Michelle Obama is one of the most dynamic first ladies in history. As the first Black first lady, she faced an immeasurable amount of public scutinty and she handled it all with grace, while also standing as a pilar of strength and a role model to not only young Black women, but all women when standing in the face of those who want to knock you down.

A lot has been written about her years in the White House, and to get a true sense of who Michelle Obama is, we highly recommend reading her memoir, Becoming. Please continue on for a brief overview of her career prior to the White House and what she's been up to since.

Michelle always had a confidence that was stronger than her disbelievers. When her high school teachers tried to dissuade her from following in her brother's path and enter Princeton University, telling her to avoid "setting my sights too high." She applied anyway, was accepted. Majoring in sociology and minoring in African-American studies, she graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in 1985. Read her thesis, done under Walter Wallace's direction, "Princeton Educated Blacks and the Black Community."

"If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's the power of using your voice."

Following her graduation from Harvard law school, then Michelle Robinson, began working as an associate at Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin, specializing in marketing and intellectual property law. One summer she was asked to mentor a new summer associate. His name, Barack Obama. They would later marry in 1992.

She is the third first lady with a postgraduate degree, after her two immediate predecessors, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush. Obama is a fierce advocate for education, stating that her education gave her opportunities she could never have imagined.

She would go on to work in the local Chicago government, holding positions as Assistant to the Mayor, Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development, and then in 1993, she became Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, a non-profit organization encouraging young people to work on social issues in nonprofit groups and government agencies. She would later say that building Public Allies was one of her happiest professional moments up until that point.

As the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago, Michelle Obama developed the University's Community Service Center. In 2002, she became the Executive Director for Community Affairs for the University of Chicago Hospitals and in 2005, she was promoted to Vice President for Community and External Affairs. She continued in this role until the end of 2008, when she would take a leave of absence after her husband's presidential win.

Mrs. Obama became known for her sense of humor and fun spirit while she was the first lady. One of her most passionate causes was nutritional health and fitness, which she promoted through her Let's Move campaign. To promote that, she engaged in some good-hearted fitness challenges against a variety of talk show hosts. Here are two of our favorites:

Michelle Obama's memoir, "Becoming," was released in November 2018, and within a year, she'd sold 11.5 million copies. In 2020 a Netflix documentary titled "Becoming" was released, which followed Michelle's 2018 book tour promoting the memoir.

She didn't stop with "Becoming." In July 2020, she launched a new project, "The Michelle Obama Podcast," which has received great reviews. And coming spring 2021 to Netflix is a new children's cooking show, "Waffle + Mochi."

"For me, becoming isn't about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn't end."

As an author, speaker, and producer, Michelle Obama is a fiercely confident woman with a strong voice. She's equally as confident in her fashion choices. Her unique sense of style, which ranges from elegant to bold, has landed her on best-dressed lists worldwide and made her known as a fashion icon.

In 2016 NPR released a report discussing her effect as an influencer on the industry.

David Yermack, Professor of Finance, NYU's Stern School of Business, said, "So to put a number on it for just a generic company at a routine event, it was worth about $38 million to have Mrs. Obama wear your clothes." That is a fairly good impact.

"25 of the World's Most Inspiring Women" — Essence 2006
"10 of the World's Best Dressed People" — Vanity Fair 2007
'The Harvard 100' — 02134 Magazine 2007
International Best-Dressed List — Vanity Fair 2008
Best-Dressed Women — People 2008
Most Admired Woman — Gallup, Inc 2018, 2019, 2020
Woman of the Year — Time 2008
Grammy Award - Spoken Word Album, audiobook "Becoming" 1994

American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America
— Crown Publishing 2012
Becoming — Crown Publishing 2018

Michelle Obama's vocal style is the voice of your favorite friend, that one who is always honest with you in the most loving and supportive way. Her voice is the one that will always be there at your door or on your phone when you need someone to light a fire under you or put one out. When we hear her voice, we hear kindness and empathy, humility, and joyful optimism. It also emanates warmth and curiosity. Her voice never sounds like it is talking at you; it feels like she is speaking with you. She is always connecting with her listener in a deeply personal way. We LOVE that.

Voice is everywhere today. Whether it is human voice or digital voice, the place that most fails is making that connection with the listener. Working in AI voice, we are constantly thinking about the power of voice and the need for all vocal styles and voice types to be represented in the world of digital voice. Voices with vocal characteristics such as Michelle Obama are not as common in the digital voices dominating the markets. We'd like to change that.

Imagine the possibilities if the world of digital voice matched the world of human voice. If it was as dynamic and expressive? If digital voices could engage you and make you feel inspired or heard? We think they can — learn more about AI-Voice.


Bowtie voices are defined as Soft, Deep, Modal, and Nasal. Learn more about the unique characteristics that make up our voices and voice types here: VOCALiD Voice Types

This is the twenty sixth in our Iconic Black Voices series. Make sure to come back to our blog every day this month as we highlight more iconic Black voices in celebration of Black History Month.

Spread the word