On Wednesday, the couple returned to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the reveal of their official portraits, marking Michelle’s first visit to the White House since Barack left office in 2017. The paintings of the former president and his wife were created by artists Robert McCurdy and Sharon Sprung.
For the event, Michelle wore a purple and red ombré dress and had her hair in braids. On social media, fans went on to praise her hairstyles and pointed out how much it means to women in the black community.
“Something that will mean ALOT to Black people across the country: Former First Lady Michelle Obama wearing braids at the unveiling of her official White House portrait,” White House correspondent Eugene Daniels wrote on Twitter.
“Folks will see many things in this picture. I do too, but I lift a beautiful @MichelleObama in braids, which means a lot to Black girls & women—including ME as the one who conceptualised and leads the CROWN Act movement. We’re not JUST changing laws. We’re also shifting culture!” President Joe Biden’s adviser, Adjoa B Asamoah, added.
The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act was first unveiled in 2019, and it is a bill that bans discrimination based on hair textures and styles. It was passed in March of this year and is currently a law in 18 states.
On Twitter, many other famous faces emphasised that the book author’s hairstyle shows the importance of representation.
“I am out here living for @MichelleObama’s braids,” television host Joy-Ann Reid wrote. “Also the lashes! Ok now on to more important things. The portraits!!”
“Love this!! Representation matters,” model Padma Lakshmi added. “Hair is an extension of your identity- it influences how you define yourself & express yourself to the world. The next time an employer calls your braids “unprofessional” just show them this photo.”
In her portrait, Michelle was depicted sitting on a sofa in the Red Room, wearing a blue off-the-shoulder gown by Jason Wu.
At the unveiling, the former First Lady also spoke about her personal experience at the White House, noting that she hadn’t been in the building since January 2017.
Folks will see many things in this picture. I do too, but I lift a beautiful @MichelleObama in braids, which means a lot to Black girls & women—including ME as the one who conceptualized and leads the CROWN Act movement. We’re not JUST changing laws. We’re also shifting culture! pic.twitter.com/rgqM2Qr605
— ADJOA B. ASAMOAH (@adjoabasamoah) September 7, 2022
Something that will mean ALOT to Black people across the country: Former First Lady Michelle Obama wearing braids at the unveiling of her official White House portrait. pic.twitter.com/a5ZJObi1Dd
— Eugene Daniels (@EugeneDaniels2) September 7, 2022
“Believe it or not, it is still a bit odd for me to stand in this historic space. See this big beautiful painting staring back at me,” she said. “I never could have imagined that any of this will be part of my story.”
“But even if it’s all still a bit awkward for me, I do recognise why moments like these are important,” she continued. “Why all of this is absolutely necessary. Traditions like this matter. Not just for those of us who hold these positions but for everyone participating in and watching our democracy.”
She went on to acknowledge the significance of her portrait and her own childhood, adding: “Because a girl like me, she was never supposed to be up there next to Jacqueline Kenny Kennedy and Dolly Madison. She was never supposed to live in this house and she definitely wasn’t supposed to serve as first lady.”