Who are those willowy young women with Barack and Michelle Obama – and where’d they hide little Sasha and Malia?
Four years is a long time when it’s a half or a third of your life, and so TV viewers who hadn’t seen the Obama girls much since 2008 might have been truly startled recently at just how much they’d grown when they appeared onstage with their parents last month during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Malia is now 14, and in high school. Sasha is 11, now in sixth grade. Malia is nearly as tall as her parents: “Even though she’s 5-9, she’s still my baby,” Obama said two years ago. As for Sasha, her parents told People in August that she’s grown a foot in the last year, and suddenly resists cuddling.
It’s hard to believe that only four years ago, at the 2008 convention in Denver, Sasha, then 7, fidgeted in her purple frock, little white barrettes on either side of her head. “Daddy, what city are you in?” she called out in a high-pitched voice as her dad appeared on a huge video screen the night of Michelle Obama’s speech.
“I love you, Daddy!” called out Malia, 10, looking a bit older in a two-toned dress with straps.
Shielded from spotlight
For the president and first lady, protecting their privacy was an evolving skill. Candidate Obama quickly regretted, for example, an all-family interview granted to the TV show “Access Hollywood.”
Once the family arrived at the White House, strict arrangements were in place.
The news media traditionally respects the privacy of a president’s young children and doesn’t photograph or report on them unless they are in a public setting with their parents.
Yet the couple constantly talks about their kids. At times the president has embarrassed them, as when he told an audience that Malia once got a 73 on a science test. (He later apologized.)
Two years ago, when Malia first went to summer camp, the White House discouraged mention of it in the media, even though Obama mentioned it in interviews. And recently he revealed the state where both daughters had just spent a month at camp – New Hampshire.
“They just love talking about their girls,” says says Sandra Sobieraj, a correspondent for People magazine who has long covered first families. “They get genuine joy from them, and so they talk about it.’’
Whereas many White House children through history seem to suffer some sort of embarrassment or scandal, the Obama girls have had none.
“Compared to other White House families, this is clearly the most functional,” says Doug Wead, who chronicles a host of misfortunes of past White House kids in his book, “All the President’s Children.” (He’s now working on a book about White House siblings.) “This has been one of the most successful stories.”
An article in the New York Times last month mentions that there has not been “a gaffe or an embarrassing moment’’ about the Obama girls, which is a rarity for such well-known figures, especially when it comes to presidential children.
Chelsea Clinton was tormented as an adolescent for having freckles and frizzy hair. Barbara and Jenna Bush suffered brief careers as tabloid fodder for their nighttime adventures, though they have recently been far outmatched by Britain’s Prince Harry. “Malia and Sasha, meanwhile, publicly appear composed, polite and content,’’ the New York Times stated.
This is a version of a story compiled last month by the Associated Press.