March 16, 2016


Michelle Obama Talks Empowering Women, Favorite Albums at SXSW Keynote

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for SXSW
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for SXSW

It was a discussion for the ages at SXSW 2016, with its keynote Let Girls Learn panel featuring Michelle Obama, Missy Elliott, Diane Warren and Sophia Bush, alongside moderator Queen Latifah. The main takeaways of the chat focused on the simple-yet-effective ways to help women around the world—which includes The First Lady's new charity single "This Is for My Girls"—but also gave insight into what makes these inspiring figures tick.

Each member talked about how anyone (no matter your gender) can help empower women. From embracing a hashtag to hosting a car wash, there was a big push to find more methods on, which supports female education around the world. Other methods included Sophia Bush recalling how she encouraged her young Twitter followers to make coffee for their parents in the morning and then ask to donate the $3 or $4 they would have spent on a latte on a school the actress was building in a developing nation. Meanwhile, Dianne Warren mentioned that simply being kind to one another is another important method. 

The panel also addressed the men in the room, encouraging them to hear the story of a woman they're close to, with Obama giving men the following task: 

"When you have a seat at the table, and have access to power—whether you’re a CEO or a professor in a classroom—the question you can ask yourself is 'Is their diversity around the table?' Are their opinions ones that don't sound like yours? We reach better answers when there are women, minorities, people with different voices. If you're a man at the table and there are only men at the table, you should ask 'How can I do better?'"

The panel was also asked about the albums that influenced them the most. The classics were given love from Obama (she picked Stevie Wonder's Talking Book, and Songs in the Key of Life), Warren (mentioning The Beatles and Motown records), and Queen Latifah (who was particularly inspired by how Teena Marie wrote and produced her albums). But Bush and Elliott spoke about the importance of early female rappers, with Missy offering this:

"I don’t want to say necessarily an album. I want to say people like Queen Latfiahwho is sitting on this stage—her album, MC Lyte's album, Salt-n-Pepa. These woman are the reason I became an MC, I became an artist. Queen Latifah taught us 'U.N.I.T.Y.,' she taught us ladies first, ladies first! So, I have to say their albums, and I didn’t want to to say one because they all impacted me for various reasons, but I'm not just saying this because I've known Latifah for many reasons. But still, as close as friends as we are, I still look up to her because her music has done so much for me and taught me strength."

The panel closed with words from Michelle about whether she would ever run for president, and her answer echoed her earlier sentiments about making big change no matter what position she's in:

"I will not run for president. Here's one of the reasons why: I got these two young people at home, being the daughters of a president, just think about, not so easy. They've handled it with grace and with poise, but enough is enough. And also, what did we say earlier? There are so many ways to impact the world. You don’t’ have to be President of the United States to do wonderful ,marvelous things. I don't plan on slowing down any time soon…there's so much I can do outside of the White House and sometimes there's much more you can do outside of the white house or as the First Lady...I want to be able to reach as many people as possible in an unbiased way."

Stay tuned for more on-the-ground coverage from SXSW 2016 on Fuse. In the meantime, check out when we spoke to Queen Latifah backstage at the Super Bowl XLVIII: