×
ADVERTISEMENT

Michelle Obama opens up about 'feeling out of place' due to her height while growing up

In a recent episode of 'The Light Podcast,' the activist, author and mother-of-two discussed feeling out of place while growing up as a tall girl.

Michelle Obama opens up about 'feeling out of place' due to her height while growing up
Cover Image Source: Michelle Obama at YouTube Theater on December 13, 2022, in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for ABA)

If you have felt like an outsider because of your height and appearance, former First Lady Michelle Obama is here to help you embrace yourself, find self-confidence and understand that you're enough just the way you are. According to CNN, in a recent episode of 'The Light Podcast,' the activist, author and mother discussed feeling out of place while growing up as a tall girl with TV host and comedian Conan O'Brien.



 

Though they do not share much in common, Conan—being 6'4"—bonded with Obama over the challenges of being the tallest kid in the class. "I was the tall girl... That whole thing, you grow up, nothing fits you. Clothes weren't made for you," recounted Obama, now 5-foot-11. "I spent my life tugging on my pants sleeve. My mom made my clothes. It was just like, 'Oh lord, please let's not go to the Butterwick section.' She says, 'I can make that!' and I just want to go to the department store and get the jeans with the tag with the Gloria Vanderbilt label. I just desperately wanted to be like the girls I saw, the peppy cheerleaders." Her emotional transparency and relatable imagery of her struggles have paved the way to empower young women and men.

ADVERTISEMENT



 

Obama also discussed how representation affects almost everyone who feels othered in some way in their lives growing up. "We don't see ourselves reflected anywhere, and I hear from young people who talk about feeling invisible because they don't see signs of themselves anywhere in the world," she said. "So many of us are living in a world where we feel othered. That’s why it’s so important for us to tell our stories."

ADVERTISEMENT

In a 2022 British Vogue piece, Obama wrote about how left out she felt and how much she wanted to be different. "'Tall' became the label that got attached to me first, and it stuck with me right through," she wrote. "It was not something I could shake, not something I could hide about myself."



 

ADVERTISEMENT

Conan also shared his struggles with how he looked as a teen, and there were some similarities. "I never had pants that fit me," he said. "When I was a kid growing up, I had bright orange hair, and my mother would cut it in a bowl. I hated having freckles. I hated having orange hair. I'd see people on TV and say, 'That's how I'm supposed to look, not like this."

Obama's book, titled "The Light We Carry"— part memoir, part self-help — shares stories of how she has learned to overcome not only the trauma of these anxious times but also her lifelong struggle with self-doubt. Having women leaders like Obama highlight their experiences of being human so articulately encourages the youth that speaking up is not merely an exercise but also an empowering tool.

ADVERTISEMENT



 

According to PEOPLE, "The Light We Carry" emerged amid the 2020-2021 pandemic and political unrest, from questions Obama received from her daughters, her girlfriends and letters from people around the country. "Everyone was searching for some answers on how to cope. And for some reason, they were asking me, 'What do you do?' I had to start thinking about that," she explained.

ADVERTISEMENT

Being open about your struggles for the world to see comes with a price and Obama was no stranger to that. "Yes, Michelle Obama struggles with fear. You're putting your most vulnerable thoughts on paper and it's about to go on bookshelves. My first reaction is, 'Why did you do this? People are going to judge it,'" she said, adding, "That's the only way I know how to be... honest about myself first and trying to stay vulnerable. I think people learn not through edict, but through stories."

Recommended for you