President Obama held a frank discussion on race and body image, and shared his insight as a father and husband in a sit-down interview with ballerina Misty Copeland.
In the interview posted by Time magazine Monday, Obama said Copeland has served as a positive role model for African-American women facing down the limitations posed by their race and gender.
"That pressure I think has historically always been harder on African American women than just about any other women," Obama said. "And the fact that they’ve got a tall gorgeous mom who has some curves, and that their father appreciates, I think is helpful. I do think that culture’s changing for the younger generation a little bit more."
They also discussed the pressure of achieving and maintaining success, paralleling Obama's experience as the first African-American president and Copeland's as the first black female principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre.
"I feel like as I’m embarking on my first season as a principal dancer I’m experiencing something that I didn’t prepare myself for, I think emotionally and mentally and psychologically," Copeland, 33, said. "When you have all of these expectations and goals to reach this point that 1 percent get to, you know how do you – what do you do when you get there?"
Obama said he often looks at his supporters as a way to keep himself grounded.
"You know, for all the blessings and privileges and responsibilities that I’ve gotten," Obama, 54, said. "I’m just representing a huge cross section of people who are talented and capable and supported me getting to where I came from. So that takes a little bit of the edge off."
Obama also mentioned his disagreement with those who believed his election meant that racism in the country was no longer a factor.
"I remember people talking about how somehow this was going to solve all our racial problems. I wasn’t one of those who subscribed to that notion," Obama said. "But what I want them to draw from it is a sense of justice for everybody. My view is that the strength of having been a minority on the receiving end of discrimination is that it should make you that much more attuned and empathetic towards anybody who’s vulnerable."