Does Michelle Obama as Glamour Cover Girl Say ‘Strong Role Model’ or ‘Shy Schoolgirl?’

Michelle Obama Glamour 2I understand why Glamour magazine would want First Lady Michelle Obama on the cover of its upcoming issue.   Anything with Michelle associated with it is bound to increase sales and if the women who buy Glamour magazine can get a small dose of the political world alongside the “39 Cutest Holiday Outfits for your Body and Budget,” that can only be a good thing.

But I’m a little troubled by the cover photo Glamour chose.  The combination of the styling and how Michelle is posed doesn’t exactly convey a message of “strong, independent person we’ve chosen as a Woman of the Year ” to me.  I’m getting more of a “slightly shy girl waiting for her date” vibe.

December is Glamour’s Women of the Year issue and Michelle Obama is interviewed by CBS’ Katie Couric about Michelle’s first year in the White House.  This is all good stuff for promotion and empowerment of women, especially in the pages of a fashion magazine.  And the inside photo of Michelle Obama and her staff is a great one:

Michelle Obama White House

What mother wouldn’t want their daughters (and sons) to see this image of the First Lady and her staff.  They look professional and ready to take on the weighty task of working in the White House and helping the First Lady make her agenda to help working families a reality.

But the cover photo keeps giving me pause.  It’s not the dress nor is it her infamous “guns.”  It’s the pose.  The way she is standing with her arms intertwined and her shoulders scrunched forward downplays what Glamour is trying to convey in choosing Michelle Obama as a Woman of the Year.   According to the article on Glamour’s blog, the dress is Michelle’s own dress — and what color says power for a Washington woman more than red  — but when I look at the photo, the sense I get is more schoolgirl than power player.

The gist of the interview with the First Lady is about role models and the importance of mentoring to her — both how it was important in her own professional life and the pleasure she takes in mentoring others in her current role today.

I don’t get the message of “I’m a mentor and role model” from that photograph.

Maybe I’m making a political mountain out of a fashion mole hill, but Michelle Obama as a Glamour cover girl could have been a real role model moment with a much bigger impact if she was posed in a way that looks a bit more like the inside shot and less like someone waiting under the mistletoe.

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9 Responses to “Does Michelle Obama as Glamour Cover Girl Say ‘Strong Role Model’ or ‘Shy Schoolgirl?’”

  1. Mary G Says:

    You’re so right! Classic body language there with the hands clasped in front says ‘ill at ease’. Even though it does show off her arms. And the smile is not convincing. However, it is not a photo of her dancing in her husband’s arms in ruffles, so for small things be thankful.
    I am rather sorry they cut off the top of her head, too. Diffuses the message that this is an American Black woman in the top spot.

  2. PunditMom Says:

    On the magazine cover she’s not cut off — I just couldn’t get the image to appear properly!

  3. annie Says:

    It is an ill at ease posture, but I am wondering if that might not be her genuine discomfort with the whole cover girl thing rather than something the magazine did on purpose.

    I would prefer not to see the nation’s first lady anywhere near fashion mags. My husband, 24 year old daughter and myself where just discussing the whole “air-brushed perfection” thing last night. It’s disheartening enough without the First Lady submitting to the ridiculousness these magazines push at women.

  4. A Tired Wife Says:

    I have to wonder if she wasn’t posed that way. Even so, as First Lady, I would think that she’d have a say in the final posted picture and that she would have felt this was a bit too cutesy.

  5. Daisy Says:

    I wonder if the photographer(s) wasn’t accustomed to shooting a strong woman; if the photog was more of a “let’s coach the cute little grin” kind of person. Perhaps her ill-at-ease feeling came from being posed in an out-of-character type of pose.
    Come on, Glamour, get with the times. We want to see real women. Women like us.

  6. JessicaAPISS Says:

    I agree with you. The staff pic is great, the cover would have been stronger with arms folded or just standing tall. Maybe it was necessary for getting all the side copy in. Maybe it had something to do with Glamour’s style of close-in pics, usually of bobbleheads that request extra retouching.

    And of course getting every girl in America to further idolize the First Lady’s arms. (Thank goodness its getting cooler, I can’t stand the pressure anymore.)

    And question – why Glamour? What used to be the Seventeen for co-eds is now so Cosmo-y. (I always was more into Sassy and Jane, and now sometimes pick up More, but I digress.)

    Fab post.

  7. PunditMom Says:

    I, too, have mixed feelings about seeing FLOTUS, or other powerful, accomplished women, on the cover of fashion magazines, but I wonder if there is something to be said for reaching an audience of women who might not otherwise be reached? But the whole demure girl pose does a disservice to what I think they’re trying to accomplish inside the magazine.

  8. Katherine Says:

    One question: can you imagine George W. posed like this? Or even Hillary Clinton? There’s no way, and that answers your question. I agree with your take that Glamour picked this image to convey the shy schoolgirl.

  9. PunditMom Says:

    Or others — would they pose Madeleine Albright this way? Or even Sarah Palin? Palin would have bitten their heads off (rightly so) if they had suggested it.

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