“Even after she earned two degrees from some of the best universities in America, she still faced the doubts that were rooted in deep social prejudice and stereotypes; worrying whether she was being too assertive, or too angry, or too tall. … I like tall women,” said President Barack Obama. In that segment of the president’s address last month to the Congressional Black Caucus, Obama spoke candidly of first lady Michelle Obama’s identity challenges.
At 5’11”, Michelle Obama is not the average woman, literally or figuratively. As a 5’11” woman myself, Michelle Obama’s story is a familiar one. For tall women, two questions are posed lifelong. In the absence of political correctness, aesthetically pleasing women are asked, “Are you a model?” whereas average women get, “You must play sports.” Hence, the height complex ensues.
Certainly, models and athletes have my respect for their various professions as art, culture and sports are integral components of our society, neither of which I was qualified. However, Michelle Obama’s towering figure has given tall women seven years of an alternative response to the cliché, annoying, tall women questions. “No, I’m not a model, or an athlete, I am a first lady–in-training.” While this may be a stretch (pun intended), Michelle Obama’s display of the floor-length Vera Wang gown at the White House State Dinner for the Chinese prime minister made everyone take notice.
On September 24, 2015, Michelle Obama set the blogs ablaze as she dawned yet another regal dress fitted for her queenly frame. However, the first lady’s impeccable fashion sense supersedes designer labels. Thanks to her, the two-inch, patent-leather pump has been resurrected in a chic, fashion-forward way. Tall women can ditch the kitten heels, and tower toward six feet as Michelle Obama has given the green light to walk proud and tall. She often stands shoulder to shoulder with the most powerful man in the world, and yet, she is not imposing.
Michelle Obama simply has an undeniable presence that exudes confidence and class to be envied by all.
Tall women understand the unfair stigma that comes with elongated femur, tibia and fibula bones: overbearing, intimidating and masculine. Yet, Michelle Obama is the antithesis of the aforementioned adjectives: elegant, poised and statuesque.
“All of us are beneficiaries of a long line of strong, Black women who have helped carry this country forward,” said President Obama.
Those weight-bearing shoulders just happened to be above-average height.
Dr. Chinwe O. Okeke is the honors program director and an assistant professor of biology at Concordia College Alabama.