Obama girls: How harsh the spotlight?
History suggests they'll get shelter from the swarm
NEW YORK - They're only 10 and 7, and already designers are angling to dress them. They've been on the cover of
. And there's that standing invitation - unlikely though it is to be redeemed - to the set of "Hannah Montana."
Malia and Sasha Obama are unquestionably the world's most famous tweens, and they haven't even moved into the White House yet. When they arrive, do they have even a chance at the normal existence their parents have often said they want for them?
A look at history suggests that the media, at least, will keep their distance. Chelsea Clinton, 13 when she entered the White House, was largely left alone at the request of her parents. Amy Carter, who came at age 9, was allowed to live a fairly normal life. And the much younger Kennedy kids were kept from the public glare by their mother, Jackie, who even set up a school for Caroline at the White House.
But this is a different world, one where photos and video can be snapped not just by mainstream photographers but anyone with a cell phone, and uploaded to the Web within minutes.
Are the Obama girls celebrities in their own right? "If you're talking about people who fascinate the public, then yes, absolutely," says Larry Hackett, managing editor of People, which has featured the Obama family on its cover three times. "But if you mean celebrity in the sense that we can cover their every move, then no. These are kids."
The girls, who captured many hearts with their poised, joyful, color-coordinated appearance on election night in Chicago, were clearly a political asset to Obama the candidate, says Janice Min, editor of Us Weekly.
"These images of the Obama kids have been incredibly heartwarming," says Min. "No one could doubt that these were great parents, and that they have great girls."
But now, says Min, "it's time for business, and I expect there will be far fewer pictures."
Once safely in the White House, the girls will be well protected and nurtured, says Ann Stock, who was White House social secretary during the Clinton administration.
"Will there be the occasional photo? I'm sure. But the people around these girls are going to work very hard to let them go about their routines," says Stock.
Can the girls live a normal life, or close to it? Stock, who watched Chelsea Clinton spend her preteen years in the White House, thinks they can. "I know it can work," she says. "Chelsea went to her ballet rehearsals. Then she came home, did homework, ate dinner with her parents, went to bed."
And the Obama family is starting with one huge advantage over the past few years: Dinner together, every night. "Remember, essentially they're living above the store," says Stock. "They'll see each other seven days a week."
They'll have to make new friends. At school, one can assume that neither Malia nor Sasha will be the odd girl out.
"You're probably not going to be the picked-on girl," jokes Min, of Us Weekly. "You're already going in as the queen bee." *