an open letter by christine anu to former first lady michelle obama
Dear Michelle Obama,
My name is Christine Anu. I come from humble beginnings in the Torres Strait Islands, located off the top of North Queensland, Australia. Growing up we survived on fish, mango and damper. We had no electricity or money and there was a housing shortage. Domestic violence was rife and there were little to no opportunities for Indigenous women. Through determination instilled in me by my mother, I broke that cycle to forge a successful career in the Australian Entertainment Industry spanning more than two decades. As a black woman growing up in Australia, there were very few role models to look up to who had broken every mould. But it’s 2017 and we have been gifted you.
You have left a legacy that I don’t think will be matched in my lifetime. I am 47 years old with a successful career and two beautiful children yet I find myself looking to you as my role model. Not as First Lady, but as an independent woman, a working mother, a black woman, a leader, a wife and businesswoman.
As a black woman who has spent her life fighting for equality in a predominantly white society, I watched in awe as you entered the White House, curious as to how the first black first lady would overcome the racism and vitriol hurled at you through the election campaign. With class, sass, style and a sense of humour, that’s how!
You took ownership of this role with no job description and you made it your own, tackling the social issues you knew needed addressing. I remember one afternoon I caught my teenage daughter in the kitchen making a salad. A salad. It was unprecedented and quite frankly, I was worried. ‘Why a salad?’ I asked without trying to scare her off. Because she had seen you talking about the importance of healthy eating. That’s when I truly understood the impact you and your initiatives were having on a global scale.
And your influence has gone beyond race, beyond gender, beyond age. I once caught the men in my circle talking about how ‘cool’ you were after they’d seen you kick Ellen’s butt in a push up competition. You brought muscle and style to the table. I can’t think of any other first lady I’ve heard men even talk about.
They were right though – you are cool! Watching you chat with Ellen, mom-dance with Jimmy Fallon and carpool karaoke with James Corden, you exuded confidence. I realised that you can bring fun to even the most serious role. You don’t need a power suit to be powerful or confident. It comes from within. (I wouldn’t mind one or two of the dresses you’ve worn though! Talk about style.)
The area you shine in to me though is that of working mother. I have struggled so often trying to find the balance between myself and my family, my work and my children. That guilt that comes with being a mother of never quite doing enough.
But it’s not our job to be liked, is it? In fighting for youth – their education, and health – you have provided an education reminding women like me that we are responsible for guiding the next generation. In your actions you’ve provided the blue print for how to do it. It’s such an awesome responsibility, raising kids. One I never considered when I brought my babies into the world.
I am truly sad to see you leave the White House. From the time you become the First Lady you urged your nation to treat others with respect and dignity. History has given you the chance to demonstrate that to the world and more than ever, we need to emulate it. As you say, our children are watching and listening.
Thank you for being the role model I didn’t know I needed. You have shown me that I can be the role model I never had if I live out loud. It is a truly extraordinary and unprecedented legacy you are leaving the world. One I am privileged to have witnessed.
Whatever you choose to do in the future, please know you are a positive light in many people’s lives around the world. Never stop shining bright and advocating for women, youth and equality.
We miss you already!