The Truth About Malia Obama's Life As The First Daughter

For eight years, Malia Obama seemed to live under a microscope along with her younger sister, Sasha Obama. They were the first daughters, of course, and the world wanted to know everything they could about United States President Barack Obama's daughters. With Malia being the older sister, all eyes seemed upon her to see what she got right and what she got wrong. However, her mother, Michelle Obama, was determined to keep her daughters out of the spotlight as much as possible.


Still, the cameras caught Malia growing up before our eyes, going from a 10-year-old little girl moving into the most famous house in America with her family to a poised young woman ready to take Harvard and young adult life by storm. While life was anything but normal inside the fishbowl the White House can become, the Obamas tried to raise Malia and Sasha like average American teenagers with anything but an average life.

Malia starts life and school in Washington D.C.

Malia Ann Obama is an all-American girl born on an all-American day, July 4, 1998, in Chicago, IL. Her parents, Barack and Michelle Obama, never expected that the world would know who she is by the time she was 10 and that Secret Service agents would be escorting her to a brand-new school in the nation's capital called Sidwell Friends School by 2009 (via Biography). Malia may have been going to school like other kids in DC, but her life was anything but normal.


After all, her new home had a swimming pool, a bowling alley, a movie theater – and some of the top security in the world. But Michelle did what she could to keep her daughters grounded and was assisted by her own mother, Marian Robinson, who moved into the White House with the new first family. In fact, having her grandmother there created a sense of normalcy for Malia and her sister (via Biography).

Malia tried to live a normal teenage life

Malia Obama's mother and grandmother did everything they could to make life in the White House at least a bit like life in any other house, with Marian Robinson admitting she heard for Malia and Sasha after her son-in-law was elected president in 2008.


"I felt like this was going to be a hard life," Robinson said on "CBS This Morning" in 2018 (via The Seattle Times). "I was worried about their safety and about the girls."

To that end, she became a constant companion for the girls and even rode in the car as they were driven to school each day to give them a sense of carpool normalcy. Malia also got laundry lessons from her grandmother, who also insisted on doing their own laundry.

Michelle also decided the staff had to change their dress code and be more casual, telling Stephen Colbert (via E! News). "You can't walk around every day in a tuxedo. Girls would have pool parties and playdates and little kids over, and it's like, that doesn't even look right to me. And I had to beg the housekeepers, 'these girls have to learn how to clean their own rooms and make their beds and do their laundry. You cannot do this every day, 'cause they will not live here forever—and I am not raising kids that don't know how to make a bed.'"


Malia had some unusual driving teachers

As a safety and security rule, the president of the United States is not permitted to drive, so there was no way that Barack Obama could teach Malia Obama to drive during her teenage years in the White House. That's when the Secret Service had to step in. They had already been making sure Malia got to school safely each day since she was 10 years old, so they were then tasked with making sure the girl they called "Radiance" (her Secret Service codename) could get her license and drive safely (via She Knows).


"The Secret Service [taught her], actually, because they wouldn't let me in the car with her," Michelle told Rachel Ray (via CNN). "She always has security around. But in order for her to learn how to drive, she had to drive on her own. So once she was legally permitted to drive on her own, she gets in her car."

She added, "Driving for Malia, I think, gives her a sense of normalcy, like the rest of her friends are doing. And my kids have got to learn how to live in the world like normal kids."

Malia gets to see the world

Despite the Obamas' determination to give both of their daughters as normal a life as possible when they were in the public spotlight, normalcy doesn't come when your father is the leader of the free world. Of course, that doesn't always have its drawbacks. 


While Malia Obama traveled with her parents to official events around the world during her eight years as a first daughter, the gap year she chose to take in 2016 between finishing high school and starting college brought Malia traveled to Peru and Bolivia for an education trip and didn't even let her tour guides know who she as at first, according to The New York Times.

When her gap year was over, Malia returned to the states to end her life in the White House when her father's second term was over. She then began a new life in a dorm at Harvard University but was back with her parents taking virtual classes by 2020 like college kids across the world, just like her sister who was attending The University of Michigan. And her mom had the same reaction as moms everywhere. "Our girls were supposed to have emptied out of my nest," Michelle told People. "I was sort of celebrating that they were out building their lives and allowing me the emotional space to let them go. Well, they're back!"