When Malia was just 11 years old, her family moved into the White House — and she became a First Daughter, along with the spotlight that comes from your dad being POTUS. But Malia managed to keep a low profile during her time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, growing up before our eyes to be a sweet, smart, beautiful young woman. In fact, it’s a little hard to believe that on July 4, 2021, this all-American girl turns 23. The eldest of the two Obama daughters, Malia was born on Independence Day in 1998 (little sis Sasha didn’t come until 2001).
Despite the fact that Malia spent eight years at what is arguably the world’s most famous address, the public wasn’t privy to much information about her during those years. Sure, we learned a few things along the way, like the fact that her birthday always got upstaged because, well, the Fourth of July is a big holiday for presidential appearances. Or the fact that she’s a trendsetter — styles she wore often sold out in minutes after she’d been photographed in them.
More from SheKnows
But while we loved the Obamas’ tenure in the White House, we’ve gotta admit we’re pretty partial to what’s come after. Since her dad left office, Malia has slowly but surely shared more of her incredible personality with the world. Here are a few fun facts you probably didn’t realize about the eldest Obama daughter (from before, during and after the Obama presidency).
She’s Already Landed a TV Gig
After graduating Harvard, Malia went on to land a job in a writer’s room headed up by Watchmen‘s Janine Nabers for an Amazon TV series with showrunner Donald Glover. It won’t be her first dip into the world of entertainment, but it’s a pretty solid sign she’s got the writing chops to back up her ambition.
She’s In a Long-Term Relationship
Malia has been dating boyfriend Rory Farquharson since at least 2017, and he’s gotten to know her family well in that time, staying with the Obama family briefly at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and impressing both Michelle and Barack Obama with just how much he could eat.
“We didn’t raise boys and so — they eat a lot,” Michelle said of his visit. “And sometimes we’d forget that he’d need to eat. He’d need to eat often! The poor boy would be sitting around waiting for the next meal…we weren’t even thinking about lunch.”
Her Dad Didn’t Teach Her to Drive
Listen, when your dad is the president, you have to make certain concessions. For example, sitting presidents aren’t allowed to drive. So, when it came time for teenage Malia to learn her way behind the wheel, she couldn’t turn to Dad. He made sure she had the next best thing, though: a fleet of Secret Service agents.
In an interview with Rachael Ray, Michelle revealed that the Secret Service happily stepped in to help teach Malia. “Driving for Malia, I think, gives her a sense of normalcy, like the rest of her friends are doing,” Michelle said. “And my kids have got to learn how to live in the world like normal kids.”
Her Nickname With the Secret Service Is…
Speaking of the Secret Service, here’s a fun fact: the nickname the Secret Service used to refer to Malia by was “Radiance.” That seems to say a lot about her personality, doesn’t it?
She’s a Budding Activist
We love a girl with some gumption! In 2017, Malia made headlines when she appeared at Sundance Film Festival to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. She’s also met Malala Yousafzai to discuss girls’ education, and she (along with her family) marched for equality on Juneteenth in 2019.
She Followed in Her Parent’s Academic Footsteps
Barack and Michelle Obama attend law school at Harvard, so it’s not entirely surprising she ultimately chose to attend the Ivy League university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Of course, this was after she took a much-publicized gap year in 2016.
She’s Got a Wild Streak
We’re going to level with you — this is one of our favorite things about Malia. Since leaving for Harvard, Malia has stirred up media storms by smoking, drinking, and kissing her British boyfriend Rory Farquharson. Or, in other words, being a college student!
She’s Her Mom’s Biggest Fan
The Obama daughters clearly enjoy a close relationship with both of their parents. Earlier this year, Malia’s adoration for her mom, in particular, was on full display when Netflix released Michelle’s documentary, Becoming. In one scene, Malia can be seen telling Michelle after a speaking engagement, “You’re so good. I love you too much. I cried again.”
She also made sure her mom knew how much she admired her. “This has demonstrated in a way — just, like, damn, those eight years weren’t for nothing, you know?” she told Michelle. “You see that huge crowd out there… people are here because people really believe in love and hope and other people.” Aw, tear!
She Was Not Spoiled
There’s a reason you never saw the Obama girls living a frivolous lifestyle while in the White House or making headlines for entitled behavior. That reason? Their parents made sure they weren’t spoiled. “They’re not special, you know, in terms of having to do their homework or having to do chores,” Barack told Barbara Walters on ABC News, noting that his daughters were special to him. In a separate interview, he told People that Malia got a very modest allowance. “Originally, we were giving her a dollar a week as long as she did all her chores.”
She Has a Peanut Allergy
Who knew? In 2013, while signing a bill to help schools battle food allergy attacks, Barack revealed a little known truth about his eldest daughter. “Some people may not know that Malia actually has a peanut allergy,” he said, adding, “She doesn’t have asthma, but obviously making sure that EpiPens are available in case of emergency in schools is something that every parent can understand.”
She Has Hollywood Aspirations
While it’s unclear what Malia’s major is at Harvard, we know what she isn’t going to pursue: politics. Her parents have already noted she has no interest to be like her dad in that respect. One of her biggest passions actually seems to be film-making. She enjoyed internships on the sets of Extant and Girls, and she also spent part of her gap year learning about the film industry at The Weinstein Company.
Michelle spoke to her daughter’s passion back in 2012, telling People, “Malia has expressed some interest in filmmaking. Just like her father, she is an avid reader, and she enjoys movies.” She seems to already be making a name for herself in the industry, too. In an interview with Andy Cohen, Halle Berry (who interacted with Malia on the set of Extant) raved that the teen was “fantastic” and “down to do whatever a PA is asked to do.”
When you’re fluent in Spanish and your POTUS dad isn’t, you end up being his translator! When Barack visited Cuba in 2016, he brought Malia (then a high-school senior) with him. While there, photographer Pete Souza captured the president leaning on his teen to help him translate.
A version of this article was originally published in July 2020.
Launch Gallery: 26 Photos of Sasha & Malia Obama Growing Up Before Our Eyes
Best of SheKnows