Have you guys seen the photo of two-year-old Parker admiring Michelle Obama’s portrait at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery? It’s adorable and inspiring and gives me all the feels for numerous reasons.
After the photo went viral, Jessica Curry (Parker’s mom) said that her daughter was staring up in awe because she thought Michelle Obama was a queen. But this goes so much deeper than a little girl wanting to play princess; this is about representation, and why it’s so deeply important.
As Michelle Obama said at the portrait’s unveiling ceremony, “I have to tell you that as I stand here today with all of you and look at this amazing portrait that will hang among so many iconic figures, I am a little overwhelmed to say the least. I am also thinking of all the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who in years ahead will come to this place and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution. I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives because I was one of those girls.”
I’ve heard people refer to the movie Wonder Woman as an “a-ha” moment for many women who suddenly, for the first time, realized what it was like to see an unapologetically strong, compassionate, kick-ass person who was like them in a starring role on the silver screen—and while I’m sure it pales in comparison to the experience of POC in America, when I think of all my female friends and women online saying they broke down crying in the theater when they saw it, it gives you a small glimpse of the powerful impact representation has on marginalized people.
People like young Parker, gazing up in awe at a portrait of an American queen…who looks like her.
While the mother-daughter duo seem to be having a lot of fun with their moment of viral fame, Michelle Obama’s vision of touching the lives of young girls of color is already coming to fruition, as you can see in this interview with Buzzfeed.
But the story doesn’t end there! Parker actually did get to meet Michelle, and they even had a dance party to T-Swift’s “Shake It Off” (because OF COURSE they did). Make sure to click the little arrow on the right of the picture to scroll over to the dance video.
“Parker, I’m so glad I had the chance to meet you today (and for the dance party),” Obama captioned the post. “Keep on dreaming big for yourself…and maybe one day I’ll proudly look up at a portrait of you!”
May that “one day” be soon, when there are more opportunities, more inclusion, and more space for a rainbow of portraits to honor.