First Lady Michelle Obama was named Michael Lavaughn Robinson after her birth. However, her name Michael was part of an unfounded rumor in social media declaring that she is a transgender woman. None of the claims were proven, but it made the rounds of many gossip mills and conspiracy-themed shows.
Never mind Michael because Michelle has proven in many ways that not only is she a woman, but she is an empowered and intelligent person.
Michael Lavaughn Robinson: The Truth Behind Her
Her Early Years
Michelle Lavaughn Robinson was born on the 17th of January 1964, in Illinois, to Marian Shields Robinson, a homemaker, and Fraser Robinson III, a city water plant worker.
Looking back, Michelle described her childhood as growing up in a conventional home, where her father worked, her mother stayed at home, and they all ate dinner together. She grew up in a closely-knit family that enjoyed reading and playing Monopoly. She also often got to bond with her extended family from both her mother’s and father’s side. Her great-aunt, who was a piano teacher, taught Michelle how to play the instrument.
While growing up, she was emotionally affected by her father’s battle with multiple sclerosis. Despite the ordeal, Michelle used it as motivation to attain what her father wanted for all his children–to be a good student and stay out of trouble.
Michelle entered a gifted class at Bouchet Academy, formerly Bryn Mawr Elementary School, in grade six. She then got into the first magnet high school in Chicago, the Whitney Young High School, known as Selective Enrollment Academe.
The high school was a three-hour round-trip commute from their home. Aside from the everyday journey, Michelle constantly put up a brave face, despite her fear about other people’s perception of her and being faced with gender discrimination. She had to endure the latter during her growing years. She would always get passed over when someone asked an important opinion, and most people would instead ask her older brother or other men around.
She used all the negativity to keep going and better herself. For four years, Michelle was part of the honor roll in high school. She was a student council treasurer, National Honor Society’s member, and took advanced placement classes. She was the class salutatorian when she graduated in 1981.
Michelle followed in her brother’s footsteps and enrolled at the Princeton University in 1981. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in 1985 as a cum laude. Her major was sociology, and she took African American studies as a minor. With Walter Wallace as her adviser, she was able to complete a senior thesis, titled “Princeton Educated Blacks and the Black Community.”
Getting into Princeton was no piece of cake for Michelle. While she believed that the fact that her brother was an alumnus helped her during the admission process, she felt like she always had to prove her worth. Some of her teachers in high school told her that she might be setting her sights too high and even discouraged her from applying.
College was overwhelming during the first year for two reasons: it was her first time in this kind of setting, and neither of her parents was able to graduate from college. Her life at Princeton was both an eye-opener and a realization about her ethnicity. She never knew that her color would become a problem until a parent of a white roommate asked for her daughter’s reassignment due to Michelle’s race.
The request was not granted, but it made Michelle feel like a stranger on campus. She always felt like an outcast despite her teachers’ and classmates’ efforts to reach out and make her feel welcome. Aside from her color, college life also became an eye-opener about the economic class system. Michelle was shocked when she saw students driving BMWs on campus.
Life After Princeton
Instead of wallowing in negative emotions, Michelle made herself busy by becoming part of the Carl A. Fields Center, which was previously called the Third World Center. The group, which is both cultural and academic, supported students considered as a minority. Michelle got involved in its daycare center that also helped in offering tutorials to older children after school.
After Princeton, she applied to Harvard Law School to get her Juris Doctor degree. This is where she found the answers to the questions bugging her during her time at Princeton, i.e., should she keep the identity that Princeton was able to instill or remain as her parents’ daughter. To this, Michelle concluded that she could be black and brilliant at the same time.
She became an advocate for the rights of minority groups, while at Harvard. She also assisted low-income tenants faced with legal housing woes, while working at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. She attributes all the opportunities she had to her education.
Michael Lavaughn Robinson’s Personal Life
Michelle lost her father in 1991, due to complications to his health. She would always refer to the loss as the “loss in scar” and “hole in my heart.” However, her father’s memories served as her biggest motivation in life.
She met Barack Obama at the law firm, Sidley Austin LLP, and they were among the few African Americans employed there. Barack was a summer associate and Michelle was tasked as his mentor. They would frequently go out to business lunches, but Barack got Michelle’s attention when they both attended a community organization meeting.
Michelle did not plan to fall in love. She often told her mother that she would rather focus on her work. In 1989, they went for their first date where they watched the Do the Right Thing film by Spike Lee. Barack said that they were opposites at first. This is because he was adventurous while Michelle had stability which she got from her supportive family. They tied the knot three years later.
Michelle suffered from a miscarriage that led the couple to opt for in-vitro fertilization. Through this, she was able to conceive their two daughters, Malia Ann in 1998 and Natasha in 2001.
She has always been a loving mother, even after Barack entered politics. She made sure that she spent more time at home during her husband’s presidential campaign in 2008. Like normal couples, the Obamas had their highs and lows, with most of their arguments leaning toward finding a balance between work and family life.
While she was adamant at first about Obama’s bid for the presidency, she agreed to support her husband when he promised to quit smoking in exchange for her support. She reduced her professional workload to commit to the campaign and, later, to her husband’s presidency, while never neglecting her duties as a mother.
She became the US First Lady from 2009 to 2017, which was more than enough time for people to acknowledge what a remarkable woman she is. She helped women who found it hard to balance work and family, supported homeless families, promoted arts education, made programs for military families, and promoted healthy eating to end childhood obesity, among many others.
In 2021, Michael Lavaughn Robinson announced that she has been reducing her workload and gradually moving toward her retirement. She no longer needs to prove anything. She has already done so much, as a daughter, wife, mother, woman, and most important of all, as a human being.