With the White House in her rearview, Michelle Obama is ready to dish.
In her first TV sit-down since leaving the White House, Obama gabbed with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, her favorite comic foil, about what life has been like outside of 1600 Penn, in an episode airing Thursday.
But before we get to the silly topics like President Barack Obama’s beef over his lack of closet space in their new house, and dogs Bo and Sunny figuring out the doorbell, something serious.
When DeGeneres, whose daily sign-off is “be kind to one another,” asked the former first lady about the current state of divisiveness in the country, Obama pulled no punches — and mentioned no names.
“I personally feel frightened,” DeGeneres said. “What is your take on what’s happening?”
“We are this mosh pit of a society, and sometimes there’s a rub,” Obama said. “But the thing I learned in the eight years I was in the White House, what we do every day in our lives, the good things that we do every day … that’s what it means to lead with hope and not fear, and that’s all we have is hope.”
“We have to be an openhearted nation,” she continued, “and that’s who we are, and that’s the truth of who we are. We can’t lose sight of that.”
“So lets just keep living our lives like that every single day and forget what they’re saying in Washington. That’s not necessarily who we are,” Obama said to applause from the studio audience.
Now on to the really important stuff.
“Are you bored?” DeGeneres asked.
Obama, dressed in an off-the-shoulder white blouse and black slacks, joked that she’s been doing “nothing much” since exiting public life and that she got “all gussied up” for her appearance with DeGeneres. But seriously, folks, the former first family is “doing great” and staying busy.
Although their return to civilian life hasn’t been without its hiccups. Apparently the former commander in chief feels “shortchanged” on his square footage in their Kalorama rental.
“He doesn’t have enough closet space — sorry,” said Obama, who did all the house hunting and designing with her team because her husband was busy “being the president.”
“He’s got the smallest room for his office,” she added. “And Sasha actually killed in this house — she has, like, this two-room suite, it’s all decked out. She’s got, like, a living room area and bedroom, and she designed it. So he’s really hating on her.” Malia, a freshman at Harvard University, has “a room up in the attic somewhere.”
Another funny bit about living like a normal person? The doorbell.
“Now I have a door and doorbell, and people actually trip out when I come to my door and I open it,” Obama said. Bo and Sunny, the family’s Portuguese water dogs, are unimpressed by the bell. “They’re like, ‘Huh, I never heard that before.’ ”
Obama also offered a play-by-play of one of her more viral moments, the very day that marked her return to private-ish life, President Trump’s inauguration. Remember that awkward moment between the Obamas and the Trumps when Michelle Obama seemed confused about what to do with a gift from Melania Trump?
“Well, there’s all this protocol,” she explained. “I mean, this is like a state visit, so they tell you that you’re going to do this, they’re going to stand here. Never before do you get this gift, so I’m sort of like okay.”
“What am I supposed to do with this gift? And everyone cleared out, and no one would come and take the box. And I’m thinking, do we take the picture with it?” she continued. President Obama “saved the day,” grabbing the blue Tiffany box (it was a “lovely frame,” by the way) and stashing it inside before the photo op.
And speaking of gifts, Obama had one for DeGeneres, who turned 60 last month.
In an homage to their hilarious visit to CVS in 2016, Obama presented the talk show host with a basket of goodies from the drugstore. Inside, there was a box of wine, a Barack Obama chia pet, the fiber supplement Metamucil and a device that helps with push-ups.
“I don’t need it,” joked Obama, who famously won a push-up contest against DeGeneres during her first appearance on the show in 2008, “so I don’t know how it works.”
In the year since Obama moved out of the White House and into a home less than two miles away, the former first lady has led a relatively low-key life in Washington. She has done no major interviews or official events in the city since the Trumps arrived, perhaps in an attempt to give the new first family some breathing room, and the time and space to stretch into their roles without the popularity of their predecessors looming overhead.
Well, time’s up. Michelle Obama is back.