Michelle Obama talks teenage years on BET


First lady Michelle Obama (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)
November 20, 2013

Michelle Obama’s extended interview with rapper Bow Wow and singer Keshia Chante, which aired Tuesday night on Black Entertainment Television, yielded a few new details about the first lady’s teenage years.

Here are six things we learned about Obama on BET’s video/talk show “106 & Park”:

1. She was student class treasurer and didn’t do much partying in high school.

2. She and her friends didn’t have cars. “I was driving around my father’s deuce and a quarter. And if he had to take that car to work, you didn’t have a car.” (Note : Deuce and a quarter is the street name for the Buick Electra.)

3. Obama wanted to be a pediatrician, but she wasn’t that great at math and science. “So I switched to law, because my mother told me I like to argue a lot.”

4. She commuted three hours round-trip by city bus to the high school she attended across town. “When it was snowing, this is what we used to do, because you know kids are lazy. We didn’t want to stand. So on bad days, we’d leave even earlier, catch the bus in the opposite direction until it was empty and got on it, so we could get seats to ride all the way back. A little counter-productive, but we were young. We weren’t really bright. We were just lazy.”

5. Asked to look at old photos and reflect on what she would say to her younger self, she replied: “I was thinking maybe I’m not smart enough. Maybe I’m not bright enough. Maybe there are kids that are working harder than me. I was always worrying about disappointing someone or failing. And the thing that I would tell that girl is don’t worry about failure, because failure is the key to success. And you are smart enough to sit at any table and compete and to have your voice heard.”

6. Obama designed her prom dress, which had a long slit up the side, with her mother, who sewed it from patterns.

Krissah Thompson began writing for The Washington Post in 2001. She has covered local businesses, traveled to El Salvador and Guatemala to tell stories of immigrants’ connections to their home countries and reported from the newsroom’s Prince George’s County bureau. More recently, she has written about civil rights, race and politics.
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