Harper's Bazaar recently talked about the arts with Michelle Obama, who recalled her involvement in music and theater as a girl in Chicago:
"I was fortunate to grow up in a family that appreciates music," she observes. "My maternal grandfather, we called him South Side, was a big jazz-music collector. He would play jazz 24 hours a day. As my mother said, when she was growing up, 'You learn to sleep through jazz.' He had speakers in every room in his house--including the bathroom." It was South Side who gave Michelle her first album, Stevie Wonder's Talking Book.
At school, she performed herself once. "I remember very early on being the good fairy in Hansel and Gretel and having to sing a solo, which was humiliating." In a fairy outfit? "Yes, it was a little tutu fairy costume, and I liked it because of the costume." (Now, at least, Mrs. Obama's best-dressed status has a basis in history.) "Oh, and my brother," she says, laughing, "was Hansel."
She also touched on sharing the arts with other first ladies, like Carla Bruni and Svetlana Medvedeva:
"It's a universal voice. When I travel to other countries, usually the first thing the spouses do is introduce you to their cultures through music and dance. [French first lady] Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is a musician. We gave her a Gibson guitar. When I came to visit, she pulled it out and played the most beautiful song. We were sitting there with family, and we started singing." When Mrs. Obama met the Russian first lady, Svetlana Medvedeva, last year, "She took me and my girls to see beautiful Russian folk dancing, and although we didn't speak the same language, we instantly connected." One of Mrs. Obama's priorities is to create an exchange between Russian arts students and kids from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. "Mrs. Medvedeva grasped the significance of what arts and music and song can mean to international relations."
She donned her own L'Wren Scott sheath for the photo shoot and posed with musicians Jason Yoder, Antonio Madruga, Elijah Easton, Zach Brown, and Kush Abadey and glass artists Carmen Salazar and Caleb Siemon. Photo by Jason Schmidt.