First lady Michelle Obama is making her second Vogue cover appearance for the publication’s April 2013 issue — and also sparking another backlash. On the heels of the minor controversy caused when the first lady spoke at the 2013 Oscars via video, Mrs. Obama’s latest media foray has attracted a large number of irate commentors to major sites. In messages that mix the personal and the political, anonymous users are taking the occasion of the first lady speaking with Vogue in a high profile story to go on the attack.
No, they are not discussing her blue Reed Krakoff dress (while some do ding her signature bangs). Fashion, itself a contentious topic, has largely been forgotten in the stream of online chatter focusing on Michelle Obama’s fitness as a model for children, her alleged overexposure — and even her relationship with her husband. Plus, the frequent accusations of classism the first lady receives when doing something perceived by many as “too glamorous” were also in effect.
“Our own version of Eva Peron takes another step forward with Juan Barack to play the populist game whilst living high on the hog (on the people’s dime) with the Hollywood and New York glitterati,” complained one user on The Washington Post.
Many of the over 500 comments on The Huffington Post about the cover are similarly critical.
“Her role as a Presidents wife should be doing good for the country [sic],” wrote one user on the site. “She must want to be a model.”
Others used the occasion to voice fears about pressing social issues that the first lady has no direct power to influence.
“Can media stop doing this crap? Who cares [that the] first lady is on whatever magazines,” one such person stated. “My family is worrying to dead with sequestration. We won’t be able to pay our bills and my children will be suffering with my 20% pay cut. First Lady should do something more meaningful for her country instead of wearing nice clothes and smiling on the cover of any magazine. [sic]”
It was clear that several comments on stories about the April cover were deleted, suggesting that the ranting about Mrs. Obama was so bad that a substantial number of enraged site visitors violated these online outlets’ decency policies.
But, there were a fair number of people who loved seeing Michelle Obama pose for her second Vogue cover — and a strong throng defending her against ideological assailants.
“Michelle Obama is one POWERFUL woman. She can’t even pose for a magazine without heads exploding. To all haters, it’s perfectly okay if you don’t find her attractive,” said one of the first lady’s fans.
For Michelle Obama, these reactions — good and bad — are likely a part of public life that she has accepted by now.
She stated that it was “absolutely not surprising” when her appearance at the Academy Awards set off a right wing response of intense, critical scrutiny.
“Shoot, my bangs set off a national conversation. My shoes can set off a national conversation. That’s just sort of where we are. We’ve got a lot of talking going on,” she said about reactions to her media presence. “It’s like everybody’s kitchen-table conversation is now accessible to everybody else so there’s a national conversation about anything.”
Also, Mrs. Obama’s love of luxurious clothing is not as selfish as some make it seem. Ironically, dressing well helps the first lady to better serve others.
“If you’re comfortable in your clothes it’s easy to connect with people and make them feel comfortable as well,” Michelle Obama has said about her somewhat controversial clothing choices.
Making people feel comfortable is something the first lady does continuously, whether she is working with the public on her Let’s Move! initiative to reduce childhood obesity, or contributing in person to the betterment of military families through her Joining Forces campaign.
Yet, love her or hate her, people will have to get used to seeing Michelle Obama on magazine covers and television. Not only is she the most televised first lady of all time, Mrs. Obama is also extremely popular — more so than the president. Given both of these factors, we can expect a lot more coverage of the first lady in the years to come.
Everybody should get situated for what promises to be a bumpy ride full of passionate debates over Michelle Obama’s image.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.
This article has been edited.