REVOLT x Michelle Obama: The Cross-Generational Conversation
Last night (Dec. 14), REVOLT aired an original special titled “REVOLT x Michelle Obama: The Cross-Generational Conversation.” Radio icon Angie Martinez led the nearly two-hour discussion with Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Grammy Award-winning recording artists Kelly Rowland and H.E.R., businesswoman Tina Knowles-Lawson, and supermodel-activist Winnie Harlow. The influential group of women discussed Obama’s book “The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times.”
The Harvard Law School alumna wrote the New York Times bestseller to help people navigate and overcome any challenges that may arise. During the special’s opening segment, Michelle revealed to the group that she was “terrified” of how her book would be received. “I think there are a lot of young people who look at famous people and think that we don’t experience those doubts… but before I put something important out into the world, I am nervous,” she voiced.
The worldwide icon continued, “I just learned to ride that wave [of fear] because what I’ve learned is that what’s on the other side of that wave, as we talk about fear, oftentimes is growth and something good and useful, and it’s worth the risk.” In her book, Michelle disclosed that she was depressed during the pandemic. She stressed the importance of being patient and setting boundaries in order to protect her well-being.
H.E.R. joined the conversation and emphasized the importance of “giving yourself that grace” after the “Could’ve Been” singer experienced challenges in the past year. “I just felt like I was so focused on trying to do the right thing that I got lost, and I didn’t listen to how I actually felt, and the yeses should have been noes. Listening to everybody else’s voice and what they think as opposed to what I think feels right,” she expressed.
“Once we get to know ourselves and know our light, it’s not just to be out there. You have to create some protection for it because people will eat your light up,” Michelle noted.
Rowland informed the group that in recent months, she has put the former first lady’s words into practice. “I had a W.W.M.D. — ‘What would Mrs. Obama do?’ — moment. It’s not a celebrity thing; it’s just a creating a respectful space thing whether that’s with family, or friends or business,” stated the famous entertainer. “I’m usually nervous about how the other person is going to react to my boundary, and then I had to learn that’s not my business.”
Switching gears, the women then discussed their challenges with motherhood and steps they took to overcome their insecurities. Michelle admitted she struggles with giving her daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama, the space to make their own decisions. “It’s that push and pull of how do I protect my child? We feel this until forever, but how do I let them go, so that they can have these experiences? Get bumped on the head, walk off the cliff, walk into a wall? That is the hardest part about parenting, letting them grow and make mistakes,” she remarked.
From January 2009 to January 2017, while the bestselling author was serving as first lady, she says she had to think about her children and “how [they’re] going to exist in the world” after residing in the White House. “Even in their abnormal world, they have to learn how to make friends. They have to learn how to be comfortable at a sleepover. They have to go to prom,” she explained.
Knowles-Lawson stated that it is important when parenting to “have a balance, so that [children] don’t feel they’re entitled to things.” She recalled Beyoncé exhibiting behavior that needed redirection during the inception of Destiny’s Child: “Beyoncé brought [a] girl [into Destiny’s Child] and the girl was older, stronger and had a better voice at the time than her.” She remembered [Beyoncé] “coming home and saying, ‘That’s not fair because I brought her there… She’s just singing all the leads.’” Knowles-Lawson revealed she encouraged Beyoncé to enroll in voice lessons and to work twice as hard “because the world ain’t fair.”
The group of women then transitioned to discussing their relationships with their fathers and how those bonds helped to shape their life. During the segment, Michelle became emotional while remembering the life and legacy of her father, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She acknowledged that he showed her “how to turn your challenges into your superpower.” “He could have never worked a day in his life. He could have collected social benefits. He could have succumbed to his disease and been depressed about it, but he didn’t,” she disclosed. “Just the sheer act of him getting up every day and going to work was a statement that stays with me every day of my life.”
Rowland then shared her experience of reconnecting with her father, who was absent for most of her life. “It’s so interesting because with him, we talk about so much, and I just think about all the craziness I had to go through with relationships. We were talking about bad choices I made because I didn’t know him,” she recounted. “Here you are having this new relationship with your dad, and it blessed me because I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s why I can’t communicate with a male properly,’ and that’s why I’m just noticing all these different things.”
Next, Michelle spoke about her relationship with Former President Barack Obama and shared advice with the two single ladies in the group, H.E.R. and Harlow. She revealed, “There were 10 years when I couldn’t stand my husband and guess when it happened? When those kids were little… but I would take 10 bad years over 30… it’s just how you look at it.”
She added, “You have to know yourself before you can know who you want to partner with. People want to be married and want a partner without knowing [themselves first]. Are you ready for a partner? Are you ready for the compromise, and the sacrifice, and the challenge of it? And then if you are, who do you want to do it with?”
Later in the special, Michelle highlighted how she developed issues with her image during her youth “being a tall, strong, opinionated Black girl.” “When you don’t see yourself, society sets you up to constantly question whether you’re good enough, whether you’re beautiful. And no matter who you are, you hold onto that image of yourself,” she proclaimed.
Harlow weighed in and said, “It’s so true not being able to always see someone of color but even for me growing up, I thought I was the only person in the world with my skin condition. So, I felt so alienated.” “My least favorite question when people interview me is, ‘How are you so confident?’ For being myself? For living in my own skin? Are you telling me that I shouldn’t be?” she asked.
The five women ended the discussion reminiscing about Michelle Obama’s years in the White House and how she served as a role model for Black girls and women. “You lead with grace every step of the way… in times when you don’t have to,” an emotional Rowland stated. “You being a brown skin girl in the White House and feeling like we can do it… that was so much pride for me.”
The former first lady shared with the group that she knew from a young age she would reach a high level of success despite the barriers that stood in her way. “You’re born with that thing, you know what you can do. When I was little, I was like, ‘I can do that,’” she exclaimed. “People will set your bar so low for you, especially if you are of color. You just have to fight to hold onto that thing inside of you.”
If you missed the one-of-a-kind special, tune in above.