the cut on tuesdays

Hear Amy Sherald Talk About Painting Michelle Obama’s Portrait

Photo-Illustration: Illustration: Lauren Tamaki

The Cut on Tuesdays

A weekly podcast from the Cut and Gimlet Media, with host Molly Fischer.

On this week’s How I Get It Done podcast episode, Stella Bugbee talks to Amy Sherald, the artist who painted Michelle Obama’s official portrait. After being chosen, Amy quickly went from the life of a relative unknown, making ends meet however she could, to being a famous artist, in high demand. She and Stella started off by talking about that breakthrough moment.

STELLA: Tell me a little bit about what you felt when you first heard you were gonna be painting Michelle Obama’s portrait.

AMY: I’m usually so, inappropriately stoic … But, honestly, you know what I thought about, now that I’m thinking about it? I thought, My mom finally has bragging rights now. Because I think that’s something that always bothered her. My mom was born in 1930, so when I told her that I wanted to be an artist, she had no clue what that meant — because there was no end. Like, if I said I wanted to be a doctor, she gets it. It’s like, medical school, you have a job, you’re apparently wealthy and then you’re okay. My friends that I grew up with, they were all, like, physician’s assistants, and my one friend was opening up a sleep clinic, and doing all this stuff. You know, we’re 37, 38 and they’re like, “What’s Amy doing?” “Well, she’s a waitress.” So she was essentially ashamed! But now she has bragging rights and is really excited about it and feels like it’s something that she accomplished as well. I think that was one of the first things I thought, because she was the first person I called.

STELLA: Do you talk to her every day?

AMY: Yeah, like way too much. She’s got nothing else better to do but call me fives times a day now.

Click above to listen to the rest of the conversation, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you listen.

Amy Sherald Talks About Painting Michelle Obama