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Amanda Gorman reveals what she overheard Michelle Obama telling Barack at inauguration

The 22-year-old inspired the world when she read her poem "The Hill We Climb" at Joe Biden's inauguration.
/ Source: TODAY

When 22-year-old Amanda Gorman became the youngest poet to speak at a presidential inauguration last week, she got to rub elbows with plenty of big names in politics and pop culture, from Lady Gaga to A-Rod.

In fact, during the program, she was seated next to Jennifer Lopez and at one point overheard a conversation between Michelle and Barack Obama, which she told Ellen DeGeneres about in a recent appearance on her show.

"I was there, and I remember Michelle Obama being close, and she kind of kept yelling at Barack, 'Stop hugging people, stop getting close to people,'" Gorman said, smiling. "And then when I was done, she kind of pushed him out the way and gave me just the biggest, warmest Michelle Obama."

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DeGeneres then asked if Gorman had ever met the Obamas before, and she replied that she'd met the former first lady a few times but never the former president.

"Whenever I meet Michelle, I hope that she forgets meeting me because I just want a do-over. I just want a clean slate. I just want to do it right this time," she quipped. "But she always remembers, and she's always great. And when I hug her, I'm so short my forehead is, like, in her belly button, and it's the best."

Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman speaks at the inauguration of President Joe Biden at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Gorman then recalled the moment she checked her phone after reading her poem because she wondered what people were saying on social media about it.

"Just my apps, my phone (were) not functioning," she said. "My phone was basically a brick, like all the apps that I typically use had crashed. I couldn't look at my photos or anything like that, and I hadn't expected that. I thought, oh, maybe I'll get a few thousand more followers. To get millions and millions of followers in under 48 hours was just — I think that was the moment when I went, wow, this has really touched people in a way that I did not predict."

The poem that Gorman read, "The Hill We Climb," resonated with so many that she’ll be reciting at the 2021 Super Bowl, as well. But it wasn't just her words that attracted attention, her general aura on Inauguration Day did, too. Gorman told Vogue her vibrant yellow coat was a nod to first lady Jill Biden, and she wore earrings gifted to her by none other than Oprah Winfrey.

Her way of speaking, though, was perhaps the most inspirational because according to an interview from 2018 with Understood, she was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder in kindergarten and has struggled with speech articulation throughout her life. But she used reciting poetry as her own form of speech pathology, eventually becoming the United States' first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.

"I hear this strong, self-assured voice when I am reading this simple text, and what that told me is the power of your inner voice over that which people might hear with their ears," Gorman told TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager in a 2018 interview. "The only thing that can impede me is myself."