Becoming is a beautiful whirlwind of emotions. The elements of seeing Michelle Obama’s life after the White House mixed with the real life stories of some of the students she spoke to, and seeing how members of her staff and family have been impacted by her life in the White House, are presented beautifully and intimately for all to see.

After the fact, it is easy to forget the history that was made during their time in the White House, but in revisiting and reflecting on their achievements, especially in today’s political climate, it is awe inspiring to think about the reality of what having a black family in the White House meant both for the United States and the world.

Becoming gives a glimpse into real life pressures of being in office. On the outside it always seemed that Michelle was strong, poised and confident, so it was surprising to see how the realities of the White House almost broke her soul. Racism, hatred and threats were real and she, as a human being, had to deal with all of that, and like anyone in those circumstances, she was affected personally. You really saw her humanity in learning how to navigate her new life in the public eye.

But the documentary does not stop at politics and the inner workings of the White House. While we all know Michelle Obama the First Lady, in Becoming we get to know her as a daughter and little sister. Seeing her reflect on her father and grandfather, joking with her brother and mother, and watching her in her childhood home added a personal touch to the film.

What stands out in Becoming were her standards; she has high standards and she holds to them no matter what. She has always been known for her mantra, “When they go low, we go higher”. During this documentary she also noted, “The higher you go, the higher you have to be”. She was at the highest level one could achieve in America and never lost sight of that in her character. The way she carried herself was a standard. The way her children were raised in the White House was a standard. How she related to the public was a standard, and these standards have become guides for many to follow as she continues to be a role model years after leaving office.

What also stands out is her knowledge of self.

“We have to be willingly to say who we are. I am the former First Lady and the descendant of slaves”, she says in the film. She was well aware of the responsibility she had, not only as a leader but as the first black leaders of the United States. There were great expectations placed on her, mainly perfection, and she felt it, but rose to the occasion. She knew who she wanted to be in the White House and outside of it.

In the end, Becoming is an authentic picture of a woman who built bridges. She impacted young and old, men and women, America and the world, en route to eventually becoming arguably the most impactful First Lady to ever take office. Not bad for a black girl from the South Side of Chicago.

Koliah Bourne

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