Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama

Source: Paras Griffin / Getty

With Dwyane Wade as a father and Gabrielle Union as a stepmother, Zaya Wade is someone who we would never expect to exhibit any signs of being starstruck but the 13-year-old was cutely flustered when she came face to face with her “idol,” our forever First Lady Michelle Obama Thursday night to interview her about the young reader edition of her memoir “Becoming”.

Zaya let Mrs. Obama know she was grateful for the opportunity to speak with her “idol”, especially because she had a chance to miss class to do so. The question Zaya asked was an extremely thoughtful one.

“I wanted to ask you what advice do you have for teens who want to be themselves and thrive like you have and currently are?” Zaya asked.

Michelle responded first by complimenting her young interviewer, “Like you have and currently are. I am just so proud of you, being just an amazing role model and embracing your truth. You’re already doing this so maybe this is for some other people listening.”

“I feel I need help,” Zaya interjected.

“My first piece of advice is to be patient with yourself,” Michelle responded. “Number one, at your age, or in the teenage years and probably through your twenties, you’re going to be experimenting with so many versions of yourself, right? All young people are trying on different versions, different voices. They’re learning about their intellect, what they’re good at, what they love, what they like. This is the period of exploration.”

“Sometimes we put too much pressure on teenagers to know who’re going to be,” Obama continued. “Like, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ That’s what I write. It was the question that I hated. It’s like, how am I supposed to know? I’m 13, I’m 12. You’re not supposed to know yet.”

“Your job now as a teenager, is not to have figured it all out but to give yourself space and time to learn and grow. So that means you want to try a lot of things on. You want to read a lot of good books. You want to connect with different friends and people who are not like you sometimes, because sometimes it’s the people who are not like you who will show you a part of yourself that you never knew was there and that’s not necessarily what teenagers do. Teenagers are comfortable in their sameness. A lot of times they want to be with people in their clique, people who look like them, who act like them, who like the same things, and they’re trying that on. But what we do know is that growth comes with difference. Growth comes when you try on something new and you learn from that. So I would encourage exploring that, because it’s a lifelong journey, and who you are today, no matter how confident you feel, by the time you’re my age, almost 60, you will have tried on so many different versions of yourself. And hopefully I have more things to try on. So, the journey of becoming and learning who you are, it never ends. You just continue to grow if you’re lucky. Does that make sense?”

Zaya, who wore glasses, a black floral shirt dress with a white collar and her hair in a red braided bun, nodded in agreement during Michelle’s response.

Obama also asked Zaya what advice she would give, saying “I’m curious to know how you think about this.”

“I mean, based off my experiences, I would probably say the same,” Zaya responded, agreeing with Michelle’s advice. “I mean even right now I’m trying to branch out and do and try more things, of course it’s a very hard time to, like, expand your circle in Coronovirus. But like even with friends, I was like you described, I was like, “Oh I only want to hang out with people who are like the same as me or like we like the same interests” and I had this one friend, still very good friend of mine, who was very different. And no one really thought that we would be good friends and now she is my best friend of four years…”

We can only imagine how nerve wracking it must’ve been — considering that all of us are like Zaya at least in the sense of considering Michelle Obama as a role model!

Michelle showed Zaya so much love too, promising to eventually have an in person meeting and telling her how proud she is of the teen. Before concluding the interview Michelle told Zaya:

“I think that you are the kind of individual who will never feel stuck. I think that’s one of the important things you’re offering to the audience that you’re serving. Like break out of the same something and try something new because the world will be your oyster and you will be able to do anything in life.”

We agree! Kudos to her for keeping her cool and showing so much grace under pressure.

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