Despite the fact that she spent eight years living in the White House, attending speeches and state dinners, and rubbing shoulders with some of the most important people in the world during her father President Barack Obama’s tenure, the eldest Obama daughter, Malia, managed to keep a pretty low profile during her time in Washington, D.C. Now college-aged, and trading in the White House for a Harvard dorm room in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the former president’s daughter is starting to branch out and make headlines of her own.
From what she did with that gap year between high school and enrolling at Harvard, to what really went on during Lollapalooza (in 2016 and 2017), Malia Ann Obama is more than just a former president’s daughter. Here’s some insight into everything you never knew about the first daughter and her life before, during, and after her eight years in the White House.
America’s birthday is a time when American politicians are expected to take part in all the fanfare, picnics, and parades — events that are almost as important to the 4th of July as the fireworks. So when your father is one of those politicians and you happen to share a birthday with America, well, your birthday is sometimes a little bit upstaged.
Just because the eldest Obama daughter was treated to elaborate birthday celebrations doesn’t mean she was spoiled. In fact, while she and her sister did “sorta, kinda” get an allowance, it wasn’t much, and it came with responsibilities. Malia’s father told People, “Originally, we were giving her a dollar a week as long as she did all her chores. It turns out that she’s been doing her chores even without prompting from the allowance, which makes me feel guilty that she’s been carrying on her end of the bargain and I haven’t been as consistent.”
And if you thought those chores ended once they got into the White House, you’d be mistaken. According to The New York Times, moving into the White House didn’t change some things at all. The Obama daughters still got in bed at 8 p.m. (at least in that first year in the White House) and were still required to make their own beds and clean their own room
Malia’s father told Barbara Walters on ABC News that, while his daughters are special to him and their mother, “they’re not special, you know in terms of having to do their homework or having to do chores.” Her mother added, “That was the first thing I said to some of the staff when I did my visit. Don’t make their beds. Make mine.” While she may have said it with a laugh, we’re pretty sure she wasn’t joking.
Just because your father is the leader of the free world doesn’t mean you’re exempt from attending school. When they moved into the White House, the Obama family decided to send Malia and her sister Sasha to Sidwell Friends School, a private school whose alumni also include Chelsea Clinton and Richard Nixon’s daughters. A Sidwell parent told the Washington Post of the Obamas’ decision, “I think the school knows how to handle it and the kids know how to handle it.”
Technically, children of the president are allowed to attend any school, including public schools. However, The Atlantic reported in 2016 that Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy is the only president’s daughter to attend a D.C. public school since 1906. In an interview on NBC’s The Today Show, the president revealed that he didn’t think his daughters would be able to receive a “high quality” education at a D.C. public school.
The education clearly paid off when it came to learning another language. In an ABC News interview, the president told David Muir that his daughter helped him get by during his 2016 trip to Cuba. “You know, her Spanish is much better than mine,” he said. “My vocabulary is the equivalent of a 2-year-old’s.”
During her father’s campaign, one of the things he promised Malia and Sasha was that, win or lose, he’d get them a dog. It was, however, easier said than done because of Malia’s allergies. Her father told the press, “We have two criteria [for deciding on a dog] that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic so it has to be hypoallergenic.” The other is that they wanted to adopt a dog from a shelter. “But, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts, like me,” the president said. “So, whether we’re going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household.”
Although Malia and her sister had been promised a dog by the time they entered the White House in January 2009, it took a bit of time to find the right one because of the pet dander allergy. But finally, in April 2009 the world got its first look at Bo Obama, a Portuguese water dog that was a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy. White allergists warned ahead of time that any dog can actually cause an allergic reaction, it seems Bo wasn’t an issue for Malia considering they got a second Portuguese water dog named Sunny in 2013.
The Secret Service taught her how to drive