The December issue of Elle may feature a beaming Michelle Obama on the cover, but her interview with Oprah Winfrey that accompanies the gorgeous photo is hardly a laughing matter.
In one of her most intimate conversations on the record, the former First Lady is open to talking about the toughest topics, from the couples counseling that she and Barack Obama worked through, to how she really feels about Donald Trump’s birther conspiracies and the damaging consequences that put her and her family at risk. She covers all of this in her new memoir, Becoming, which Winfrey used as the jumping off point for their discussion.
“I had to learn to love differently,” Obama tells Winfrey about her marriage and the counseling they pursued to enrich it. “I feel vulnerable all the time, and I had to learn how to express that to my husband, to tap into those parts of me that missed him — and the sadness that came from that — so that he could understand. He didn’t understand distance in the same way. You know, he grew up without his mother in his life for most of his years, and he knew his mother loved him dearly, right? I always thought love was up close. Love is the dinner table, love is consistency, it is presence. So I had to share my vulnerability and also learn to love differently. It was an important part of my journey of becoming. Understanding how to become us…I share this because I know that people look to me and Barack as the ideal relationship. I know there’s #RelationshipGoals out there. But whoa, people, slow down — marriage is hard!”
As for Trump? She likens questioning of Obama’s nationality and the existence of his birth certificate to “a game,” one that she directly attributes to the extremely real threats she and her family faced on a daily basis — and one that could’ve gotten them killed.
“To think that some crazed person might be ginned up to think my husband was a threat to the country’s security; and to know that my children, every day, had to go to a school, and soccer games, parties, and travel; to think that this person would not take into account that this was not a game — that’s something that I want the country to understand,” she explains. “I want the country to take this in, in a way I didn’t say out loud, but I am saying now. It was reckless, it put my family in danger, and it wasn’t true. And he knew it wasn’t true.”
“We had a bullet shot at the Yellow Oval Room during our tenure in the White House,” she continues. “A lunatic came and shot from Constitution Avenue. The bullet hit the upper-left corner of a window. I see it to this day: the window of the Truman Balcony, where my family would sit. That was really the only place we could get outdoor space. Fortunately, nobody was out there at the time. The shooter was caught. But I had to look at that bullet hole, as a reminder of what we were living with every day.”
Obama’s memoir, Becoming, hits store shelves on Tuesday (Nov. 13).