The first ladies of Africa came together with two of our own, Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, on Tuesday, kicking off the two-day African First Ladies Summit in Tanzania. Hosted by the George W. Bush Institute, the summit focuses on the health, economic empowerment, and education for African women -- and it's a rare occasion for many of the continent's impressive first ladies to come together on one stage.
Michelle Obama and Laura Bush played host in outfits that were classically "them": Laura in solid red, Michelle in a print. More impressive was the diverse array of fashions on the African first ladies, including Matilda Amissah of Ghana, Sia Nyama Koroma of Sierra Leone, Roman Tesfaye of Ethiopia, Janet Museveni of Uganda, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma of South Africa and Maria da Luz Dai Guebuza of Mozambique.
Even as the group discussed weighty issues, the importance of appearance -- specifically, the scrutiny of first ladies' appearances -- was on everyone's minds. Our current FLOTUS and Mrs. Bush joked about the pressure:
MRS. OBAMA: But being able to pursue our passions and do things that not only help our country and connect us with the rest of the world, it's a great privilege. So while people are sort of sorting through our shoes and our hair -- (laughter) -- whether we cut it or not --
MRS. BUSH: Whether we have bangs.
MRS. OBAMA: Whether we have bangs. (Laughter.) Who would have thought? I didn't call that one. (Laughter.)
MRS. BUSH: I said that just because our daughter, Barbara, cut bangs at the same time Michelle did. They commiserated --
MRS. OBAMA: I was doing what Barbara was doing. (Laughter.) I was just following her lead. But we take our bangs and we stand in front of important things that the world needs to see. And eventually, people stop looking at the bangs and they start looking at what we're standing in front of.
MRS. BUSH: We hope.
MRS. OBAMA: They do, and that's the power of our roles.
We definitely do -- even if we acknowledge that Michelle's bangs are looking awesome these days.
Check out the eclectic group of first ladies and read more about President and Michelle Obama's trip to Africa here.