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Michelle Obama in Harper's Bazaar: Her father sclupted and painted

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WASHINGTON---First Lady Michelle Obama discussed the arts in an interview with Harper's Bazaar--in a culture and fashion magazine package featuring her arts programs at the White House.

What I learned:

*Mrs. Obama wore a tutu in a school play, Hansel and Gretel.
*Her father, Fraser Robinson, a city worker, was a painter and sculptor.
*After Paul McCartney sang "Michelle" to her in the White House, "I was like, I'm done; I can go home now."

From Harper's:

"It was the arts that popped for the young Michelle Robinson when she was growing up in Chicago. "I was fortunate to grow up in a family that appreciates music," she observes. "My maternal grandfather, we called him South Side, was a big jazz-music collector. He would play jazz 24 hours a day. As my mother said, when she was growing up, 'You learn to sleep through jazz.' He had speakers in every room in his house--including the bathroom." It was South Side who gave Michelle her first album, Stevie Wonder's Talking Book.

"At school, she performed herself once. "I remember very early on being the good fairy in Hansel and Gretel and having to sing a solo, which was humiliating." In a fairy outfit? "Yes, it was a little tutu fairy costume, and I liked it because of the costume." (Now, at least, Mrs. Obama's best-dressed status has a basis in history.) "Oh, and my brother," she says, laughing, "was Hansel."

"But Mrs. Obama still found her voice. "We accessed culture in Chicago, which is one of the premier cities in the country for the arts." Visual art is also in her blood. "My father was an artist. He sculpted and painted and spent time at the Art Institute of Chicago," she remembers. (Fraser Robinson III died of complications from multiple sclerosis in 1991.) "Before he got really sick and had to work and raise us, he probably, if he had his choice, would have been an artist."

".....One of the privileges of being a presidential spouse is "almost everything is accessible. That's the beauty of this position," Mrs. Obama says. Next up, Motown, opera, classical music, "because I also think about this in terms of my children. I don't want them to develop just one taste. I want them to feel the power in country as much as they feel it in Justin Bieber." But there is power in the Bieber. "There is some power in the Bieber! But we don't have Fever," she chuckles. "But when Paul McCartney was here singing 'Michelle,' I was like, I'm done; I can go home now."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on October 13, 2010 10:58 AM.

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