that I was just a number when she wanted to know why and how her all-A daughter suddenly received a “C” in math (He soon learned I was not a statistic.) to the teacher who told the class there were some smart people in the room but I was not one of them. (She wasn’t happy years later when I nabbed the highest honor at graduation.) As for college, I attended a predominantly white institution like Michelle Obama and was often the only minority in the class. On occasion, I found myself being called on to be the voice of the people and to explain why we didn’t go back to Africa after slavery. I could go on. And I am still shaking my head.
For me, the biggest takeaway I gleamed from watching the documentary was when Michelle said, ” You can’t wait for the world to be equal to start feeling seen.” Mrs. Obama credited her family for instilling in her the ability to always feel seen and heard. Basically, you can’t shrink in the face of adversity, you have to stand tall. It’s that whole “when they go low, you go high” sentiment. This has been instilled in me from an early age. I have always been encouraged to be proud of who I am, speak up, use your voice no matter where you are or who surrounds you. For these lessons, I am grateful and I carry these lessons with me everywhere I go. From the classroom to the boardroom to the conference room and everywhere in between, I “use the tools within…to be visible, to feel heard” and continue becoming the woman I am meant to be.
Have you watched the documentary yet? Could you relate to her stories? Did you find yourself taking notes while watching? Did you love the fashion? Tell me. Drop me a line. I would love to hear your thoughts.