As first lady, Michelle Obama was the style icon, not just for Black women, but all women.  She was the picture of beauty, grace and style that was admired by millions. 

As Black women, we just stood back and smiled.  She was and still is, our first lady forever, but something has changed.  

Obama, whose style rarely pushed past the middle, is kicking the style wall down. Who is this new first lady? 

She surprised us all when she showed up with her micro-braids and we were happy for her. We knew daily care of her perfectly coiffed hair had to be time-consuming and damaging to her hair, even if she did have professional stylists at her beck and call.  

Finally, we all said, a break from that tedious and demanding styling.  Many of us had been there and we’d give up relaxers, blow dryers and curling irons, for natural hairstyles — including braids — that didn’t require us to conform to traditional standards of beauty and considerably freed up hours from our daily grooming regimen.  

Michelle told Ellen DeGeneres, who made a comment during an interview on the former first lady’s new hairstyle, that she considered wearing braids while she was the first lady, but she chose not to because she didn’t think Americans were ready for “Black hair.”  Americans adjusting to having a Black family in the White House was more than enough, so she decided to continue with “straight hair” as a way to keep the attention away from herself and focused more on the policies the president was focused on passing.  

For those eight years, she wrote in her new book “The Light We Carry,” she had to remain “careful with my image.” Post the White House, her style began to change.  You could see the transition, with the slightly more relaxed style exhibited during her book tour for “Beloved.”  

That was four years ago. This time, she’s totally forgone her traditional dresses and J Crew cardigans for edgy pants outfits so profoundly different that it’s become clear, her old strait-laced style is gone and a new Michelle has arrived on the scene.  

In New York City, she donned a bright yellow pantsuit for an appearance on the Today show. For her D.C. stop on her book tour, she wore a flowing black and magenta Versace print shirtdress over fuchsia cargo pants. For her Philadelphia stop, she chose a denim pantsuit.  By Atlanta, she was almost off the chain, wearing a zip-up hoodie and a tight-fitting one-shoulder blue top that picked up the colors in the hoodie, and baggy black pants.  

She showed up recently for other interviews in a Black leather pantsuit with stiletto boots (remember she always wore flats) and another time in a black velvet pantsuit, this time accompanied by tennis shoes.  

Her braid styles have gotten progressively more fly.  She’s gone from just pulling the braids into a low bun on the nap of her neck, to displaying a variety of top knots.  She looked especially onpoint with her braids pulled up into a top knot with just a few loose braids left out in front, stylishly framing both sides of her face.  

But her real home-girl styling has been with braids gathered into an up-high ponytail, allowed to blend nicely into the rest of her loosely flowing braids.  

Her new wardrobe seems to reflect a person who’s decided not to dress to please others but to please herself.  However, that self seems to be a lot different than the person we saw during her eight years in the White House. This person is a lot sassier, hip and focused not on pleasing others, only herself.  

What do you think?  What happened to Sasha and Malia’s mom?  What happened to the former first lady? Has the real Michelle Obama finally broken loose?

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...