The conversation was both candid and revealing. Obama talked about his older daughter’s struggles with beauty standards, and how he tries to be a healthy model for both of his children. “The fact that they’ve got a tall gorgeous mom who has some curves, and that their father appreciates, I think is helpful,” he said.
Copeland spoke frankly about her own struggles with her appearance, as she rose through the ranks. “I didn’t want to pancake my skin a lighter color to fit into the ballet. I wanted to be myself,” she said. “I didn’t want to have to wear makeup that made my nose look thinner.”
Both gave advice to the next generation for how to facedown and stand against racial discrimination. In conversations with his own children, Obama said he tells his daughters that though racial strife wasn’t eliminated when they moved into the White House, overcoming discrimination will make them empathetic. “What I say to my kids is use this as something that provides you a particular power to be willing to fight on behalf of what you think is right,” he said.
The president has acknowledged his failure to bridge the nation’s political divide as one of his biggest regrets, and he is aware that racial tensions have not markedly changed since he took office. But as he spoke with Copeland, he recognized that for some black and brown children, his presence in office has made a difference, much like a black woman with the confidence and curves performing grand jetes across the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House.