The untold truth of Malia Obama

Despite the fact that she spent eight years living in the White House, attending speeches and state dinners, and rubbing shoulders with some of the most important people in the world during her father President Barack Obama's tenure, the eldest Obama daughter, Malia, managed to keep a pretty low profile during her time in Washington, D.C. Now college-aged, and trading in the White House for a Harvard dorm room in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the former president's daughter is starting to branch out and make headlines of her own. 

From what she did with that gap year between high school and enrolling at Harvard, to what really went on during Lollapalooza (in 2016 and 2017), Malia Ann Obama is more than just a former president's daughter. Here's some insight into everything you never knew about the first daughter and her life before, during, and after her eight years in the White House. 

Here's proof that she was never spoiled

Just because she was the first daughter, doesn't mean Malia Obama was spoiled. While she and her sister did "sorta, kinda" get an allowance, it wasn't much, and it came with responsibilities. Malia's father told People, "Originally, we were giving her a dollar a week as long as she did all her chores."

And if you thought the girls got special treatment once they moved into the White House, you'd be mistaken. According to The New York Times, the Obama daughters still had to make their own beds and clean their own rooms. Malia's father told Barbara Walters on ABC News that, while his daughters are special to him and their mother, "they're not special, you know in terms of having to do their homework or having to do chores." Her mom Michelle added that the first thing she said to the White House staff was: "Don't make their beds. Make mine." While she may have said it with a laugh, we're pretty sure she wasn't joking.

She loves this sport, even though she's not a natural

Prior to moving into the White House, the Obama girls were already pretty busy. According to People, that included "soccer, dance and drama for Malia, gymnastics and tap for Sasha, and tennis and piano for both."

During another People interview with their father, he told the magazine how happy he was that his daughters were interested in things they weren't good at. "Malia loves soccer, but she's still so tall and gangly compared to some of these little kids who are zipping around her, although she's getting better. The fact that she's not good at everything right away … means learning lessons about having to work hard at something and improve." Always a supportive dad, he even made time during his presidency to watch her soccer games

Malia and her sister are also apparently fans of professional soccer and wanted to meet Argentinean player Lionel Messi when they traveled to Argentina with their father. Unfortunately, not even the U.S. president can disrupt an international sports schedule, and the Obama daughters were unable to meet the soccer star.

She never has (and never will) have a birthday of her own

America's birthday is a time when American politicians are expected to take part in all the fanfare, picnics, and parades — events that are almost as important to the 4th of July as the fireworks. So when your father is one of those politicians and you happen to share a birthday with America, well, your birthday gets a little upstaged. Such has always been the case for Malia. 

According to a 2009 Chicago Tribune piece, she spent many birthdays in hotel rooms, celebrating between her father's appearances. In 2007, for instance, she "spent her birthday following her father around southern and central Iowa," according to the Tribune. Things weren't much different in 2008 when, the Tribune reports, "She spent the evening in a Holiday Inn Express hotel room in Montana. During a break in campaigning, the family partied in the hotel room, ordering in dinner and a birthday cake and dancing to her favorite songs from artists such as the Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana." 

She still managed to have some epic birthdays

You shouldn't feel too bad for Malia — her parents always made sure she knew her birthday was special, and she had some pretty amazing celebrations. Her actual birthday was often spent in hotel rooms, so her parents would throw a big sleepover party with all her friends once they were back home. 

Another shocker: According to a 2008 interview with People, her mother Michelle said that they don't do birthday presents in their family. "We spend hundreds of dollars on a birthday party and movie tickets and pizza and popcorn," she said, her husband adding, "That sleepover is enough. We want to teach some limits to them. And their friends bring over presents." 

In 2009, as the Chicago Tribune reports, she was the first in her family to have a birthday in the White House, with 20 of her girlfriends joining her at Camp David. Not too shabby, Malia. Not too shabby at all. Of course, does any of that compare to an 18th birthday with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Janelle Monae? That's a tough call.

The Secret Service taught her how to drive

Coming of age in the White House means things the average kid takes for granted aren't necessarily a guarantee. Take, for instance, that sitting presidents aren't allowed to drive. That means Malia had to get behind the wheel for the first time without her dad's guidance. Sure, she might have Secret Service available to drive her around wherever she wants and whenever she wants, but like any teen, Malia was excited to learn how to drive herself when the time came. 

"Driving for Malia, I think, gives her a sense of normalcy, like the rest of her friends are doing," Michelle Obama said in an interview with Rachael Ray (via CNN). "And my kids have got to learn how to live in the world like normal kids." But don't assume that means Michelle took the reigns in teaching her oldest daughter. Michelle revealed that the Secret Service wouldn't even let her get in the car with Malia and took on the task themselves.

Skirting the Secret Service on prom night

While Malia may have had the Secret Service teaching her how to drive, that doesn't mean she was able to drive herself around. In fact, during her time at the White House, there was only one time she was able to bend the rules about having the Secret Service drive her places. According to her mom, Malia was allowed to skirt the Secret Service's chauffeuring duties on prom night.

In her memoir Becoming, Michelle Obama revealed (via People) that a 16-year-old Malia went to prom with "a boy she kind of liked" back in 2015. Malia asked her parents to "be cool" and they did so by shaking her date's hand, taking a few photos, and sending the couple on their way. Michelle Obama wrote in her memoir, "We took what was perhaps unfair comfort in the knowledge that Malia's security detail would basically ride the boy's bumper all the way to the restaurant where they were going for dinner before the dance and would remain on quiet duty throughout the night."

Those Lollapalooza videos, though

Malia's first scandal started at Lollapalooza in 2016: A video surfaced of her smoking what appeared to be a joint. "You could smell the marijuana smoke," eyewitness Jerrdin Selwyn told Radar Online. Just a few months later, someone took another controversial photo of Malia at a frat house, according to Radar Online. The image shows Malia in a "smoking kills" t-shirt, ironically standing beside a bong. According to David Maranis' book Barack Obama: The Story, the former President Obama also had an interest in marijuana when he was younger, so he might not have been majorly concerned.

None of these controversies stopped Malia from attending the music festival again in 2017. While no nosy onlookers caught her smoking anything this time, she drew attention to herself with her wild dance moves. TMZ got video of Malia rocking on with friends, and even rolling around on the ground at one point. TMZ also has video of Malia getting whisked out of the festival on a golf cart, implying that she might've gone a little too hard. 

Getting political during her gap year (with a splash of fake news)

Instead of heading to college right after graduating from high school in 2016, Malia took a year off before attending Harvard. To say that Malia was busy during her gap year is an understatement. First, she interned at the U.S. Embassy in Spain. It's unclear whether Malia has any interest in a political career as there wasn't much news about the internship. Real news, that is. 

In the summer of 2017, fake news started circulating that she was fired from her internship for smoking marijuana. The now-defunct website that first "reported" the incident supposedly had an "About Us" page that claimed it "uses facts that don't exist and relies more on imagination than the truth." Unfortunately that didn't stop people from latching on to the rumor.

Regardless of her career ambitions, it's clear Malia has a penchant for political activism considering she protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. In an interview with Seth Meyers, Shailene Woodley (who famously got arrested for her involvement in the DAPL protests) revealed that Malia attended the Sundance Festival "to hear what the chairman from Standing Rock… and some of the water protectors had to say."

She's a total movie buff

Malia has no shortage of interests. In fact, one of her biggest passions seems to be film. While you may think her passion lies in television after those internships as a production assistant on Extant and on the set of HBO's Girls, Malia spent part of her gap year between high school and college learning more about the film industry at The Weinstein Company. Just before beginning her Weinstein internship, she was also spotted at the Sundance Film Festival at a screening of the film Beach Rats

It probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise though, because Malia's mother Michelle told People all the way back in 2012 that her movie buff daughter had an interest in film. "Malia has expressed some interest in filmmaking," Michelle said. "Just like her father, she is an avid reader, and she enjoys movies. But she's a [high school] freshman, so she also knows she has years in college to explore her interest." This is probably one reason that Malia toured colleges known for filmmaking, such as New York University, before ultimately deciding on Harvard.

That stealthy secret trip to South America

While the public knew that Malia was going to be spending part of her gap year vacationing with her parents, and part of it working in film, no one knew that she was also going on a three-month gap year program to Bolivia and Peru through a Colorado-based group called Where There Be Dragons. When we say that no one knew she was going, we really mean pretty much no one other than her family and the Secret Service, and that includes the guides. While they knew someone in their midst was important (due to the need for American bodyguards), they didn't know who the important person was. 

One guide told The New York Times, "There was a blonde girl, and we assumed she was the important one," only later learning, long after the trip was over, that it was Malia Obama who had joined them on their trek. In retrospect the guide called Malia "very humble" and "chatty," noting that she "spoke Spanish very well" and was "mesmerized by the Bolivian landscape."

President Obama wasn't ready to say bye to Malia, his best friend

Like most other teenaged high school graduates, Malia couldn't wait to fly the coop (even though that coop was the White House). "Malia is more than ready to leave," her father said during an interview with Ellen Degeneres prior to Malia beginning her freshman year at Harvard. However, both of her parents were anxious about Malia's departure, and likely grateful that she delayed it for a year with her gap year between high school and college.

In an interview with People, Michelle full on side-eyed her husband for calling Malia a grown woman, asserting, "she's still a baby!" Yep, sounds like the Obamas are just like any other family. The former president, on the other hand, says the hardest part about Malia leaving for college is that he's losing his best friend. "It's going to be hard for me not to have her around all the time," he told Ellen. "But she's ready to go. You can tell."

Rapper Swae Lee is interested... and has already planned their dream date

As a beautiful and charismatic woman in the public eye, Malia has undoubtedly garnered some attention from people looking to win her heart — and rapper Swae Lee is one of them. Lee described his dream date with Malia to TMZ, saying he wants to take her to the Bahamas. "We gonna go on a dinner date, 200 feet in the air at a 5-star restaurant," he said. Don't worry, Mr. President: Lee said he plans to go full gentleman and ask your permission first.

It seems, however, Lee is going to have to stand in line if he wants to date Malia. While attending her first Harvard-Yale football game in November 2017 as a freshman at Harvard, Malia was spotted locking lips with fellow student Rory Farquharson. While it's unclear if Farquharson has spent time with the rest of the Obama family, there doesn't appear to have been any permission granted by the former president. So maybe Lee still has a chance after all.

"Are you gonna take it in my face like an animal in a cage?"

In August 2017, Malia moved into her dorm at Harvard. Unsurprisingly, many people at the school were excited about her arrival, with some in the area rushing to take photos of the former president's daughter — but Malia is not amused. TMZ has footage of Malia clapping back at a woman trying to get a photo of her, saying, "Are you gonna take it in my face like an animal in a cage?" 

Fortunately, the students at Harvard are more laid back about Malia's attendance. "It's not unusual that we have some well-known students here, either because of their parents' name or because they've done something incredible," one student told the Boston Globe. "I would just treat her like any other student."

Then again, we're not sure the typical Harvard student heads to NYC on the weekend to stroll the streets of Manhattan with their rumored significant other, or heads to Miami with their former first lady mother in the middle of January.

Halle Berry and Lena Dunham both raved about her work ethic

Malia didn't wait until she graduated from high school to get in on the internship game. While it's safe to say that she would have likely had no trouble finding an internship in the political sphere, Malia instead decided to follow her own path and gain experience in other areas that interest her. The internships she had while in the White House definitely weren't your average, boring data entry gigs. Instead, she gravitated toward the entertainment industry. 

In 2014, she got to work as a production assistant on the set of the (now canceled) Halle Berry show Extant. "She was fantastic," Berry said in an interview with Andy Cohen. "She was down to do whatever a PA is asked to do." Then in 2015, Malia once again proved she's able to do whatever is needed of her when she worked on the set of HBO's Girls. Lena Dunham told Howard Stern that Malia is "so smart" and that she was interested in doing "all the jobs."

A fashion icon in the making

While Malia has kept busy traveling the world, learning about the film industry, attending festivals, and starting college, her fashion sense hasn't gone unnoticed. Though her mother is the one who has been called a fashion icon, Malia doesn't seem to be far behind. It's obvious her mother's style is an influence, with The New York Times noting that, "For all the style credit Malia is garnering, there's still a sense that she is closely mirroring her trendsetting mother" with both of them centering their looks around bold colors and patterns. 

Since that time, Malia has come more into her own, with a style evolution certainly befitting a fashion icon in the making. In 2017, InStyle noted that she "nails it" in the fashion department and is apparently a fan of the Vancouver-based retailer Aritzia, sporting casual looks anyone would love to be wearing. In fact, both she and her sister Sasha have been noted for their flawless fashion since leaving the White House.

Music video debut — and disappearing act

While Malia's college experience at Harvard is being kept fairly under wraps, every once in a while we're treated to a glimpse of how she's enjoying the experience. In 2018, Malia appeared in the music video for "Walking on Air" by the New Dakotas. Though her appearances were short — dancing, lip syncing, and at one point playing the harmonica in a chunky sweater and beanie — it was a treat to see her having such a great time. That is, until we couldn't. 

A short time after the video was originally uploaded to YouTube, it disappeared and a visibly edited version was re-uploaded. Malia's appearances in the video had been cut, made more obvious by the fact the music skips a bit in those sections (around 1:40 and 2:00 in the video). While the Boston Herald reached out to the Boston-based band for answers as to why Malia's cameo was cut, the New Dakotas did not respond to the request, instead posting, "We've edited the video to preserve privacy. Sorry about the glitchy cuts."

Looks like those of us who didn't see the original will just have to wait for Malia's next on-screen venture, whenever that may be.