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Michelle Obama discusses new Netflix show, race, royal family in interview

In an interview that covered the pandemic, race and her retirement plans, Obama's priority was clear: Helping and positively shaping young people.
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Former first lady Michelle Obama always has a lot on her plate so to speak, and right now is no different with the premiere of "Waffles + Mochi," her new family show on Netflix.

The show, which began streaming Tuesday, unsurprisingly focuses on healthy eating for young people, Obama's main mission while in the White House. And she's teamed up with Partnership for a Healthier America to help provide meals to 1 million families in need.

"This project ... just sort of brings it all full circle," Obama told Jenna Bush Hager on NBC's "TODAY" show.' "It brings me back to kids and nutrition — it’s fun. It's my favorite project."

In an interview that covered the pandemic, race, her memoir and retirement plans, Obama's priority was clear: helping and positively shaping young people.

In August, Obama, 57, opened up to her Instagram followers after revealing in her podcast that she was dealing with "some form of low-grade depression" due to Covid-19 lockdowns, racial unrest and more.

"I hope you all are allowing yourselves to feel whatever it is you’re feeling," she wrote. "I hope you’re listening to yourselves and taking a moment to reflect on everything that’s coming at us, and what you might be able to do about it."

Obama discussed that post during Tuesday's interview with Hager.

"The darkest points were when we felt bombarded by everything — a virus that felt out of control with no real clear solution before us, the country shut down, racial unrest, visualizing the kind of injustice that can happen on the streets, seeing young people despair at where this country was going," she said in the interview.

It was a lot then and it continues to be a lot now, according to Obama.

"I shared that because it was the truth of how I was feeling," she said. "If we don’t share those feeling with our kids, then they think those feelings are abnormal, so we have to kind of learn to be open and honest about our downtimes as well."

When it comes to conversations about race, it is important to have those talks early, Obama said. And that dialogue should change as children grow.

"This isn’t new for minority families," she said. "These are the conversation that we always have to have, because you know that when you’re sending your child out into a world where people might fear them simply because of the color of their skin, you have to prepare them early. We’ve never had the luxury of not talking about these issues, and now hopefully the rest of the country, the rest of the world understands that it’s not enough for us in minority communities to have those conversations if we’re not all having them with our children."

"I think that more people after this year are ready to do work," she added.

Speaking specifically about Prince Harry's wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, telling the media mogul Oprah Winfrey that there were "concerns and conversations" among members of the British royal family about how dark her son's skin might be, Obama reiterated that "race isn’t a new construct in this world for people of color."

"It wasn’t a complete surprise to sort of hear her feelings and to have them articulated, I think," she said. "I pray for forgiveness and healing for them so that they can use this as a teachable moment for us all."

"Public service is a bright, sharp, hot spotlight and most people don’t understand it, and nor should they," Obama added.

As for when she and former President Barack Obama might step back a little, she said she and her husband were closer to retirement than not.

"We're moving into our 60s," Obama said, adding that they both know they need to "spend these next years really being thoughtful about our exit strategy because when you don’t have an exit strategy, sometimes you just don’t exit, and that I don’t want that."

She said her focus is the "legacy that we pass on to the next generation," conceding that she may never fully stop working.

"There will always be young people who need some guidance and support," Obama said. "We stand ready to help those young people make their way toward their goals so our future involves young people always."

Working toward that mission, her memoir "Becoming" has recently been lightly edited to cater to young people 10 and older.

"I’m excited to hear what young people think about it, what they’re learning from it," Obama said. "I love to hear their voices and encourage them to use them."

She said she strives to always set an example.

"How our leaders act in the world sets the tone," Obama said.

"It’s better when we’re kind and we’re generous to one another," she said. "It feels good inside. It’s not just how we vote. It’s how we act each day toward each other ... we are modeling for our young people what kind of America we want to live in."

Recently, she led by example by getting a Covid-19 vaccination.

"I would encourage everyone to take it when they have the chance to take it," Obama said. "I believe in science. We have to do our part, and if we do, we will come out of this thing."

She added: "I think we will always be impacted on this time. This won’t be something that we forget, so there may be some changes afoot as a result of this past year. But we’ll learn from those changes, we’ll grow from them and we’ll continue to build this great nation."