“I am the former First Lady of the United States and also a descendent of slaves,” Michelle Obama says in the Netflix documentary Becoming. “It’s important to keep that truth right there.”
It’s one of many truths in the newly released documentary that chronicles the life of the former first lady, with scenes woven in from the 34-city book tour for her memoir of the same name.
From growing up on the South Side of Chicago to donning gowns at state dinners with world leaders, the film is an anthem of hope for Black and brown girls and women everywhere.
Being the first family of color in the White House came with fascinating moments, of which Mrs. Obama shares the good, bad and downright ugly. She candidly reveals the hurt she’s felt over the years because of blatant racism and hate, including the recollection of a college roommate moving out because young Michelle was Black.
Mrs. Obama shared the importance of carving her own path and not being a trophy wife during her marriage, including the eight years in the White House serving alongside former President Barack Obama. She humorously referred to their courtship by saying, “He was a tsunami coming after me.”
“I didn’t want to just be an appendage to his dreams,” she said, later adding, “My happiness is not dependent on him making me happy.”
During the Obama family’s time in the White House, daughters Malia and Sasha were, for the most part, shielded from public view. Just as there were brief glimpses into the lives of the first daughters back then, the same goes for their appearances in the documentary.
Having entered the White House at ages 10 and seven, both are now college students ages 21 and 18. A backstage encounter along the “Becoming” book tour shows eldest daughter Malia in awe of the magnitude of the moment, resulting in a mother-daughter exchange of gratitude and respect.
“It’s just like, damn, those eight years weren’t for nothing, you know?” Malia says. “You see that huge crowd out there and that last speech you gave…people are here because people really believe in love and hope in other people.”
Younger sister Sasha expresses her pride in a scene in the documentary as well. “I’m excited for her to be proud of what she’s done,” Sasha says. “I think that’s the most important thing for a human to do is be proud of themselves.”
Mrs. Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, appears in many instances throughout the documentary, with the former FLOTUS recalling wise sayings and many lessons she’s learned from her. There are tender scenes with her older brother Craig Robinson as well, including moments of common sibling rivalry and vying for their mother’s attention.
So many parallels can be drawn from Mrs. Obama’s “growing up Black” experience and that of others from working class households. In a scene some can often imagine, she takes a seat in a chair during a visit to her childhood home, reflecting on it being her late father’s chair, and emulating how he’d sit and the conversations he’d engage in from it.
On numerous occasions in the film, directed by Nadia Hallgren, Mrs. Obama references life lessons from places where a seat is required.
“Our dinner table was the first table where I felt like I belonged,” Obama said. She added that it had her “go out into the world expecting the same thing.”
The tears flowing in the Becoming documentary from many of those who encountered Mrs. Obama up close along the book tour are real. It’s a movement that cannot be stopped. The former first lady encourages women to make their presence felt and known.
“We can’t afford to wait for the world to be equal to start feeling seen,” Mrs. Obama says. “We’re far from it, just time will not allow it. Find tools within yourself to feel visible.”
Take your seat and come face to face with motivation in Becoming. The film is now playing on Netflix.