Did you watch Michelle Obama’s Becoming last night? I did. I cried. Didn’t take much. Any time they played footage of the Obamas during the campaign, on election night, during the Obama presidency, when she spoke about how leaders have to be responsible with their words, the tears came fast. But sentiment wasn’t the only point of the documentary and there’s a lot of work to unpack, which Duana and I will get to on the next episode of Show Your Work.
Becoming is a tight 89 minutes but still, what they manage to do is not only give us an intimate look at how Mrs Obama approached her book tour and the beginning of her post-White House life, but also put a spotlight on the people around her – because OF COURSE Michelle Obama would acknowledge that her showing her work depends on other people showing their work. Like her Secret Service agent, Allen Taylor, who’s been on her detail for 12 years now. Like her Chief of Staff, Melissa Winter. Like her stylist, Meredith Koop.
You’re tired of me going on about this but I’m tired of people not getting it and they’re still not getting it so yes, we’re going to do this again: Becoming is a documentary about Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States, produced by the Obama production company, Higher Ground, and there is space in the film FOR CLOTHING AND FASHION. Not only because Mrs Obama is spotlighting the work of Meredith Koop, but because Meredith’s work is about using clothing as a “tool”, as Mrs Obama says herself, to enhance her work, in multiple stages of her life. Michelle Obama’s book tour style was markedly different from her White House Style – and this was intentional. At one point, Meredith pulls a jacket off a rack that’s tricked out in rhinestones and points to its Elvis Presley vibes. Again, intentional. Michelle Obama’s fashion represents her at each stage of her “becoming” and clothing is one of the ways she expresses where she is. What was Meredith’s motivation then when she was building Mrs Obama’s book tour wardrobe? As she tells Vogue about the most talked-about outfit during the tour:
“But it’s also a celebration of something so much bigger than one person. Her story is so relevant to so many young people, so many kids who are doubting themselves or thinking that they can’t do something or they don’t have the opportunities to achieve something. I really wanted to celebrate that part of the story and lean into being bold and being kind of loud, like, Here I am!”
An outfit that expressed a mood, the mood being “bold” and “loud”, a declaration of “here I am”, requires thought and strategy, and like everything else that Michelle Obama does, clothes are a part of the work. She covered this in the book, which Duana and I discussed last year during the episode dedicated to Becoming and we’ll deep dive into the film so much more next week.
Yours in gossip,