[INTERVIEW] Allison Samuelsâ Asks âWhat Would Michelle Obama Do?â

Chances are, Allison Samuels is your favorite Black celebrity’s favorite journalist.  The award-winning writer for Newsweek and The Daily Beast has interviewed many top sports and entertainment figures throughout her 16-year-career.  But a series of interviews with one of the most celebrated First Ladies in history inspired her latest book, the empowering guide for young women, “What Would Michelle Obama Do?”

Drawing from her conversations with the First Lady of the United States and in-depth research into all things Michelle, Ms. Samuels not only gives readers the inside scoop on Michelle’s beauty and fashion secrets, readers are also treated to a step-by-step guide to living a fabulous and purposeful life – just like Michelle. 

In an interview with EBONY.com, Ms. Samuels dished on her best and worst celebrity interviews and why she believes it’s time for all of the Housewives of Basketball to have a seat and let Michelle Obama be the role model for today’s young women.

EBONY: Your book is so much more than a biography of Michelle Obama’s life. You have her tips for friendship and romance in there and you explain how to network in business and social settings like Michelle and you even provide advice on how to deal with struggles like absentee fathers and racism.  Why did you decide to structure this book as a guide as opposed to an insider look at the First Lady’s life?

ALLISON SAMUELS: Well, I can't take total credit for the idea. It grew from books on other classic and celebrated women, like “What would Jackie [Kennedy Onassis] Do?” And “What would Audrey [Hepburn] Do?” [Jackie and Audrey] were White and they thrived in a different time, but Michelle is a modern day woman living this amazing life and so this book is for everyone who wants to know how she did it and what she's done to get to where she is now.

I started interviewing her [years ago] and I saw this inspiring, savvy, smart woman who is iconic like Jackie and Audrey, and definitely deserving of this kind of book. We have so many young girls today who look up to these women on so-called reality shows who are living in a fantasy world, when we have this real-life Black woman living in the White House living a real fairy tale with a great husband and father and beautiful kids. It’s like, why aren’t more people looking to her as their example? 

Michelle is a modern day woman living this amazing life and so this book is for everyone who wants to know how she did it and what she's done to get to where she is now.

EBONY: What do you think is the answer to that question? Why do you think so many young women look up to reality stars and consider those women’s lives to be more attainable than a life like the First Lady’s?

AS: I think, unfortunately, the dysfunction they see on reality shows mirrors the dysfunction they see in real life.  I work at The Boys and Girls Club in South Central and that’s the only way I know what’s going on with these reality show women.  The girls there don’t see happiness [in those shows], they don’t see that these women aren’t even with these basketball players anymore, they just see the money. They just want to be on T.V., too.

EBONY: So, when you’re working with these young girls in South Central, how do you respond to them when they’re telling you about reality stars and all the money and fame they have?

AS: I say, that Michelle has it all – and it’s not because she always had it all or got it from a man or saw images of other people doing things she wanted to do growing up.  Michelle came from very humble beginnings and though she had a very strong family life and a devoted father, she started imagining greater things for herself than what her current circumstances provided for her.  Other young girls can take that same mentality Michelle had and see something beyond what they’ve experienced.  That’s why I wanted to write this book as a guide.

 [In the book] I talk about getting beyond what you have and what you see.  You have to read, do research, and find out, what creates a healthy relationship? What does that even look like?  When Barack and Michelle were dating, they were always in church and hanging around older couples in the church who mentored them as their relationship grew. That’s important.

And it’s also important to know what does a “good man” even look like? When Michelle met Barack, she talks about the raggedy car he had.  Would you look at that guy and think, “He's corny, he's broke,” or would you be like Michelle and look beyond that? He's smart. He's intelligent. He has a good character and the drive to actually bring his goals to reality. You have to look at those things and as women we have to start judging men by their characters. You have