Michelle Obama is not afraid to talk about aging and she doesn’t think you should be either.
In a candid conversation with Oprah Winfrey as part of Oprah’s 2020 Vision tour in New York City, the former first lady, who celebrated her birthday on Jan. 17, spoke about the cultural and societal pressures for women to “stop” aging.
“I’m 56 with a 56-year-old-body and I love my body,” Obama said to the roughly 15,000 attendees. Oprah applauded Obama’s willingness to bring up the often taboo subject of age throughout the conversation.
“Yay for me,” Obama joked. “[Women] are struggling with so much. We don’t want to talk about our age and then we want to act like we should look like we did when we were 20,” she said. “I’m sorry men, y’all can look any kind of way and it seems to be okay.”
Obama was the featured guest for the fifth stop of Oprah’s motivational tour created in partnership with WW (formerly Weight Watchers). As public figures, both Oprah and Obama spoke about how they’ve seen people try to curb the aging process with plastic surgery and other efforts.
“We are in this culture where people are trying to stop it and then you have all of these frozen faces,” Oprah said.
“You’re in a photo line and everybody looks the same and you’re like ‘Didn’t I just meet you?’ Nope. Y’all just have the same lips. Stop it.” Obama added, soliciting laughter from the crowd.
But, she admits, sometimes following her own advice can be difficult. At times she struggles to look at herself in the mirror or on tape, and she doesn’t enjoy listening to her voice, either.
“I’m constantly judging myself too, just like everybody else,” she said. But, she added, making change is difficult because there is a lack of information available about what aging means for women in particular.
“Women, our bodies change drastically in comparison to men,” Obama said. “We’re going through menopause. We’ve got a lot going on and I don’t think we’ve done enough to understand what aging means for women’s bodies: ’What are we supposed to look like? How are we supposed to feel? We’re not talking about that enough.”
She pointed to the fitness market that often caters things like workout gear and workout classes to younger consumers — like her daughters Malia, 21 and Sasha, 18 — who often have less disposable income.
“I want to push these industries to start thinking about us mature women so that we’re operating with real, good information about what we should be wanting.”
In the absence of easily available information, Obama said she tries to seek advice and define what being healthy means for her. She said that she and President Barack Obama are finding happiness since he left office, and while serving as first lady was the “biggest privilege of my life,” at times, she said eight years in the White House took its toll.
Still, she said, she and the President are fortunate to have each other, their health and the resources and platform to advance important conversations.
“We have a sense of purpose,” she said. “That’s why we believe we owe so much because to whom much is given much is expected.”
The full conversation between Oprah and Michelle Obama will air on Wednesday, Feb. 12 on Oprah’s Facebook channel.
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