Standing in the doorway of a Boeing 747, former president Barack Obama has one arm wrapped around Michelle Obama. The pair are waving, smiles plastered across their faces. It was Jan. 20, 2017. President Trump had just been inaugurated and the Obamas’ time in the White House had come to an end.
On Tuesday, Jimmy Fallon had a question for the former first lady about the moment she and her husband waved goodbye for the final time at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on that overcast January day. Obama was on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” to promote her best-selling memoir “Becoming.”
“Can you just, walk me through,” Fallon said, trying to ask Obama what she was thinking at the time. Only Fallon didn’t get to finish his question.
“Bye, Felicia,” Obama said, interrupting Fallon and causing the host to double over from laughter. Obama’s cheeky response — a slang phrase defined as a “dismissive term” most commonly used “as a cold way to bid someone farewell” — earned raucous cheers from Fallon’s studio audience and even prompted a quick musical riff from the show’s band, The Roots.
“Is that what was going through your mind?” Fallon asked after he was able to somewhat regain his composure.
Briefly hesitating, Obama said, “A lot was going on that day.”
“That was a day,” she added, her voice betraying exasperation.
Obama went on to explain that the day before the inauguration, her daughters' friends decided they “needed” a final sleepover in the White House.
“'Are you guys kidding me?'” Obama said, recalling her reaction to the situation. “'We’re leaving. You gotta take all your stuff, pick it up. The blankets, the bears.' They’re all crying, and it was like, ‘Get out. We’ve got to go.’”
The stress, Obama said, continued into Inauguration Day.
“Then the Tiffany’s box,” Obama said, her face scrunching with confusion as she referenced the now-viral moment she was caught on camera visibly befuddled by the unexpected gift first lady Melania Trump presented to her outside the White House. “It just all, you know, a lot.”
On social media, Obama’s “Bye, Felicia” comment once again had people clamoring to praise the former first lady for being, as one Twitter user wrote, the “Queen of authenticity.” Obama drew similar reactions earlier this month when she accidentally swore in front of a sold-out crowd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn while criticizing Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s controversial “lean in” mantra.
The words “Bye, Felicia” were first popularized by the 1995 comedy “Friday,” starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. In 2015, Ice Cube explained to Conan O’Brien that the phrase is meant “to get anyone out of your face that’s saying something stupid.” According to KnowYourMeme, a website that tracks viral Internet content, the dismissive expression started being widely used in 2014, gaining traction among Twitter users who included the hashtag #ByeFelicia.
However, even though Obama may have been ready to say “Bye, Felicia” to the presidency in 2017, she told Fallon on Tuesday she is still optimistic about the future of the country.
“Everywhere I go, I get to see young people and we owe young people that optimism, that hope, because what’s the alternative?" she said. "They come into this world . . . with so much promise and so much openness and we’re the ones that shut them down.”
She added: “There are dark days in so many of our journeys, but we have to push that arc towards hope, and that’s what I try to do every day.”