An 8-year-old who dressed as a young Michelle Obama for her school’s Cultural Heroes Day has gone viral on social media — and her parents say the costume demonstrates exactly why representation is so important.
An article about the girl’s costume was retweeted by the former first lady on Friday.
In the Facebook post, Ella-Lorraine’s mother writes, “Michelle is a power house in her own right. Celebrating strong women and role models, here!”
Karlyn Johnson Brown could not be reached for comment Sunday morning. In an interview with Makers, though, Brown said Ella-Lorraine insisted on portraying the former first lady, the then-Michelle Robinson, during her time at Princeton because “the focus was on Michelle’s accomplishment as an individual, not just an attachment.”
“She was really in awe of the idea that with hard work you could become anything,” Brown told the outlet.
Obama has been on tour recently to promote her new book, “Becoming,” and has spoken on the importance of mentorship and positive role models. In the book, she writes about her aspirations to attend Princeton and how a college counselor told her that she didn’t have what it took.
“Rightly or wrongly, I got stuck on one single sentence the woman uttered,” Obama wrote. “ ‘I’m not sure,’ she said, giving me a perfunctory, patronizing smile, ‘that you’re Princeton material.’ ”
Obama applied anyway.
Brown, who Makers reports also attended Princeton, said she has always encouraged her daughter to seek strong women as role models. Ella-Lorraine’s father, Eugene Brown, added that they’ve worked to surround their daughter — named after renowned jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald — with women who are “independent and smart, levelheaded and loving.”
Learning about these role models also serves as a valuable history lesson, he added.
“Ella-Lorraine has never known a time when Black women weren’t publicly honored and ‘Black girl magic’ wasn’t a highly celebrated thing,” he told Makers. “That’s awesome.”
Makers tweeted other instances of Ella-Lorraine dressing up as her female heroes, including Bessie Coleman, the first woman of African American and Native American descent to hold a pilot’s license. She also has dressed as Ruby Bridges, who became a civil rights icon at age 6 when she integrated into William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960.
Ella-Lorraine loves to dress up as her female heroes, like Bessie Coleman and Ruby Bridges. "She knows that folks came before her that allowed her to be where and who she is today and we’ve encouraged her to not back away from embracing that history.” pic.twitter.com/gVv1TauA8r— MAKERS (@MAKERSwomen) December 7, 2018