ADVERTISEMENT

First lady Michelle Obama her daughters Malia, left, and Sasha visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall in Beijing, China, on March 23, 2014.

Ding Lin/xinhua, Mct - Mct

First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia and her mother Marian Robinson arrived in Beijing in March.

Wang Ye • Xinhua /MCT,

Obama girls grow up in the spotlight

  • Article by: Katherine Skiba
  • Chicago Tribune
  • May 31, 2014 - 5:12 PM

– Malia and Sasha Obama have much to celebrate beginning this week: School’s out — and big birthdays are ahead.

Days after completing seventh grade, Sasha Obama will turn 13 on June 10, meaning there will be two teens in the White House for the first time since the Bush twins.

Malia, now wrapping up her sophomore year, marks her 16th birthday on Independence Day. She’ll take driving lessons this summer and will ramp up her college search.

The two girls, among the most famous sisters on the planet, were 7 and 10 years old when their father captured the White House. Five and a half years later, the Chicago-born girls are denizens of the capital and emerging citizens of the world, but living their lives mostly in private.

Tennis and dance

Both attend the $36,264-a-year Sidwell Friends School, a demanding prep school, and have high-energy after-school pursuits.

Malia, like her mother, loves tennis — and has a fierce backhand. Sasha performs with a dance group that features jazz and Afro-Asian fusion.

They’ve sprouted, lost some of their girlishness and made fashion choices suggesting that they, like their mom, have fallen in love with clothing. Malia has shed her braces; now Sasha wears a set.

Malia is “extraordinarily sweet. She strikes me as being very genuine and a nice, caring person. She’s very mature, even interacting with adults,” said Marc Howard, a Georgetown University professor whose daughter used to attend Sidwell. The two girls have had play dates together.

Sasha, Howard said, is “spunky. She’s kind of a lively, entertaining person — a kid who likes to laugh. Like any kid, she has her sassy moments.”

Howard said the girls’ maternal grandmother, Marian Robinson, has been a “constant presence” in their lives, noting: “She would be there at school events, sporting events and practices.”

Expanding horizons

As the girls have grown up and traveled extensively with their parents, their horizons have expanded. In October, Malia met Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani student who was shot by the Taliban for talking about the right of girls to attend school.

The president told the New Yorker that Malia wants to be a filmmaker, and she is said to be choosing from among a number of top-level colleges.

Malia, her mother said recently, is a “great student, but she feels the stress thinking about college.” Sasha, who no longer studies Mandarin Chinese and has taken up Spanish, is “already thinking about college,” the first lady said.

“I’m just so proud of how they have managed all this with poise and grace and maturity,” the first lady recently told ABC’s Robin Roberts.

As for the older daughter learning to drive this summer, Michelle Obama joked on “LIVE with Kelly & Michael” that Secret Service agents don’t want her or her husband in a car with a teen driving.

Their father told comedian Steve Harvey in December that he’s not worried about his daughters dating for two reasons. They’re “very sensible,” he said. Also, he joked, “I’ve got men with guns following them around all the time.”

© 2014 Star Tribune