If Becoming, Michelle Obama's best-selling, critically acclaimed 2018 memoir was a deeply personal, wide-ranging autobiography of the former First Lady, her follow-up The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, is smaller in scope, more self-help than memoir — though there's no shortage of real-life stories to illustrate her advice.
Using the 2020 pandemic as a jumping-off point, Obama breaks down the tools she's developed to cope with unexpected obstacles and change. And she's not above indulging in pop culture to decompress. She sat down with EW and talked about her favorite TV shows and movies, the downside of streaming, and the Star Wars character that terrified daughter Sasha.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the "Power of Small" chapter, you talked about knitting to help you focus, a small thing you can control when you're feeling overwhelmed. Was there anything in pop culture that has served a similar purpose for you?
MICHELLE OBAMA: Oh, music of course. Love music. I keep my headphones in my ear. It is the motivating soundtrack to my world for sure. So music is that for me. I mean, before I'm about to walk in here, there's music playing in my hold. It calms me down. It gets me focused. It revs me up.
What are you listening to now?
Beyoncé's Renaissance is on the top of my playlist right now. I'm loving her new album! There's this young jazz, blue-eyed soul kid, Jarrod Lawson, that I'm loving. I love H.E.R. Jon Batiste, his latest album, I'm loving that.
What have you binged lately as an escape?
I have a few that I haven't been able to get enough of: The Empress, Grown-ish, and Atlanta. The Empress, that was a good Netflix show. This is the thing about streaming, right? I love Black-ish, Grown-ish, but I thought the Grown-ish season was off. And then I was thumbing through, and I was like, 'There's a whole season I missed!' The last season of Atlanta, I finished that.
I didn't binge Descendant, but I watched Descendant. Luckiest Girl Alive, that was pretty powerful. I was hooked from start to finish! But that's not a binge because that's a movie.
Is there something you and your family like to watch together?
We really love Abbott Elementary! It's so fresh and thoughtful — it's so easy to sit on the couch and watch it together.
There's a passage in the book where you talk about a young Sasha being scared of Chewbacca when he visited he White House one Halloween. Has she gotten over her fear?
Yes! It took her a little bit, but she got over it. It's funny because Sasha was just like me. When I was growing up, I had a similar fear — stuffed turtles. Both of us needed the space to realize we had nothing to be afraid of. We practiced our fears. We needed to sit with it for a bit. That's how we both made it through. So yes, I'm proud to report that 21-year-old Sasha Obama is no longer afraid of a Wookie.
What's something in pop culture you've been debating with your husband or your daughters?
Oh, we did have a Halloween costume — it wasn't a debate — it was like when…you know these days the kids costumes that are the costume, but there's sort of a sexier version of it? It's like, well, what's with the silk robe for Willy Wonka? Is that really what Willy Wonka would wear with the top hat? So I think we had some back and forth on Halloween costumes for them this year.
The Light We Carry is out Nov. 15, the same day Obama kicks off a multi-city book tour, moderated by Tyler Perry, David Letterman, Tracee Ellis Ross, Oprah Winfrey, and more.
Reporting by Sandra Sobieraj Westfall.