Former FLOTUS (First Lady Of The United States) Michelle Obama has released her eponymous debut podcast, The Michelle Obama Podcast. The Spotify exclusive features some exceptional guests and has already served us some eye-opening conversations in just nine episodes.
Having already read Michelle’s memoir Becoming and watching the Netflix documentary of the same name, I was excited to dive into her latest project. Michelle invites close friends, colleagues and loved ones onto her podcast to explore the ways in which our relationships and connections shape and define us as individuals. It's easy for a podcast about relationships to be quite cliché but Michelle does a great job of dissecting them from lots of interesting angles and taps into some of the relationships we wouldn’t normally think about (our connections to our communities or our bodies for example).
Debut episode, ‘President Barack Obama’ features Michelle in conversation with the former President. Through the lens of their childhoods — Michelle growing up with her parents and brother on the SouthSide of Chicago and Barack, raised by a single mother and then by his grandparents in Hawaii — they tackle the core impact their communities had on their development and how the breakdown of such key structures has affected society at large. Before his political career Barack was involved in grassroots community work in Chicago, making him the perfect choice for this episode. His community work is an aspect he touches on in his own book Dreams From My Father: A Story Of Race And Inheritance and Michelle does the same in Becoming. Their approach to the issues they discuss matches the depth of each topic and their genuine, light-hearted banter makes this a great introduction to the rest of the podcast.
‘What Your Mother Never Told You About Health,’ is the third episode and the highlight of the podcast so far for me. Michelle and close friend Dr Sharon Maloney, dissect the relationships women have with our bodies and with their health. The focus may be on women’s bodies, but Michelle positions this as a conversation for men to also be a part of. Dr Sharon, an OBGYN, highlights the importance of opening up these conversations as women’s bodies and health is still such a shrouded and unexplored topic.
‘Growing up Robinson’ features Michelle’s older brother Craig Robinson. This is a really light-hearted episode and gives listeners a nice break from some of the heavier, meatier subjects the podcast covers. The siblings reflect on their childhoods and the lessons that were instilled in them from a young age.
Mentorship is the focus of episodes seven and eight, ‘Working with Women’ and ‘Across Generations.’ On ‘Working with Women,’ Michelle is joined by her former boss Valerie Jarrett (when she worked in public service) and it’s a particular favourite of mine as it goes into detail about connections we don’t talk about enough — workplace relationships. Our spaces of work should make space for us to exist as multi-layered beings with family commitments, health concerns or anything else that occupies our time outside of work. Valerie talks about how she set a positive tone in her place of work by taking calls from her daughter even during crucial meetings and Michelle spoke about how this small action provided a vision for her as a working mother. Michelle has mentored lots of young women through her mentorship programme at the White House and still continues to do so. She looks at mentorship as a two-way process — a mentor has great responsibilities as the role model, but there are also things a mentee can bring to the table as well.
Aside from the candid conversation, the podcast also features an iconic soundtrack. Stevie Wonder created the podcast’s intro track and music from some of my favourites, Mereba, Ari Lennox, Steve Lacy, Lianne La Havas and Arlo Parks are scattered throughout. The sounds are diverse and set the tone and general vibe of each episode. All the tracks from this season have been collated into a playlist, Vol.1 The Michelle Obama Playlist which you should definitely check out.
If you are familiar with Michelle’s previous projects, you’ll recognise the same tranquil and intelligent energy that follows her. Through simple and profound conversation, ‘The Michelle Obama Podcast’ shows us the power of our stories, relationships and experiences as human beings. The subtle power of inviting her close friends onto the podcast creates a sense of ease and genuine conversation that resonates with listeners. Becoming her memoir and documentary delves into Michelle’s past and although the podcast does something similar, it also looks at our current climate as well as into the future.