As presidents have been a focal point of the public eye, so too have their first ladies. For First Lady Michelle Obama, the spotlight is no different. But the image she portrays to the world is changing quickly. That evolution now includes an appearance at The Oscars, which has sparked debate. With one of the most influential female office-holders, Hillary Clinton stepping down, there is clearly a new influence ready to step into that role—the First Lady herself.

Why was Michelle Obama at The Oscars? This seems to be the most prominent question asked by the media and the public. But the more important question isn’t about The Oscars—it’s about Michelle Obama herself. How has Michelle Obama changed the public’s perception of the First Lady and what are the implications of her actions? Essentially, what is the role of the First Lady?

1. The Individual

(Courtesy of Jack Gruber, USA Today)

So who is Michelle Obama as an individual? Simply put, she is a strong woman. An upbringing of humble means and taught the value of education showed Michelle Obama that she had to earn her way. That guided her steps as she completed her bachelor’s degree at Princeton University and a law degree from Harvard Law School. She knows how to work hard and to earn a living. This background inspires her steely, no-nonsense campaign style and honest demeanor. Her life and personality have embedded themselves into who she is and thus who she is as the First Lady.

2. The Celebrity

(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Another aspect is Michelle Obama as a celebrity. All celebrities are talked about—whether for the clothes they wear, the way they act, the places they go, or the money they spend. For Michelle Obama, this is no different. Being in the spotlight certainly has its perks—for her, appearances on Sesame Street, Jimmy Fallon, and the Oscars. But it has its downfalls as well. It seems Michelle Obama has taken it all in stride as she continues to charge forward in her work and in her responsibilities as the First Lady, now with the new staple of celebrity.

3. The Influence

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Michelle Obama has impacted the role of the First Lady by her influence—the greatest of which have been on health—specifically in reducing obesity. The largest withstanding movement she is involved in is the Let’s Move Campaign that encourages kids across the country to eat healthy and to get active. Because of her efforts in campaign, speech, and writing, it is clear that Michelle Obama has had an impact. She has reduced childhood obesity in America since founding the Let’s Move program.

4. The Icon

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Michelle Obama is also becoming an icon of the First Lady the world’s been waiting for, as stated by Vogue Magazine in 2005. Her iconic image not only includes politics and public service, but fashion influence, personal calling and passion as well. She exudes confidence, responsibility, compassion, and a heart to serve the people of America. She is an icon of the 21st century’s strong, working, empowering woman.

Michelle Obama has rounded out the responsibilities of the First Lady. Those responsibilities now include more than just political backing, but individuality, celebrity status, national impact, and even global change. Though it’s controversial whether she is overexposed or not, she’s still making a statement. Michelle Obama is showing the world that it is okay to be exactly who you are and to be the First Lady at the same time.

What do you think? Is Michelle Obama’s most important role as an icon, celebrity, influence, or individual?

Featured photo credit: CSMonitor