Michelle Obama 'at the top of her game' at 50

Jimmy Fallon and Michelle Obama explore the “Evolution of Mom Dancing” on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last year.

NBC

Jimmy Fallon and Michelle Obama explore the “Evolution of Mom Dancing” on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last year.

Washington Post

Her husband's pressure-packed days as a candidate are over. Her daughters have grown more independent. She's almost ready to look around the corner and envision life after the White House.

It's halftime for Michelle Obama, who turned 50 on Friday.

As she begins her sixth year as first lady, Obama is clear on who she is and looking forward to the three remaining years, said Valerie Jarrett, a longtime friend and adviser to the Obamas.

"She's at the top of her game," Jarrett said. "She's fabulous at 50."

In wide-ranging interview about aging with People, Michelle Obama said she feels "a greater sense of calm and certainty and maturity and confidence" than she did when she was younger.

Asked for her philosophy on plastic surgery and Botox, she said she's open. "Women should have the freedom to do whatever they need to do to feel good about themselves. Right now, I don't imagine that I would go that route, but I've also learned to never say never."

She looks forward to traveling to new places and — when she's older — being an involved grandmother and taking on the unapologetic attitude of her own mother. "She speaks her mind," she told People. "She does exactly what she wants to do every single day without apology. I'm not there yet, but I look forward to that."

With more time spent in the White House than time remaining, she has hit not just a personal milestone but a significant point in her tenure as first lady, said Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to Laura Bush.

"This is when it really hits what a temporary custodianship this really is," McBride said of life in the White House. "One of the things you're thinking about is this realization of how fast the time goes. We were just going through the inauguration and here there's another year under their belts. You start thinking about just how much you want to do."

After her husband's re-election, she and her staff underwent weeks of strategic planning to determine what she would do during the second term. In addition to supporting military families and promoting health and wellness, she decided to focus on encouraging more young people to attend college.

On Thursday she joined President Barack Obama for a meeting with 100 college presidents to discuss ways to boost college enrollment among low-income students.

It is an expansion of what Jarrett sees as her biggest imprint as first lady: serving as a role model.

"She and her husband are role models for parents all across the country," Jarrett said in a brief phone interview. "She shows that it's hard work. It's not something that you can be passive about. It takes a lot of energy and devotion."

Jarrett added that Obama is as focused on her daughters as she was when the family moved into the White House in 2009. With Malia and Sasha, now 15 and 12, respectively, the first lady has described managing their independence as a time-intensive task. Both have cellphones, and like many parents, she has lamented the days when a child's friends called the land line and had to speak to the parent first. She is also the parent responsible for coordinating her daughters' activities and schedules, which she has said is time intensive.

"She takes her responsibilities as a mother very seriously," Jarrett said. "She and the president joke about how now that their daughters are getting older that they have a more busy social life of their own, but they still need their mother."

Her official schedule will continue according to the clockwork-like rhythm set up in the East Wing. February marks the fourth year of Let's Move, when she traditionally holds a tour promoting healthy eating and exercise. Her work on behalf of military families, which includes encouraging companies to set aside jobs for returning service members, will also go on.

"I will be in my early 50s when I leave here, and I have so much more that I should do," she told People. "I don't have the right to just sit on my talents or blessings. I've got to keep figuring out ways to have an impact — whether as a mother or as a professional or as a mentor to other kids."

Michelle Obama 'at the top of her game' at 50 01/20/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 20, 2014 6:03pm]

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