Michelle Obama’s post-White House memoir Becoming explored her roots and the path she followed to become the formidable woman we know and respect today. Her new documentary on Netflix, also titled Becoming, shadows her on her massively successful book tour, and focuses more on the role and the identity she’s forging for herself as a former First Lady who still has a lot to give.
Director Nadia Hallgren crafts the sort of documentary that will have you asking why this incredible woman won’t just run for President herself – but if you’re paying attention, Michelle Obama answers that question in every word and sigh. It’s clear that her eight year sentence in the White House has taken its toll. For America’s first black First Family, the presidential spotlight meant constant scrutiny and a constant need for carefully modulated perfection. The First Families that preceded and succeeded them have been allowed far less criticism for far greater blemishes. The Obamas knew that theirs would be treated differently and they played the part. But while Michelle Obama’s poise seemed effortless, Becoming shows the emotional impact, even the trauma, incurred for an accomplished and intelligent woman to mute her voice. And while she was a beloved First Lady for her husband’s entire term in office, it’s clear that she has now stepped confidently out of his shadow, and that the country, and even the world, has a thirst and a fervor for this new, less filtered, more authentic Michelle Obama.
While the documentary isn’t revealing any deep dark secrets, it does allow Michelle Obama to let down her hair – sometimes literally, into luscious curls, and to step out of the First Lady’s shoes – carefully curated by a stylist who understood her White House role as a costumer projecting class and elegance and respectability – and into gold, glittery, thigh-high boots, if that’s what she wants. The White House has changed her but it hasn’t silenced her. It hasn’t convinced her mother to stop favouring her brother, or her staff to stop teasing her, or her daughters to stop needing her. Seeing her nestled amongst any and all of these people gives us a clearer sense of who she is. And while those of us on the outside can’t help but respect and admire her, we see how much that holds true, and in fact truer, for those who know her more intimately.