Homage to Malia & Sasha

The former First Family, 2004

It’s two days after the 2017 presidential inauguration and I couldn’t help but think about what an amazing 8-year journey it has been for the Obamas, specifically, Malia and Sasha. I found their relationship to be truly unique not only for the obvious reason of them being part of the first, first African-American family, but also because they managed to consistently hold their own for almost a decade in the public eye.

Moreover, the larger reason for wanting to dedicate a post to these magnificent young ladies is the inevitable bond that comes with sisterhood. I too have an older sister three years my senior, in addition to another one 15 years my senior. Growing up as the youngest, I spent most of my time looking up to my older siblings in what to do, how to do it, and what was next. But this behavior is done with whole-hearted trust in the unknown because older siblings are trailblazers in their own right, the ones who’ve figured out all the hard parts and will guide you to safety.

U.S. Senator, Barak Obama, being sworn into office at Capitol Hill, 2004
Malia, Sasha, and Bo
Group hug with Bo
Inaugural Parade, 2009
Family photo, 2011

“… OLDER SIBLINGS ARE TRAILBLAZERS IN THEIR OWN RIGHT, THE ONES WHO’VE FIGURED OUT ALL THE HARD PARTS AND WILL GUIDE YOU TO SAFETY.”

Looking through the plethora of photos found around the web of Malia and Sasha, I marveled at their beauty, class, grace, and elegance. I mirrored that back to how important presentation was to my own mother every time my sisters and I got ready in the morning for school, church, and weddings, and how those same values stuck with us into adulthood. Moreover, watching Mr. Obama with his girls reminds me of all the cozy embraces I still share with my father and the public displays of affection not typically broadcasted to the world when discussing African-American families (especially African-American fatherhood).

Malia and Sasha at the Democratic National Convention, 2012
Michelle Obama and her girls at the Great Wall of China, 2014
Wardrobe adjustment, 2014
Easter family photo, 2015
Dad jokes, Thanksgiving 2015

Lastly, I wondered what Malia and Sasha’s lives were like growing up in the spotlight, where they found their inner strength to attend yet another political event, and what it was like having to put human emotions aside for the sake of appearance when living in a world that thrives on judgement and scrutiny.

Yet, there was always the constant and comforting reminder that Malia and Sasha have each other. From the knowing glances, playful side-eyes, quiet mischievous whispers, and fitful giggles following impish remarks — it’s special moments such as these that can only be shared with a biological partner in crime. And contrary to popular methods in absorbing media involving the lives of public figures, I’m glad that Malia and Sasha were granted an opportunity to still be iconic without sacrificing privacy (thanks to very smart parents who knew to set very strict boundaries from the start).

Annual Small Business Saturdays trip to an ice cream shop, 2015
Summer across the pond visit with British Prime Minister, David Cameron, 2015
Breathtaking Ryan Reynold’s introduction at the White House State Dinner, 2016
Malia and Sasha headed to Martha’s Vineyard for summer break, 2016
Malia and Sasha Cuba, 2016

I love everything about the Obamas and it’s quite simple for me to separate their genuine public image from the world of politics. Despite what may have been difficult at times in raising children under the microscope of politics, Michelle and Barack did an incredible job in parenting these beautiful young women. I cannot wait to see what they do in their lives now and in the future and wish Malia and Sasha a lifetime of sisterly love, success, and fabulous fashion sense.

Malia and Sasha Cuba, 2016
Alicia F. Buford

Alicia F. Buford is a writer, designer, and illustrator based in Portland, Oregon. You can follow more of her images and words on Instagram

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