First Lady Michelle Obama wasn’t bothered — or surprised — about some of the criticism after her unprecedented appearance at the Academy Awards. Chalk it up to being in the national spotlight at a time when we have a 24/7 social media culture, she told TODAY contributor Kelly Wallace.
“That’s just the nature of life. I mean, we live in a time when there are bloggers and tweeters and 24-hour news and everyone has a voice in this town square, and it’s a big one,” said Mrs. Obama during an exclusive interview at a Wal-Mart in Springfield, Missouri — the last stop of a national tour promoting the third anniversary of her Let’s Move anti-childhood obesity initiative. “That means at any point at a given time, somebody’s not going to like what you do. That’s just the nature of things.”
“It’s a part of the culture,” she added. “It’s not really about me, I just happen to be in the public eye and along with everybody else in the public eye, you’re subject to conversation, opinion and all that sort of stuff. There’s nothing new about that.”
The first lady also dismissed all the hoopla surrounding her bangs (“It’s a haircut! I’m sorry. I don’t know what to tell you.”) and said Malia thought her “mom dance” skit with Jimmy Fallon on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which has become a viral sensation, was hilarious. “I guess I made enough of a fool of myself,” she joked.
Of her girls, Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11, who dazzled Americans on Inauguration Day with just how normal they seem to be, she said they’re definitely cognizant of the pressures of being in the national spotlight especially during a time when everyone has access to a cell phone.
“They’re absolutely aware. I think the awareness grows with age,” she said. “But as I’ve always said, we just try to keep them on the track of their lives, which is one of the reasons why they’re not in the public eye all that often.”
After a tour of the relatively new Wal-Mart, one of 86 the retailer has built in food deserts like this area of Springfield, the first lady saluted the company for demonstrating that healthy choices can be good for business.
“They are seeing increases in customer satisfaction and they haven’t lost an ounce of business, they’ve seen profits go up but they’re doing the hard work,” said Mrs. Obama. “They’re living proof that you can do what’s good for families and also what’s good for the bottom line.”
Before coming to Springfield, Mrs. Obama announced a major new public-private initiative, with $50 million from Nike and a goal of engaging 50,000 schools within five years to provide one hour of exercise a day to kids. Speaking to — and exercising with — 6,000 kids in her hometown of Chicago, she got emotional, telling them she is no different than any other boy or girl growing up in a tough part of the city.
“As I told these kids, I am them,” said the first lady. “So it is a very passionate thing for me because I think all of these kids are special. Every single one of them has the potential of being president or first lady but they’ve got to own their own power and start understanding that they’ve got to have control over the things they can control. And getting an education is one of those things.”
Kelly Wallace is chief correspondent for iVillage.com