People Have a Lot to Say About Malia Obama Going by 'Malia Ann' in Filmmaking Career

Defenders pointed out how this is nothing new in the arts, citing Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie.

Malia in casual attire smiling at Sundance Film Festival
Image via Getty/Dia Dipasupil
Malia in casual attire smiling at Sundance Film Festival

Malia Obama's decision to go by Malia Ann in her growing filmmaking career received a surprise wave of attention this week.

Obama's daughter trying to sneak past Nepo baby discourse by not using her last name. Bro you are Obama's Duaghter

— McRib (@McR1B69) February 19, 2024

As film festival enthusiasts are already aware, Malia, the oldest daughter of Barack and Michelle Obama, uses her middle name and is credited as "Malia Ann" on her recent Sundance-screened short, "The Heart."

This is also how the 25-year-old Harvard grad was credited on last year's Swarm series, co-created by Janine Nabers and Donald Glover. On "Girl, Bye," the fifth episode of the Emmy-nominated Prime video drama, Malia received a teleplay credit alongside Nabers.

"This is an odd little story, somewhat of a fable, about a man grieving the death of his mother after she leaves him an unusual request in her will," Malia previously said of "The Heart," which screened in January as part of Sundance's Short Film Program lineup for 2024. "The film is about lost objects and lonely people and forgiveness and regret. But I also think it works hard to uncover where tenderness and closeness can exist in these things."

View this video on YouTube

Video via Sundance Institute

It’s not clear why, exactly, Malia’s choice to not use her last name has suddenly become a conversation topic. What is clear, however, is that while some were quick to question or even mock the move, arguably more were just as quick to defend the decision.

Those with a more nuanced take astutely highlighted past examples of other artists taking a similar route early into their careers, including Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie, both of whom come from decidedly famous families in their own right.

See more below.

nah let her live Malia Ann is cute

— sticky bun filled with benadryl (@moonjuice67) February 19, 2024

“Malia Ann”

— .🪤. (@ILiveOffHate) February 19, 2024

malia ann… nothing to see here!!

— Sydney Nicole Sweeney (she/her) 🇵🇸 (@syderature) February 20, 2024

If Nicolas Cage (Nicolas Coppola) can do it, so can Malia Ann (Malia Obama).

— I'm That Type Of Guy (@Marrrrcussss) February 19, 2024

I’m all for nepo bb jokes (at least good ones) but how you gonna say that when her whole face is in the thumbnail. There’s also a New York Times article about her and her film. Ppl know who she is and what she looks like. Artists can choose their artist names.

— cndla cndri (@aylenquien) February 19, 2024

Women should not be beholden to their father’s names! And being the former president’s daughter has very little to do with filmmaking!

— Maggie Lovitt (@maggieofthetown) February 19, 2024

Hollywood is overflowing with Nepotism babies. So is New York. Why you picking on Malia? We all know who she is, what she looks like.

— Sigmundine (@Sigmundine2) February 20, 2024

Who’s Angelina Jolie’s father? QUICKLY

— LOCAL BLACK GIRL FOR HIRE (@IamNiaRae) February 19, 2024

But yall would be clowning her for using her father’s name too, so

— chris evans (@notcapnamerica) February 19, 2024

All she did was go by her first and middle name— she’s not trying to sneak past anything. 😂

— issa rae’s favorite interviewer. (@TheGreatIsNate) February 19, 2024

What's next for Malia Ann as a filmmaker? That remains to be seen. A wider release for "The Heart," which also screened as part of the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival lineup, is expected at some point this year.

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