President Barack Obama and the No. 1 ballerina of the moment, Misty Copeland, sat down last month for a discussion with Time magazine about race and what their statuses as the first black people in their respective fields to accomplish certain things mean both personally and professionally.
They said the normal stuff—most notably, the impact they’re having on young people of color who may want to dance or become president one day.
But it’s what Obama had to say about his own two daughters and the messages they’re getting about beauty right in their own home that was really special. He and first lady Michelle Obama make sure to cultivate a healthy sense of self in the house. The president said that it’s also helpful that his girls’ mother is a role model for a body type that isn’t the mainstream but is nonetheless loved by him.
“[There’s an] enormous pressure that young women are placed under in terms of looking a certain way. And being cute in a certain way. And are you wearing the right clothes? And is your hair done the right way? And that pressure I think [has] historically always been harder on African-American women than just about any other women,” Obama explained.
“But it’s part and parcel of a broader way in which we socialize and press women to constantly doubt themselves or define themselves in terms of a certain appearance. And so Michelle and I are always guarding against that,” he continued.
Here’s the good stuff that’ll make you swoon: “And the fact that they’ve got a tall, gorgeous mom who has some curves, and that their father appreciates, I think is helpful.”
Awww. There’s more: “I do think that culture’s changing for the younger generation a little bit more. You see Beyoncé or you see some of these pop stars, and what both white, Latino, black children are seeing as representative of beauty is much broader than it was when I was a kid. You just didn’t see that much representation. And that’s healthy and that’s encouraging.”
Listen to our president articulate the beauty standards that nonwhite women in particular face, and how he goes the extra mile at home to love on his woman’s curves for his black daughters to see.
Look at him paying his wife a sweet compliment.
Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.