Michelle Obama is more than just a past FLOTUS. She’s an icon and role model for women all over who made revolutionary changes in social issues like healthy living, education, and poverty. Her autobiography inspired people everywhere and humanized her, from humble upbringing in Chicago to her White House years. Here are the most surprising facts about Mrs. Obama that you may not have known.
1. A regular childhood
Michelle Obama was born to a city pump operator and Democratic precinct captain called Fraser, while her mother Marian was a secretary at Spiegel’s before becoming a stay at home mom, they lived in a tiny bungalow on the South Side of Chicago, where she slept in the living room with her brother Craig, using a sheet as a room divider.
2. A bond with her brother
Although Michelle and her brother Craig were 21 months apart in age, many people frequently thought they were twins, even though he was her older brother. They both attended Princeton University.
3. A focus on education
Michelle and Craig were both raised with a focus on education. Her parents taught them to read by the age of 4, which led to accelerated learning at school. They skipped the second grade, and by sixth grade, Michelle was in her school’s gifted program.
4. She once refused to date Barack
Michelle was once Barack’s boss! He was an intern, and she was his advisor. At first, she refused to go out with him, worried about crossing professional boundaries. But at one point, she gave into their insane chemistry, and after 2 years together, he asked her to marry him.
5. From corporate law to public service
When she graduated from law school, she instead decided to pursue a life in public service, helping people rather than fighting in court. She started off as the mayor’s assistant, and then as assistant commissioner of planning and development for the City of Chicago. 2 years later, she became the executive director of Public Allies in Chicago, a nonprofit leadership-training program helping people develop career skills in public service.
6. A true cheerleader for her hubby
Although Michelle had an incredibly impressive career and life trajectory on her own, people started recognizing her when Barack gave a speech at the DNC in 2004, leading him to be elected as Illinois’ U.S. Senator. In 2007, she stepped back from her own work to focus on the campaign. For his second term, she fought just as hard, campaigning on the behalf of her husband and giving talks around the US.
7. Unforgettable speeches
Barack might be famous for his speech skills, but Michelle is not a slouch herself when it comes to public speaking. She commands the room with her powerful words, such as the ones spoken at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, with quotes like “Every day, the people I meet inspire me, every day they make me proud, every day they remind me how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation on earth.” A long way from Melania.
8. Standing up in the #metoo movement
Michelle has addressed the topic of protecting women from sexual harassment — something that was a hot button topic ever since the Harvey Weinstein accusations came out. She remarked, “When we think about women in particular we ask them to speak up. We ask them to speak their mind. We ask them to just say no, to speak out against sexual harassment. But if we don’t teach our young girls to speak at an early age, that doesn’t just happen. It takes practice to have a voice. You have to use it again, and again, and again before you can say ‘no.’ Or ‘stop.’ ‘Don’t touch me.’
9. Organic food lover
Her work towards making America healthy again was successful, and it’s clear that Michelle is a big supporter of the organic food movement, telling the kitchens in the White House to only prepare organic food for family and guests. She even had a 1,100 square foot garden of fresh veggies and beehives, which was built alongside 23 5th graders from a local D.C. school.
10. Keeping her kids normal
Michelle stayed grounded by a normal, middle class upbringing, and she didn’t want her kids to become spoiled brats from living in the White House. That’s why she set times for going to bed, waking up, and studying, saying her priority was to make sure “that our girls are healthy and grounded.” She also made them clean their own rooms.