Former first lady Michelle Obama took the stage at the Brooklyn stop of Oprah Winfrey’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus tour on Saturday. During the tour, which aims to promote health and wellness, Obama dished out her personal struggles with her body image, People reports.
While in the White House as her husband, Barack Obama, served as the 44th commander in chief, the mother of two faced scrutiny about her body. She said although the criticism was upsetting, it allowed her to embrace her curves.
“People called me all kinds of things when I was campaigning for Barack like it was a competition,” she said. “They called me un-American, and this stuff sticks with you. Men talked about the size of my butt. There are people who were telling me I was angry. That stuff hurts, and it makes you sort of wonder, what are people seeing? That stuff is there. And look, I’m a Black woman in America. And you know, we’re not always made to feel beautiful. So there’s still that baggage that we carry, and not everyone can relate to that. But yes, there is baggage that I carry just like anybody else.”
The 56-year-old said she’s also frustrated with the pressure women often put on themselves to be discreet about their age.
“You have to get to know your body, because what this body is at 56 — I can’t do the things I did when I was 36. It’s not the same body. We are living things. We’re not machines. You know, we run out of gas. We need fuel. We need sunshine and light. We need to take care of ourselves and when you don’t, as you get older, just like any living thing it begins to fail on you. And for me, I’m trying to figure out what is that balance that I need to make sure that this body, that God gave me, that I’m taking care of it the best that I can and that it will serve me well as I get older,” she said.
“We are so ridiculous as women,” she told Winfrey. “We don’t want to talk about our age, and then we want to act like we should look like we did when were 20, you know? When, I’m sorry, men you can look any kind of way. And it seems to be okay.”
Despite having to learn how to accept her body as she ages and ignore society’s standard for beauty, Obama said it’s allowed her to impart that wisdom to her daughters. She said she sees how the pressure to be a certain size and look a certain way is affecting both Malia, 21, and Sasha, 18.
“I told my daughters because as they’re getting older they start to judge themselves and it’s interesting when they talk about, ‘I can’t fit in my jeans that I had last year.’ I said, ‘But you’re a whole other year older. You’re now becoming a woman. You don’t have a child’s body,’” she said.
“That’s like saying at 20, I’m really upset that I couldn’t wear my favorite overalls anymore from when I was 10,” she added. “That’s as ridiculous as it is at 56 to think that I should look like I did when I was 36, or for anyone to judge me like that, or to judge a woman like that.”
Obama says she now understands the importance of learning to love and accept your body just as it is. She says she’s grown to appreciate that her body is “all mine, and it’s a healthy body that works, every day.”