Michelle Obama has harnessed the power of pop culture like perhaps no other First Lady in history. It's a skill she put on full display with her recent appearance on James Corden's viral smash Carpool Karaoke. In a new cover story for Variety, Obama opened up about why films and television should continue to play a crucial role in getting important messages out and discussed her earliest pop culture memories. She also talked about her Carpool Karaoke experience.
"First of all, I was riding in a car with somebody else, without the Secret Service," Obama said of her blockbuster Carpool Karaoke appearance with Missy Elliott. "So right there, [I said], 'Let's keep driving!' I think we drove around the South Lawn about 100 times." But Obama was also adamant about getting the word out about her Let Girls Learn initiative, which was something Corden's segment featured by way of Diane Warren's "This Is for My Girls," which saw a 1,562 percent increase in sales following the clip's release.
"What I have never been afraid of is to be a little silly, and you can engage people that way," Obama told Variety. "My view is, first you get them to laugh, then you get them to listen. So I'm always game for a good joke, and I'm not so formal in this role. There's very little that we can't do that people wouldn't appreciate."
For Obama, her relationship with pop culture has been a lifelong source of inspiration. "I view myself as being the average woman," she said. "While I am First Lady, I wasn't First Lady my whole life. I'm a product of pop culture. I'm a consumer of pop culture, and I know what resonates with people."
Recently, Obama has been catching up on Orange Is the New Black and The Americans. "On a good flight to China? Having the fifth season of Orange Is the New Black is a lifesaver," Obama told Variety. "The only way I get through the next season of The Americans is on a long flight. And it helps, because you look up and say, 'We're here. We're landing.'"
Obama cites The Mary Tyler Moore Show as an early pop culture influence, as well as a Saturday night block of programming that included The Jeffersons, All in the Family, and The Carol Burnett Show. "I was probably 10 or 11 when I saw that, and sort of started thinking, 'You know what? Marriage is an option,'" Obama said. "Having a family is an option. And going to school and getting your education and building your career is another really viable option that can lead to happiness and fulfillment."
Peep Michelle Obama's full Variety cover story here.