Talk about a great get: Duchess Meghan of Sussex guest-edited a magazine and got Michelle Obama to talk about daughters Malia and Sasha. On the record.
It's another sign the former first lady is more willing to dish about the former first daughters, both of whom are now old enough – and long enough out of the White House – to be talked about without the media being accused of crossing a line.
Especially if it's one of the Obamas who is doing the talking. As in this passage, in response to Meghan's question about what motherhood has taught her. For Obama, it's been "a masterclass in letting go."
"What’s both humbled and heartened me is seeing the resiliency of my daughters," Obama told the duchess in a Q&A for the September issue of British Vogue, for which Meghan served as "guest editor" during her pregnancy with Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, born May 6.
Even so, Obama, 55, holds back a little: She describes Malia, 21, and Sasha, 18, but not too much, and not which one is which.
"In some ways, Malia and Sasha couldn’t be more different," she wrote. "One speaks freely and often, one opens up on her own terms. One shares her innermost feelings, the other is content to let you figure it out. Neither approach is better or worse, because they’ve both grown into smart, compassionate and independent young women, fully capable of paving their own paths."
Gushy? Well, what do you expect from a proud mom? Anyway, Meghan, who turns 38 on Sunday, set the tone in her introduction to the Q&A, which by tradition in the British version of the fashion bible is "equal parts informative and whimsical," she noted.
When it came time to pick her "special guest," she said, "My first thought was that it needed to be someone kind, inspirational, motivating, funny, with gravitas and as much depth as levity. My second thought: it needed to be Michelle Obama.
"So, over a casual lunch of chicken tacos and my ever-burgeoning bump, I asked Michelle if she would help me with this secret project."
It was celebrity kismet: Meghan and Michelle, two of the most famous American women alive today. Meghan, the bride to Prince Harry and new mom, and Obama, the widely admired ex-first lady and author of a mega-selling memoir ("Becoming").
Meghan was impressed with Obama's "thoughtful, reflective and beautifully curated" written responses. "Whatever your background, it’s easy to feel connected to Mrs Obama. There’s something magical about the way in which she draws you in with her endearingly frank, down-to-earth personality," Meghan writes.
"Guest editing" allows media-wary figures such as Obama and Meghan to be semi-in charge instead of at the mercy of a merciless media. And it allows both women to promote their philanthropic causes, including Obama's Girls Opportunity Alliance, an Obama Foundation program that hopes to empower more adolescent girls through education – something Obama has been advocating since she was first lady.
"I formed the Girls Opportunity Alliance because I’ve seen the power of education in my own life," she explains. "And I believe that every little girl, no matter her circumstances, deserves the opportunity to learn, grow and act on her knowledge."
But back to Malia and Sasha: What advice does she give them, Meghan asked. Don't just check off career boxes you think you're supposed to check, Obama writes; better to try new experiences until they find the right one.
"As a younger woman, I spent too much time worrying that I wasn’t achieving enough, or I was straying too far from what I thought was the prescribed path," Obama wrote. "What I hope my daughters will realize a little earlier is that there is no prescribed path, that it’s OK to swerve, and that the confidence they need to recognize that will come with time."
Meghan asks her a question Obama says she loves: What would her 15-year-old self have to say about what Obama has become today? "Teenage-me" was pretty by the book, with straight As and high standards, she writes.
"So I imagine that she’d be proud of how far I’ve come – but she wouldn’t let me off the hook, either," Obama writes. "She’d remind me there are still too many girls on the South Side of Chicago who are being shushed, cast aside or told they’re dreaming too big. She’d tell me to keep fighting for them.
"If I’m being honest, she’d probably smile about how cute my husband is, too."
Meghan ends the Q&A with a somewhat off-beat question: What is the most beautiful sound that you’ve ever heard?
"When Malia and Sasha were newborns, Barack and I could lose hours just watching them sleep. We loved to listen to the little sounds they’d make – especially the way they cooed when they were deep into dreaming," Obama reminisces.
"There is something so magical about having a baby in the house. Time expands and contracts; each moment holds its own little eternity. I’m so excited for you and Harry to experience that, Meghan. Savor it all."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Meghan Markle chats up Michelle Obama, dishes about Malia and Sasha