Sunday, May 3, 2009

The First Lady is Running the Show

Reminds me of the classic Diana Ross song, "The Boss", and h/t JJP.

One thing about Barack and Michelle Obama, they have learned the art of edit, and they have learned it quickly.

During the general election, Cindy McCain put it out there as a shot across the bow that Michelle Obama was not patriotic, did not have pride in her country or love her country. That statement, which was twisted, went a very long way. During the Democratic Convention you saw resilient Michelle Obama, a woman who is a mother, sister, daughter and wife, just like many of us, show the country that she would not be on that stage had it not been for this very country. Deep.

Fast forward to April 2009 and Michelle Obama is more popular than her husband. This all comes from editing folks, editing. She saw and recognized her mistake, as some would say, fixed it and is one of the most prominent women in the world.

No one, at this juncture, should be surprised that there is a Team Michelle in the White House. Team Michelle's Job: to strategically keep the positive on the First Lady, while digesting the poll numbers. Sorry, but that is what they do in the White House. How can you edit if you don't know what to fix?

Vogue magazine, the fashion world’s chronicler of first ladies, bedecked Hillary Rodham Clinton in black velvet and Laura Bush in blue silk. But not Michelle Obama. She insisted on choosing her own dress (a sleeveless, magenta silk number) and using her own hair and makeup stylists for the glossy photograph splashed across Vogue’s March cover.

This was nothing new for Mrs. Obama, who has pointedly controlled her look on the covers of People, Essence, More and O, Oprah Winfrey’s magazine. Editors at Essence, who suggested colors, styles and accessories, said her staff did not call to acknowledge their overtures. Editors at More said they were dumbfounded when, after painstaking negotiations, Mrs. Obama showed up at the photo shoot with a different dress from the one she had promised to wear. (She ultimately agreed to go back to her first choice, a pink Maria Pinto sheath.)

“We were like, ‘Excuse me, we tell you what to wear,’ ” said Lesley Jane Seymour, the editor-in-chief of More, who said Mrs. Obama refused to wear anything other than her own clothes for their October cover. “She wanted none of that. She was creating the cover. She was creating the image. There’s definitely a will of steel there.”

Indeed, the new first lady is methodically shaping her public image, and in ways that extend far beyond fashion.

She has given coveted interviews primarily to women’s magazines and news outlets that have allowed her to highlight her domestic side: her focus on motherhood and her efforts to settle her family in the White House; her interest in gardening and healthy living; her affinity for mixing off-the-rack and designer goods; and her efforts to open up the White House to ordinary Americans.

Mrs. Obama’s aides meet regularly with the president’s senior communications team and select public events that will maximize her message. She sticks closely to her script, delivering lively, brief speeches that rarely stray from her prepared remarks and steer clear of controversy. She talks about her support for volunteerism and military families, but seldom discusses race, her keen interest in influencing public policy or her place in history as the first African-American first lady.

By focusing on her domestic persona and harnessing the fascination with her family, the first lady and her communications team have emerged as the key architects of one of the most remarkable political transformations in years. Only 10 months ago, Mrs. Obama was described as an angry black woman by some conservatives and as a liability to her husband. Now, she is widely admired for her warmth, and her vibrant and accessible manner, and her race seems almost an afterthought to many Americans. She has the highest favorability ratings of any incoming first lady since 1980, and is even more popular than the president. read more here.....

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