Last week, a grainy selfie surfaced of an open-mouthed, wide-eyed girl fixing her ponytail while sporting a T-shirt bearing the logo for Brooklyn rap collective Pro Era. Newsworthy? Not really. Until you consider that it’s the president’s daughter, 16-year-old Malia Obama, and one of her first social media leaks since her father took office six years ago.
The Internet exploded: Was that really Malia? Does she really have that great a taste in music?! Before the photo was leaked, Malia Obama’s Google search volume hovered around a 5 on a scale of 0 to 100. Two days after the photo circulated, it spiked to 100.
Malia Mania had begun.
“Recently we’ve been able to get a sense of Malia’s personality. The first children are really guarded. We typically don’t see them outside of a staged or scheduled event,” says Essence features editor Lauren Williams.
The Pro Era pic, which “came from a mutual friend of Malia’s and the Pro Era crew,” according to the rap group’s rep, made people feel close to the normally elusive teenager, says Williams. It also sparked interest in Pro Era’s marquee rapper, Joey Bada$$.
“After Malia Obama’s Pro Era picture first appeared on Instagram, Joey Bada$$ received a 76 percent increase in traffic to his Wikipedia page over the week that followed,” says William Gruger, Billboard’s social/streaming charts manager.
America’s finally getting coveted glimpses of the fiercely shielded teen-turned-tastemaker and we can’t get enough: We caught the 5-foot-11 stunner partying at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago this summer; photobombing her kissing parents at the inauguration parade in 2013; and giving her dad a bit of ’tude this past Thanksgiving when he asked if she wanted to pet the turkey during the annual pardoning of the bird.
“I think in terms of the history of first daughters, she’s definitely the coolest one thus far,” says Hazel Cills, 20, who writes for the teen website Rookie.
“Chelsea Clinton was always sort of quiet and in the background. And the Bush girls, I feel like I associate them with an older, more wild teenagehood,” she continues.
“Whereas with Malia – she’s very chill, and even the turkey-pardoning video that went around, where she and her sister look aggressively bored . . . Me and my friends loved that.”
Malia’s fans have created Instagram accounts, such as @m.obama (5 859 followers), and Tumblrs, including “Malia Obama is Gorgeous,” devoted to the first daughter’s keen fashion sense. Nearly everything Malia’s photographed wearing sells out instantaneously. Not even celebrities are immune to Malia’s popularity. Last March, the teenager was photographed in a Topshop dress while hanging out with the Chinese president in Beijing.
“Today” host Matt Lauer talked on air about how his daughter loved the dress, but when he tried to purchase the 2 frock for her, he discovered it had immediately sold out online.
Teen Vogue’s style features director, Andrew Bevan, says young girls relate to Malia because “she has this really refreshing sort of nonchalance about her.” Even when it comes to her clothing, Bevan says she’s understated for a teen in a powerful position, favouring more “shoppable brands” like Zara, J.Crew and Asos.
Montclair, NJ’s Tiffany Velez, 18, says Malia has become a fashion inspiration for her and her friends in recent years.
“I think she’s a really good role model, because she’s dressing the way she wants to dress,” says Velez, who is applying to FIT for college and keeps an eye on Malia’s paparazzi pics for style inspiration.
“She looks like she came straight out of an Urban Outfitters catalog. She looks so cool!”
The Obama administration continues to tightly guard her privacy. That means no interviews, limited Facebook access and few approved photo ops.
“The tone was set from the very beginning and from the top,” says Anita McBride, an executive-in-residence at American University and former assistant to President George W Bush and chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush.
She was present when Michelle Obama and her daughters came to tour the White House prior to their move-in.
“The girls are private citizens. They’re underage. Their privacy needs to be protected.”
Malia seems to be thriving despite the restrictions (and ever-present Secret Service detail).
The Chicago native attends the tony Sidwell School in Washington, DC, where tuition runs upward of 000 per pupil. She plays on the varsity tennis team, hosts parties at the White House bowling alley (her birthday, very patriotically, happens to fall on July 4) and, according to President Obama, plans to study film once she goes to college. This past summer, Malia worked for a day as a production assistant on the set of Steven Spielberg’s show “Extant.” She and her sister were even named two of “The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014” by Time magazine.
But there are downsides to all the attention.
In December, NFL star Darnell Dockett came under fire after reposting a creepy Instagram pic of the underage Malia, in a pair of tight jeans, originally captioned, “When her prom?”
And after Thanksgiving, Republican congressional aide Elizabeth Lauten tweeted that the president’s daughters acted “classless” during the turkey pardon.
“Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar,” Lauten wrote. (She has since apologised, and resigned.)
But Malia fans and media experts say they are confident that the teen will do just fine in the spotlight: “I think at the end of the day, she’s a normal teenager, as much as she can be living in the White House and having her dad be president of the United States,” says Williams.
“She’s figuring out what she likes . . . and her parents seem very intent on letting her discover herself.”
It seems like only yesterday that Malia Obama was a devout boy-band fanatic, but her tastes have since evolved. After her dad became prez, Malia and sister Sasha were treated to a White House scavenger hunt that ended with them finding the bland brothers, who played a short set for them.
Malia’s appreciation for boy bands took on a British bent when she was photographed at a One Direction show. Still mild stuff, but at least rock ’n’ roll-loving Harry Styles broadened her musical tastes.
Over the summer, Malia joined the festival circuit at Chicago’s Lollapalooza, where she watched rising hip-hop star Chance the Rapper.
An unsanctioned picture of Malia wearing a tee of underground Brooklyn rap collective Pro Era (led by Joey Bada$$) hit the Internet. The White House launched an investigation, but they shouldn’t fret: It just shows that Malia now has a nose for cutting-edge hip-hop. – New York Post.