Barack Obama Weighs in on the 'Multiple Badass Qualities' of Michelle, Malia and Sasha

The former president dedicated his memoir A Promised Land to his wife and two daughters

The most badass thing about Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia? While there are too many to name, Barack Obama said in the cover story for InStyle's upcoming January issue, he did offer a few insights.

"They all have multiple badass qualities," the former president, 59, told InStyle as he promotes his new memoir, A Promised Land (which was dedicated to his wife and daughters).

"I think people know Michelle well enough to know how amazing she can be as a public speaker. They probably are less aware of what it’s like to work out with Michelle when she’s really in her groove," President Obama said. "And sometimes that includes her boxing. You don’t want to get in the way when she’s working on a bag — including some kicks. There’s force there."

As for daughters Malia, 22, and Sasha, 19, Obama said their strength comes through in their confidence and buoyancy.

"Sasha is, as Malia describes it, completely confident about her own take on the world and is not cowed or intimidated — and never has been — by anybody’s titles, anybody’s credentials. If she thinks something’s wrong or right, she will say so," Obama said.

Barack, Michelle, Sasha, and Malia Obama
From left: Barack, Malia, Michelle and Sasha Obama in 2016. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty

Obama said that strength was on full display during a family visit to Russia, an anecdote he recounts in his new book.

"When she was 4, 5, 6 years old, once she made a decision, she would dig in and couldn’t be steered off it. I write about it in the book, how we were trying to get her to taste caviar when we were visiting Russia," he said. "She was like, 'Mnn-nnh. No. Sorry. That looks slimy. It’s nasty. I’m not going to do it — even if I’ve got to give up dessert.' And that part of her character has always been there."

Malia, her dad said, is "buoyant."

"She’s somebody who enjoys people, enjoys life and enjoys conversation," he said. "She’s never bored, which is a badass quality that can take you places."

While Malia and Sasha are both attending college, they've been spending more time with their parents during the novel coronavirus pandemic, which required many students to head home in the spring for online classes.

In September Mrs. Obama, 56, shared that the girls were, like many others, studying from home during the pandemic — telling Conan O'Brien the two were "no longer thrilled" to be social distancing with their parents.

"I think first our kids got a little sick of us ... which was fine, 'cause we were pretty much sick of them," she said.

The increased togetherness comes as the Obamas had just begun a new phase of life, as empty-nesters.

In a conversation with Oprah Winfrey in February, Mrs. Obama spoke of the "emotional space" required to parent.

“I put a lot of time and energy into parenting these girls but right now we are trying to make their lives normal ... all that energy I can now place back on me and spending time figuring out my next chapter, how I want to spend the rest of my life,” including more time with her husband, Mrs. Obama said.

The first of a two-volume set of presidential memoirs, A Promised Land shattered sales records in its first day and is on pace to become the best-selling presidential memoir in history. (Mrs. Obama's 2018 memoir, Becoming, was its own runaway success.)

According to the Associated Press, A Promised Land sold almost 890,000 copies in the U.S. and Canada in its first 24 hours.


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