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Obama Praises Michelle's "Hotness"

Former US president Barack Obama has joked about his ears and grey hair and praised his wife Michelle Obama's "hotness" at the unveiling of the couple's official portraits.

The Obamas tapped artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald for the paintings, which will be added to the National Portrait Gallery's collection of presidential portraits.

Wiley and Sherald were the first black artists ever commissioned to paint a president or first lady for the Smithsonian.

For his portrait by Wiley, Obama is depicted sitting in a brown chair with a backdrop of bright green leaves and colourful flowers. Michelle Obama's painting shows her sitting with one hand under her chin and the other draped across her lap, while wearing a long flowing dress decorated with geometric shapes.

Obama, who was the first African-American US president, complimented Sherald for her portrait of Michelle.

"I want to thank you for so spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman that I love," Obama said at the event on Monday.

He quipped that Wiley, who painted his portrait, was at a disadvantage because his subject was "less becoming".

"I tried to negotiate less grey hair and Kehinde's artistic integrity would not allow him to do what I asked," Obama said. "I tried to negotiate smaller ears -- struck out on that as well."

The Obamas both expressed awe at their portraits, noting that they were the first people in their families to ever sit for an official painting.

Michelle Obama said she hoped the portrait would have an impact on young girls of colour in the years ahead.

"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," she said. "I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives, because I was one of those girls."

As a young girl, even in my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined this moment. Nobody in my family has ever had a portrait - there are no portraits of the Robinsons or the Shields from the South Side of Chicago. This is all a little bit overwhelming, especially when I think about all of the young people who will visit the National Portrait Gallery and see this, including so many young girls and young girls of color who don’t often see their images displayed in beautiful and iconic ways. I am so proud to help make that kind of history. But the fact is that none of this would be possible without the extraordinary artist and woman behind this portrait, @asherald. Thank you, Amy – it was a joy to work with you and get to know you.

A post shared by Michelle Obama (@michelleobama) on

The Portrait Gallery's tradition of commissioning presidential portraits began with President George H.W. Bush. Other portraits were acquired as gifts, bought at auctions or through other means.

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