tv An Extraordinary Journey Michelle Obama Turns 50 CNN January 19, 2014 4:30pm-5:01pm PST
for more of tina and amy's goldest moments and to get the latest on the red carpet stars and standouts check us out on the entertainment page on cnn.com. the following is a cnn special report. >> there's never been a first lady like her. >> the thing that she made that night in that gown was, i'm a different kind of first lady. >> chicago native and career woman. >> she was a high powered lawyer. she was earning an enormous amount of money. >> mother of two and the president's better half. >> she keeps me straight every single day. she is the best mom in the world. and she's cute. >> she's elegant. and influential. >> she was a hit. and it's been that way ever since. >> fun. confident.
and occasionally controversial. >> she really sacrificed essentially what could have been an incredibly high powered career. >> it's a milestone moment. an unimaginable story. and an extraordinary journey. "michelle obama turns 50." >> please welcome the first lady of the united states, michelle obama. >> december 16th, 2013. michelle obama shares the stage with santa claus at a washington, d.c. children's hospital. one 13-year-old patient has a very important question. >> i know your birthday is coming up. and i just wanted to know what you're going to be doing. >> you know, i'm going to be 50. yeah. 50. 50 and fabulous. january 17th. and i'm not exactly sure yet what i'm going to do. but it might involve some
dancing. >> it's all about dancing. the guests have been told to wear comfortable shoes. >> magazine reporter sandra soberi westfall scored an exclusive interview with the first lady about her milestone birthday. >> she had a girls week with her girlfriends from chicago, oprah winfrey, gayle king. they spent a week in hawaii. now she's coming back for a dance party being thrown by her husband. michelle had thrown him an epic 50th birthday party. and they are so competitive that he really wants to one-up her. >> mrs. obama was extremely candid about ageing and fitness. >> she was open to talking about her body. how she's changed her workout. menopause. >> surprisingly, when it comes to botox mrs. obama says she wouldn't rule it out. >> she said when it comes to botox or plastic surgery that she can't imagine herself going that route, but she's learned to
never say never. >> and how does she imagine life after the big 5-0? >> the first time she talked about, you know, maybe i'll have another professional career. maybe i'll be a mentor working on education. >> she'd like to travel and savor new places. and down the road, balance work with being a grandma. >> michelle obama is a forward thinker. she's always kind of got the next step in mind. >> taking that next step with gusto. one of the most influential women in the world. michelle robinson obama could hardly have pictured where five decades would take her. >> who would ever imagine that a girl from the south side of chicago would have the opportunity to go to princeton and harvard and be married to the president of the united states? >> it began with what seemed an ideal childhood. >> she had an ozzie and harriet,
"leave it to beaver" childhood. the mom and the dad, the brother. all they were missing, i think, is the dog. >> we didn't know how poor we were. we had a really good childhood. although i was 18 months older, she usually ran the show. and i usually let her. >> born january 17th, 1964, michelle robinson and her brother, craig, were raised in this second floor apartment on chicago's south side. >> they divided the dining room into three portions. with sheets, essentially. one portion was michelle's bed. the other portion was craig's bed. then there was a study area in the middle. >> michelle's mother ran the house and raised the kids. and her father was a city worker at the municipal water department. he suffered from multiple sclerosis. >> our sense of hard work comes honestly. i mean, we watched a man who was disabled get up and go to work every day. >> the tight-knit family ate
every meal together. the emphasis in the robinson household was on education. michelle excelled from the start. she learned to read by the age of 4 and skipped second grade. >> she would have not gotten into my class if she wouldn't have been able to perform. >> she says she attributes that directly back to her parents. even though they were not college educated. >> she was very well grounded. and i believe it speaks very well of her family life. >> do you tell them i was the first lady's teacher? >> oh, i tell everybody. are you kidding? i tell everybody. >> melanie was michelle's high school biology teacher at whitney young high. chicago's first magnet school. >> i think that her mother and her father believed that this was the place where michelle could blossom. she was on the national honor society. she was a class officer. she had the academic record to get into advanced placement classes. you know, that's not an easy
thing. >> you are passing a sign over here that says phenomenal woman. when i look over here we see a little shrine to michelle robinson obama. oh, these are her school pictures. freshman, sophomore, junior and senior class. by the senior year she was wearing a little lip gloss there. >> she always presented herself meticulously. even in her dress. she was not a jeans and t-shirt person. >> no. >> she was just an all-american girl. she could pose for an american girl doll. you know? >> very popular. had a lot of friends. and she didn't suffer many fools. >> big brother craig was a high school basketball star. and when he was recruited to play ball at princeton university, michelle wanted desperately to follow him. >> the story she tells about how -- well, if craig can get in there, i certainly can, that's how she thinks. >> michelle was accepted to her dream college in 1981. but she had a hard time fitting in. >> a lot of her princeton
classmates talked about how she felt really out of place there. i mean, it was a time when princeton was extremely white and all these kids came from boarding school and were in prep school and were incredibly elite. >> though she struggled with the racial divide at princeton, michelle continued to achieve at an elite level. went on to harvard law. then to one of the chicago's most prestigious law firms. michelle was a rising star at sidley austin and just one of a few black attorneys there when she was asked to mentor an intern named barack obama. >> at first i thought, what kind of name is barack obama? my assumption was, this guy has got to be kind of weird. i'd already created an image of this very intellectual nerd. >> i thought she was gorgeous. i noticed that there was a certain wit to her and mischievous to her that appealed to me a lot. >> she was cuter than i thought he'd be. >> but michelle wasn't interested when he asked her out. >> she thought it was
inappropriate to have any inner office dating. >> she tried to set him up with friends. but he was relentless. >> she had all these theories. and i basically knocked them down one after the other until finally -- >> i said, okay. we'll go on this one date but we won't call it a date. i'll spend the day with you. >> at that point i thought, okay. i think i got something going. >> we went to the art institute in chicago. and he impressed me with his knowledge of art. >> then we took a long walk. and we went to "do the right thing" which was a great film. >> and probably by the end of that date, it was -- it was over. i was sold. >> michelle was smitten. but barack needed to win the whole family over. >> one of the things that my father always taught us was that you could tell the character of somebody by how they played team sports. >> she said, just call up some of your friends and play. i want to see what kind of guy this guy is. she was testing him. let me tell you, he was
confident without being cocky. he was a team player. he had integrity. >> he passed the ball, which is critical in basketball. and he played hard. >> barack earned the robinson family seal of approval, and the couple got engaged in 1990. michelle was on a roll personally and professionally when she made a surprising decision to leave the corporate world for the mayor's office. >> she was earning an enormous amount of money at sidley austin. then, you know, all the sudden she was a public servant. coming up, michelle obama's ultimate sacrifice. >> all of her friends, you know, from harvard law were agast. sort of saying, are you crazy to do this?
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and i knew him and i trusted him. it was the most natural next step in the world. >> the groom, however, wasn't feeling quite as fantastic. >> because he had a cold. and i remember thinking -- we were teasing him about, okay. whatever you do, don't sneeze while you're saying your vows. >> and he was really congested. when he got to the alter, it all cleared up. and for that moment that we were at the alter, he said his nose was completely clear. >> my sister has that effect on people. >> soon after the wedding, mrs. obama left her job at the mayor's office to head a chicago nonprofit called public allies where she mentored craig huffman. >> michelle, really, i think felt some connection to me almost like a little brother. and so when i met her, it felt like the big sister i always wanted. >> and like any big sister, she was no nonsense with craig when the time called for it.
>> one of the things about michelle is she's pretty blunt. if you were going to talk to her, you needed to have your facts correct. you needed to really be focused. and she didn't suffer bs. >> by 1998, michelle obama was working at the university of chicago. while mr. obama was an illinois state senator. and then daughter malia was born. >> i remember taking her home that first night. we were nervous. barack had to get the car seat in right. he was driving slowly. just like, you know, you hear in the movies. >> three years later, along came sasha. but mr. obama's political career as an illinois state senator soon put the family under strain. >> you've got a spouse who's traveling back and forth to springfield. is, you know, home on the weekends. not there most of the week. that created stress and tension that i think a lot of couples find themselves in. and we had to really work
through that time in our lives. >> but the obamas hit their stride. and in 2004, everything changed dramatically when mr. obama was elected to the u.s. senate. >> thank you so much, gentlemen. >> cassandra west was a "chicago tribune" reporter who interviewed mrs. obama in this time of transition. >> at that point, how important was her career? >> i think her career was still important to her. the candidate's wife part was new to her. that -- when i talked to her later, that was never part of her plan. >> and just three years later, another curve ball. mr. obama planned to run for the white house. she was stunned. >> no. you can't be serious. because we had just come off of a few years ago, a tough u.s. senate race. we're going to press the easy button for a little while,
right? >> wrong. the campaign hit full swing and sacrifices had to be made. one of those sacrifices? mrs. obama's own burgeoning career. >> it was not an easy decision. >> jane newton-small covered mrs. obama for "time" magazine. >> it was something they obviously spoke a lot about. and they used to have these sort of kitchen table sessions where, you know, they would sometimes make margaritas. that was their thipg. they had a whole group of friends that would come around like valerie jarrett. >> michelle is the planner. she asks very practical questions. how many days are you going to be away at a stretch? what is your expectation of me? her view was her first priority had to be the children. >> the campaign novice didn't have a passion for politics at first. >> good morning. my name is michelle obama. i'm married to this guy. barack obama. >> and she came under fire for this controversial statement.
>> for the first time in my adult lifetime, i'm really proud of my country. >> and it caused this enormous firestorm, and it was just one example of several that the campaign cringed over. >> after some polish and some practice, mrs. obama's campaign skills would culminate here. >> and, you see, that is why i love this country. >> as soon as the american people could see her and judge them -- judge her for themselves, she was a hit. and it's been that way ever since. >> the sacrifices, travel and hard work would pay off. in an historic election result. >> the nation's next first lady, michelle obama. coming up, an unconventional
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a chilling warning to people heading to the winter olympics next month. two suspected suicide bombers seen on this new video warn of a present they've prepared for fans attending the fans in sochi, russia. the men are believed to be behind the last month's suicide attacks. the mayor met with federal investigators about allegations she made this weekend about governor chris christie. mayor dawn zimmer, a democrat, told cnn, she believes christie personally ordered hurricane sandy relief funds withheld from hoboken unless she got on board a construction project. mayor zimmer said she handed over her journal and other documents to the u.s. attorney's office. those are the headlines this hour.
i, barack hussein obama, do solemnly swear -- >> congratulations, mr. president. >> after a day of pomp and circumstance for the president, it was the new first lady who stole the show. ♪ stunning the world in her inaugural ball gown. >> how good looking is my wife? >> i thought it was beautiful. >> kate betts is the fashion editor for "time" magazine. >> it had so much symbolism. freshness, new beginnings, innocence, it had so much promise. >> the statement she made that night in that gown was, i'm not like every other first lady. >> the first lady whose fashion would be a constant topic of conversation. starting with those green leather gloves and the girl's jay crew coats. >> the jay crew makes them look very down-to-earth.
so i think that made a huge connection to people. not only is it more affordable than designer clothing, but it's also something very recognizable and you can relate to it. >> relatable, practical, down to earth. the first lady's style would help define her. >> i think many first ladies, when you look over the course of history, dressed to fit into kind of the washington political wive's uniform. she does not want to dress like everybody else. she's dressing for herself and dressing to stand out. >> standing out as a bold fashion icon and independent woman. but most important to michelle obama would be standing out as a mother. >> michelle obama came into the white house declaring herself mom in chief. >> carissa thompson covers the first lady for "the washington post." >> it was surprising and quite interesting and it spurred some debate.
because here's a woman with a background of having graduated from harvard law school and done undergrad at princeton and held these really big and important jobs, and folks just kind of were hoping that she would come into the white house and take over the world. >> michelle obama's priority would be making sure sasha and malia grew up grounded. >> we've worked to make sure that our girls have a normal life, even though they're the children of the president. so it's important for us to make sure that they have friends and sleepovers. they go to school. they do everything that kids do. >> she made it clear when they moved to the white house that the staff should not treat them, in her words, as little princesses. that she could have responsibilities and chores, making their beds, doing laundry, and until they do those chores, they can't have other time such as tv or computer time on the weekends. >> even with the president's busy schedule, the first family has dinner together almost every night. >> when we're in town here in washington, in the evenings,
6:30 we want to be at the dinner table with our kids and i want to be helping with their homework. >> and just like with her girls, the first lady looks for normalcy for herself. whether it's rocking the first dog bo or sneaking into target. >> she went to target and was in a disguise with the ball cap. and she said, it was so great, because a woman said excuse me, and she was all ready for the woman to say, aren't you michelle obama? and the woman said, can you help me get this? i think it was detergent. she said sure and handed it to her and she loved it. it was a real moment. >> a real moment is a rarity. and something mrs. obama relies on close girlfriends to give her. >> her friendships are vital. she describes them, i believe there's a hawaiian word called hooey, and it your connection of people around you, her friends that keep her grounded.
they call her mish. >> when the first lady isn't being michelle or mom, she's promoting causes close to her heart. mentoring, supporting military families, and campaigning to end childhood obesity. >> and it wasn't that long ago that i was a working mom. there were plenty of nights when you got home so tired and hungry, and you just wanted to go through the drive through because it was quick and cheap. one day my pediatrician told me, you might want to think about doing things a little bit differently. and for me, that was my moment of truth. >> but some say the first lady should be more politically active. >> some of the criticism of michelle obama has arisen over this idea that she has chosen what some people have called soft policy initiatives. >> but with approval ratings outranking the president's, it's
clear most of america loves her. >> all right, you ready? >> she's done pushups with ellen degeneres. and danced with jimmy fallon. her dougie skills so impressive, the late-night host couldn't keep up. >> she seems real. for her, that's always been really important. might be in washington, might be in the white house, might be in this bubble, but that she never is losing sight of who she is and where she came from. >> what's next for the first lady who is turning 50? >> she does feel this sense of calling for a south side chicago girl who really did work her way up from nothing, she wants to make sure other kids in every corner of this country have that opportunity. she wanted them to see anybody with hard work can grow up to be michelle obama.
>> from the south side to the white house, from working mom to mom in chief. for five decades, michelle obama has chartered her own course. corporate power house, regal first lady. and now role model to women the world over. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com detroit's the city of champions. the whole world knows that detroit is the american city whose products have revolutionized our way of living. and only in michigan will you find the men and women whose talent made us the arsenal of democracy in wartime and the