Michelle Obama is a historic First Lady.
As the first Black woman to ever hold the coveted title, the woman born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson in Chicago, IL, was put under a microscope almost from the moment her husband, President Barack Obama, took office.
Fortunately, however, Mrs. Obama handled the newfound pressure with her trademark grace.
“Being the first Black anything is gonna be hard,” she told Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America.” “I knew, as the first Black first lady, I couldn’t presume anything … I’d have to earn my grace.”
Today, Michelle Obama has more than “earned her grace.” As AfroTech previously reported, she’s earned a $70 million net worth, inked a separate deal with Spotify for her own podcast, hosted voter drives to encourage young people to vote, and even got inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
And that’s just the beginning.
But where Mrs. Obama really shines is in her ability to influence markets. More than just being a “pretty face” to look at, and endorse products, Mrs. Obama is a veritable business powerhouse. Vanity Fair revealed an estimate that said in the eight years that she was First Lady, Michelle Obama drove more than $2.7 billion to the “retail sector.”
“In 2010, New York University business professor David Yermack, calculated that Obama’s fashion choices alone have driven $2.7 billion to the retail sector,” Vanity Fair reported in 2016.
What’s more, the outlet also said that companies saw “a 2.3 percent stock gain when she dons their products—five times that of a typical celebrity endorsement.”
Let’s take a look at a few other deals that have experienced “The Michelle Obama Effect.”
Editorial note: The net worth listed in this piece is a speculative estimate drawn from a variety of online sources.
When Barack and Michelle Obama’s Spotify deal was announced back in 2020, the NASDAQ reported that the streaming company’s stock jumped by five percent on the day of the announcement.
“Spotify’s total monthly active users and premium subscribers both increased by 31% year over year, to 286 million and 130 million, respectively, in the first quarter,” the report said.
Throughout the entire time that President Barack Obama was in office, First Lady Michelle Obama had quite the impact on fashion.
Jackie Kennedy may have popularized pillbox hats and capes, but David Yermak of the Harvard Business Review points out that only Michelle Obama was actually able to move markets with her fashion choices.
“The stock price gains of the companies whose clothes she wore in public appearances—29 brands in all—are cumulative abnormal returns. That is, the returns cannot be attributed to normal market variations,” he wrote. “Some companies that sell clothes that Obama frequently wears, such as Saks, have realized long-term gains.”
Further, according to the Harvard Business Review, Michelle Obama’s effect on the market is based on a two-fold observation. One, she wasn’t paid to wear designers — and observers can therefore put more “trust” into her tacit endorsement than, say, in a fashion spread’s tacit endorsement. And two, Mrs. Obama doesn’t just wear unaffordable haute couture. Rather, she pairs couture pieces with prêt-à-porter pieces (like, for instance, from J. Crew), which makes it more accessible to the average consumer.