Todavía Esclavos: The Real Message Behind Fuera de Serie’s Michelle Obama Cover
By Brande Victorian
Yes, that’s who you think it is. The wife of Barack Obama, the right-hand woman of the Commander-in-Chief of our nation, the First Lady of the United States; naked, nude, depicted as a slave on the cover of the August issue of the Spanish magazine, Fuera de Serie. Seated wrapped in an American flag, with one breast exposed, and a wrap around her head in the likeness of the famous Afro-Guadeloupean female slave painted by French artist Marie-Guilhelmine Benoist in 1800, the weekly lifestyle supplement to the Spanish newspaper Expansión wants to convey como “Michelle Se Come A Obama (Michelle eats Obama).”
It’s hard to say which came first, the clever headline that accompanies the feature on the Flotus, “Michelle Tataranieta De Esclava, Dueña De América” (Michelle great-great granddaughter of a slave, owner of America) or the brilliant idea to use artist Karine Percheron-Daniels’ nude image of her. But one thing that is consistently clear throughout the entire piece, whether by imagery or word choice, is the idea that Michelle Obama is and always will be a slave in far too many people’s eyes, no matter how far we’re removed from physical enslavement, and how high of a position she’s climbed to in society.
Before even dissecting the slave imagery depicted throughout this article, on the surface is a simple form of disrespect that is undeniable—the First Lady of the United States in the nude. Michelle Obama is far from being the only person Percheron-Daniels has recreated in this way, in fact she’s developed an entire series of “famous nudes” that includes portraits of Princess Diana, Eva Peron, Albert Einstein, and even Barack Obama in the buff. Though I can’t be completely certain, I’m almost sure none of those images has been plastered on the cover of a magazine in such a distasteful way, however. Not to mention, I would be shocked to find someone had the audacity to paint any of our other previous first ladies (or presidents for that matter) in such a way. And what’s most interesting is that despite being nude, all of the famous figures are shown naked with either a blank canvas behind them or elements that were relative to the time and place in which they existed. The same can’t be said of Michelle Obama, who it’s clear many would like to still think of as a slave, but who is a free woman, and a descendant of a free woman, who is also a descendant of a free woman. So why the slave representation?
According to Clutch, Percheron-Daniels wanted to showcase an “alternative unexpected reality” that allows us to “view famous individuals in a different way.” Michelle Obama as a slave isn’t all that unexpected, unfortunately, and it’s interesting how none of her other nude subjects are depicted in such a so-called alternative way. Digging herself into an even bigger hole, the artist says transforming Michelle Obama into Benoist’s slave figure was done “for obvious reasons.” So obvious, that she neglected to explain them, so allow me to fill in the blanks. The obvious reason is Michelle Obama is an obvious and proven descendant of slaves and the powers that be would never want her or any other negro/negriss to forget that no matter how far they climb up the socio-economic or political ladder, they (we) are and will always be nothing more than someone else’s laborers. We will always answer and be owned by someone else. And no matter how many rights we legally obtain, we will never be free. By choosing to use such a jarring image to tell the story of how America’s first lady “seduced the people of the United States” and “stole the heart of Barack Obama,” as Fuera de Serie describes her, it’s clear the magazine agrees with that mentality and wants to spread the message loud and clear: todavía estamos esclavos. We are still slaves. It’s a good thing there are more Barack and Michelle’s out here who are determined to prove that slave mentality false.