Michelle Obama Wasn't The Only First Lady To Guest Star On A Sitcom

There are plenty of weird rules that the First Lady is forced to follow, but staying off the small screen is not one of them. One of the strange facts about Former First Lady Michelle Obama is that she appeared in a few sitcoms to discuss various causes. First, she appeared in the "iCarly" episode "iMeet the First Lady." The episode's plot related to the Joining Forces campaign supporting families of those in the armed forces. At a screening of the episode, Obama explained how she watches the sitcom with her daughters. She also shared a kind message to any children at the screening with family in the military: "We did this episode because we want the country to know how proud we are of all of you. Know that you have an entire country that stands behind you guys, okay?" (via ABC News). 

In the "Parks and Recreation" episode "Moving Up," Obama name-dropped her Let's Move! program while advising Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) to take a National Parks Service job (via YouTube). Lastly, Obama appeared on the 2022 "Black-ish" episode "That's What Friends Are For." According to Hola!, that cameo was directly tied to the When We All Vote initiative.

However, Obama wasn't the only first lady who had a cameo on a sitcom to raise awareness. Back in 1983, former First Lady Nancy Reagan stopped by "Diff'rent Strokes" to bring awareness to her "Just Say No" campaign, aimed to dissuade people from using drugs.

Reagan joined a character on the show to drive home her 'Just Say No' initiative

In the episode titled "The Reporter," the "Diff'rent Strokes" character Arnold (played by the late Gary Coleman) discovers that someone is selling drugs at his elementary school. He sets up a drug deal to research and then writes a story about the underground drug ring for the school's newspaper. According to Decider, the school principal isn't happy with Arnold for painting their school in a bad light. Also, the school administration doesn't even believe it's happening (via The Hollywood Reporter). However, First Lady Nancy Reagan commends Arnold for his anti-drug work, and together they work to bring awareness to and hopefully stop the drug use at Arnold's school (via UCR).

After Reagan passed away in 2016, one of Coleman's co-stars from "Diff'rent Strokes" — Todd Bridges, who played the character Willis — spoke about her cameo with The Hollywood Reporter. He also divulged how Reagan's stance on drugs affected his own struggle with addiction.

Bridges said Reagan was 'a really nice lady'

While reminiscing about Nancy Reagan's "Diff'rent Strokes" appearance, Todd Bridges told The Hollywood Reporter how the large number of Secret Service agents on set only laughed at Reagan's jokes during the taping. On his interactions with Reagan, Bridges said, "She was wonderful, a really nice lady." However, he didn't feel that her anti-drug rhetoric was the most effective.

"The 'Just Say No' thing didn't explain enough, is what I thought. ... In those days, our parents would say, 'Don't use drugs,' and we'd say, 'Why not?' 'Because we said not to, that's why.' And that was it," Bridges said. "But I think Nancy's appearance did make an impact on part of the world. It really did."

The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program launched in 1983, the same year Reagan had her "Diff'rent Strokes" cameo, to encourage teens not to use drugs. However, it's been proven that the messaging from D.A.R.E. didn't have much of an effect in stopping people from using drugs (via NPR). Despite that, Bridges still said Reagan's words helped him. "At my lowest point," he said, "I started remembering what she was talking about and the reason why the stuff was so bad. Once you figure out the root cause — what makes you do something [self-destructive] — you figure out how to stop."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).