Looks Like Malia Obama Is Dropping Her Last Name

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

In December, when the Sundance Institute revealed the list of short films that would be showing in Utah this year, eagle-eyed readers zeroed in on one name in the credits: “Malia Ann.” She was listed as the director of a short called The Heart, and a “Meet the Artist” video subsequently shared by Sundance revealed a more familiar identity: Malia Obama, the eldest daughter of former president Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.

In the weeks since the film’s January 18 debut, various armchair critics have aired their nepotism complaints on social media, with some saying Malia has been able to work on big Hollywood projects — writing for Donald Glover, for example — because of her parents’ connections. On Wednesday, Malia’s name change made it onto The View, where host (and fellow stage-name adoptee) Whoopi Goldberg defended her decision: “Why do you care what she calls herself? If she wanted to call herself Jeanette McDonald, she has the right to! If I can be Whoopi Goldberg, she can be whoever the hell she wants to be!” And according to E!, she’s going to be Malia Ann for now, at least professionally.

Malia doesn’t seem to be trying to hide her full name so much as create some distance from her famous parents. After all, the Sundance web page includes a photo of her recognizable face and the aforementioned video, which she narrates. In the video, she says the short is a story about “a lonely man grieving the death of his mother after she leaves him an unusual request in her will.”

The Heart has received mixed reviews, though it’s hard to know which have been posted in earnest and which have been politically motivated: “Honoring her father’s legacy by dropping a giant bomb and not receiving any criticism for it,” one especially blunt Letterboxd reviewer wrote — ironically, the very kind of attention Malia seemingly wanted to avoid. It makes sense why she might want a stage name.

Looks Like Malia Obama Is Dropping Her Last Name