Michelle Obama joined "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King for a sweeping interview at the Essence Festival in New Orleans Saturday night, sharing stories about her time in the White House, her marriage, and what she's overcome to get where she is today.
Walking onto the stage, the former first lady was greeted by thunderous applause, but reminded the audience the road hasn't always been easy. Obama said people "don't remember how many punches we took to get" to the White House.
"For a minute there, I was an angry black woman who was emasculating her husband," she said about her experience with former President Barack Obama on the campaign trail. "As I got more popular, that's when people of all sides -- Democrats and Republicans -- tried to take me out by the knees and the best way to do it was to focus on the one thing people were afraid of: the strength of a black woman."
In the 45-minute interview, Obama recounts what she learned from her eight-year tenure as First Lady and why "going high" is just as important today as it was in 2008.
"I would have to earn my grace"
Before she got to the White House, Obama said that she knew she "wouldn't get the benefit of the doubt" as other first ladies before her. Instead, "I would have to earn my grace, I knew that very clearly, and knew that would have to quickly define myself."
"I want all young girls out there to know -- we all struggle with that, people of color, working class folks, women of color -- people try to define us in a negative way before we get a chance to get out there and tell our own stories," Obama said. She told King that as first lady, that meant coming to the White House "rolling up my sleeves and ready to work."
"I had to prove that not only was I smart and strategic, but I was going to work harder and faster and better and stronger than any first lady in history and I had to do that," Obama said.
We took punches, but "forgiveness is real"
The road to "Becoming," wasn't an easy one, Obama told King. Even though Obama and her husband have enjoyed success and popularity, she said that people " don't remember how many punches we took to get there."
"For a minute there, I was an angry black woman who was emasculating her husband," Obama recalled about the campaign. "As I got more popular, that's when people of all sides -- Democrats and Republicans -- tried to take me out by the knees and the best way to do it was to focus on the one thing people were afraid of: the strength of a black woman."
The former first lady said she has learned "not to hold onto too much resentment and anger."
"Everyone says this -- forgiveness is real, forgiveness is for you and not for the other person," she said.
People want "stories about people who look and feel like them"
On her worldwide book tour for "Becoming," Obama said that one thing she has learned is that "people are really hungry for stories and stories about people who look and feel like them."
Everywhere she went, whether it was Paris, Copenhaagan, or London, she said people told her that they found something relatable in her book. That resonated in particular with Obama considering the rarity of memoirs written by black women.
"What it reminds me is that our stories as black people and as black women have power," she said. "We don't often get to see ourselves, we don't hear ourselves because we don't get to control the narrative."
"We are going to be empty nesters!"
Obama excitedly told the crowd that since her youngest daughter, Sasha, had graduated high school, she and Mr. Obama are empty nesters. The Obama's celebrity added a heightened stress to parenting teenagers, Obama said.
"Every Saturday night, you had to worry about whether your kids are going to end up on Page Six," Obama told King.
Now with a quieter house, she and Mr. Obama are "rediscovering each other."
"This is the beauty of finding a partner you really love and respect -- because after all the highs and lows, the ups and downs we've been through, we have each other, which makes the journey worth it," she said.
Trump's inauguration "was a lot emotionally"
For Obama, the "other Inauguration Day" -- how she to referred President Trump taking office -- was a "very emotional" time, not only politically, but logistically and as a mother.
The White House had really been the home where her children had grown up, Obama told King. Malia, the Obama's oldest daughter, was in fifth grade and Sasha in second when they arrived in 2009.
"The truth is on that day, I was moving my children out of the only house they had really grown up in - and I think that gets lost on people," Obama said.
Obama said her daughters wanted to have one last sleepover in the White House the night before the 2017 inauguration. Despite the girls' promises, she said she was rushing her daughters' friends out of the house in addition to getting ready to leave.
"So anyway, the girls didn't get up," the former first lady told King."I'm like, 'Get up and get out of here,' and they're all crying and they have their teddy bears and they're moving slow and I'm like, 'You've got to get up and get out of this house.'
"So you've got tears and I'm pushing people out of freight elevator and my kids are crying -- I don't know where they're going -- all of that was happening and the staff was crying.
"And then we had to meet the Trumps, the Trumps show up," she said. "And I didn't want to go out and greet them with tears in my eyes because people would think I was crying for other reasons.
"All I had to do for 8 years, watching my husband get raked over the coals, feel like we had to do everything perfectly, no scandal," she said. "It was a lot emotionally that when I got on that plane, it was a release."
"Your dad's president; that doesn't have anything to do with you"
As they were raising daughters in the White House, Obama said they had to "pretend like all the craziness around them wasn't happening." The former first lady told King that she'd say to her daughters, "Yep, yep, your dad's president, that doesn't have anything to do with you, just take your little butt to school."
But she did appreciate the uniqueness of her daughters' experiences growing up in the White House, and in particular the heightened security surrounding them.
"Imagine having Malia and Sasha come to your house for a sleepover," Obama told King. "This is the call: It's like, 'Hello. OK, we're going to need your Social Security number, we're going to need your date of birth. There are going to be men coming to sweep your house, if you have guns and drugs, just tell them yes because they are going to find them anyway. Don't lie, they're not going to take them, they just need to know where they are. And, uh, thank you for having Malia and Sasha over.
"Oh and by the way, there is going to be a man with a gun sitting outside all night," said Obama. "If you let him use the bathroom, that would be nice!'"
"Barack and I aren't living our best life until we're all living our best life"
Even though their life after The White House has been good, Obama told King that things could be better.
"The Obama family is doing fine," she said.
"But Barack and I aren't living our best life until we're all living our best life," she said.
She noted that Al Sharpton said the power that black people -- and especially black women -- have is often underestimated.
"But I'm here to tell you, there is nothing we can't do or change when we as a collective put our minds to it," she said. "I feel that when I'm out there. We're the ones we are waiting for. But that means we have to roll up our sleeves and do the work every single time."
"That slow Hawiian walk"
Obama shared with King the very first time she spoke to Mr. Obama: on the phone ahead of his first day at the law firm they worked at together. She said that the firm's partners were excited about him, but to Obama, on paper he sounded like a "nerd." But when she spoke to him on the phone, "that voice didn't go with the picture of the little nerd I had in my head."
But then Mr. Obama was late on his first day at the law firm. "Then he was late and I was like, 'trifling black man coming late on the first day.'"
She noted that he didn't even seem "pressed" that he was late, but rather had "that slow Hawaiian walk."
"My husband is my teammate"
In her memoir, "Becoming," Obama wrote about her experience going to marriage counseling, something she said was important to share. Obama told King that people see their relationship now as "hashtag relationship goals," but she wanted to let people know about the difficult times, too.
"Marriage is all nice and cute but then kids show up and they take up all the oxygen in the land," Obama said. "That's why they make the babies cute because you would leave them at the post office."
To make a marriage work, Obama said, it's important for people to marry their equals.
"My husband is my teammate and if we are going to win this game together, he has to be strong and he has to be ok with me being strong," Obama said.
Women can "own their health"
Health and wellness were two things Obama focused on while at the White House. She noted that "food and diet and lifestyle is very personal," which was part of why her efforts in that area faced so much opposition.
She said she started focusing on kids because "my hope is that sometimes as parents, we do for our kids what we can't find to do for ourselves."
Starting with young people was a way to "ease into the conversation." But it's a "challenge we all face," she said.
"We all have the ability to own our health," she said.
Obama said she found that after she had kids, she didn't have time to exercise even though her husband still went to the gym every day. She said she found herself getting mad at him because he was doing what he needed to do for himself.
"For us as women, we have a hard time putting ourselves on our own priority list, let alone at the top of it," she said. "And that's what happens to our health as women. We are so busy giving and doing for others that we almost feel guilty to take that time out for ourselves."
Qualities that make a good president
What makes a good president? "It's a hard job, y'all," Obama said. "This isn't a joke, this isn't a game -- the leader of the free world with a tweet can start a war, can crush an economy, can change the future of our children."
Obama said the job requires "deep seriousness and focus" and it requires someone who understands history and "having facts, operating with a clear base of facts and ideas."
"Someone who is careful with their words, somebody is who is trustworthy, someone who is loyal and honest," she said.
Obama said it isn't complicated, but some people in politics treat it like "it's a game."
"I fear at times Barack made it look easy -- I guess it's kind of like if the black guy can do it, anybody can do it ... and that's not true. It's a hard job," Obama said.
Obamas will support whoever wins the Democratic primary
For the 2020 election, Obama said that she and her husband would endorse whoever wins the primary, but wouldn't be getting involved until then.
"It's very early," Obama said. "It is like trying to figure out who is going win the World Series after the first seven games."
Obama said the general election is "so important" and they have to make sure everyone in the party comes together to support the nominee.
"We're watching everyone, we're supportive of everyone," Obama said. "We are giving advice to whomever seeks it."
Obama says she still believes "when they go low, we go high"
Obama said she still believes her famous saying from the 2016 campaign, "when they go low, we go high."
"It has to be true -- you know, look, that's the one thing people ask me about, in this climate, how do you find it in yourself to go high," she said. "And here's the thing, going high is a long-term strategy -- because the truth is, going high is about thinking about trying to really get to the real answer, because a lot of time the low answer is our immediate instinct. It's just, I'm mad, I want to punch you in the face, but it doesn't solve anything."
She said she learned this from Mr. Obama, because a lot of people wanted him to "just go off." His view was that it would feel better in the moment, but it doesn't move the agenda.
"And if we're thinking about what the agenda is, which is getting to a place where we all live in a country where we're proud to pass on to our kids, going high is the only way we get there," she said. "It's our patience, our tolerance, it's our belief in honesty and truth, it's our belief in hard work. It's not about getting somebody back, it's not about the immediate clapback. The immediate clapback is just for your own selfish purpose right there in the moment and rarely does it solve anything."
She said "going high" doesn't mean ignoring the pain, but instead thinking about where you are going in the long term.