Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Michelle Obama never imagined that she’d become First Lady of the United States. She never imagined that one day, she would inspire people all around the world and drive historic change. As the daughter of a city water-pump operator and a stay-at-home mom, girls like her aren’t supposed to do any of that.
But Michelle Obama has spent her life challenging us to reconsider where that “supposed to” comes from — and who determines it. Her life shows us that you don't have to look a certain way or act a certain way to fit in; you don't have to make a lot of money or come from a certain group or class or faith in order to matter. Each of us can write our own story. And when we share those stories with one another, we can lift each other up along the way.
That’s why, as an author, Michelle speaks candidly about her experiences as a wife, mother, Black woman, and First Lady of the United States, telling her story in a way that empowers others to see the beauty in their own. Through her advocacy work, she strives to help young people see the power of their voice and the boundless promise inside of them. Through film and television, she elevates stories and storytellers who have too often been ignored. And as a co-founder of a children’s nutrition company, she’s aiming to help raise a healthier generation of children.
Michelle’s passion for storytelling has set sales records and earned her global acclaim. Her memoir, Becoming — a moving portrayal of her life’s journey and path to the White House — spent over 130 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list, sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, and won a Grammy Award. Her second book, The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, also spent months on the New York Times Best Sellers list. In it, she shares the lessons she’s learned that have helped her rise above difficult circumstances.
Through Higher Ground, which she co-founded with her husband in 2018, her work to share stories has won awards and accolades. Higher Ground’s first film, American Factory, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2020, and Crip Camp was nominated in the same category a year later. She produced and stars in Waffles + Mochi, a show that teaches children about their food and cooking through an adventurous part-yeti, part-waffle tour guide. Higher Ground’s Ada Twist, Scientist and We The People each won a Children’s & Family Emmy Award. The Light We Carry Netflix special recently earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series or Special.
Hoping to reach new, diverse audiences, Michelle joined the world of podcasting with The Michelle Obama Podcast on Spotify and Michelle Obama: The Light Podcast on Audible. At its release in 2020, The Michelle Obama Podcast was the most successful original in Spotify history, bringing in more women listeners over 40 than any other podcast.
At the core of Michelle’s story is a belief not just in telling stories aligned with her values, but in living out those values — especially when it comes to strengthening the next generation. Through the Obama Foundation, she leads the Girls Opportunity Alliance, which supports global grassroots organizations that are working to make sure girls can get the education they deserve. Earlier this year, GOA launched a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Clooney Foundation for Justice to promote girls’ education and help end child marriage. At Reach Higher, she encourages high school graduates to pursue a secondary education, whether through community college, university, trade school, or military service. As part of When We All Vote, she urges young people to register to vote and get involved in the electoral process — reaching more than 100 million people during the 2020 election. And with Partnership for a Healthier America, she works to curb food inequity in our country — in 2022, they helped donate more than one million meals for families in need.
And through PLEZi Nutrition, a children’s nutrition company launched in 2023, she is building upon the legacy of her White House Let’s Move! initiative which she started in 2010 to help children across the country reach their highest potential. PLEZi Nutrition intends to raise the bar for how we make and market food and beverages for our kids, jumpstarting a race to the top that aims to transform the entire food industry. She serves as Co-Founder and Strategic Partner of the public benefit company that is on a mission to help raise a healthier generation of kids.
Michelle’s work since becoming First Lady builds upon her distinguished career in public service. As First Lady, she championed four major initiatives: Let’s Move! worked to help parents raise healthier kids; Joining Forces honored and supported our nation’s service members, veterans, and their families; Reach Higher — which she still works on today — encouraged young people to pursue higher education; and Let Girls Learn promoted girls’ education around the world, an effort that laid the groundwork for the Girls Opportunity Alliance.
Before her husband was elected president and her world changed overnight, she served as Vice President of Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center as well as Associate Dean of Student Services. Prior to that, she was executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, a nonprofit that helps prepare young people for careers in service. She began her career in public service working for the mayor’s office in Chicago City Hall.
Michelle met her husband Barack in 1989 at law firm Sidley Austin LLP, where she worked immediately after graduating from Harvard Law School. The two fell in love and married on the South Side of Chicago, not far from where she grew up. They stayed on the South Side to raise their two beautiful girls, Malia and Sasha, before moving to the White House. Of all the things she has achieved in her remarkable life, Michelle considers being a mother her greatest accomplishment.
All this from the kind of girl who too often isn’t expected to do much in life. Michelle Obama’s story is a powerful reminder that we can’t afford to overlook anyone — and even when other folks are selling us short or trying to tear us down, we’re all better off when we go high.