Michelle Obama’s Botox Comment: Why Did it Hit Such a Nerve?

Michelle Obama made news a few years ago by not ruling out having plastic surgery or using Botox one day. “Women should have the freedom to do whatever they need to do to feel good about themselves,” the First Lady told People magazine in an interview on the cusp of her 50th birthday.

News organizations from around the world jumped on the story. Judging by the number of headlines in pretty much every major (and not so major) media outlet, I doubt Michelle could have grabbed more attention if she had said, “I’m thinking of becoming a Republican.”

michelle obama short hair


Comments from all camps started pouring in right away. There were the politicos who thought that given that she’s the First Lady of the United States, it’s wrong for her to get Botox because tax payers would be the ones footing the bill for her “work”.

There were the downright nasty ones, saying things like, “Whatever she wants. She can use the help.” And, as expected, there were those who used the First Lady’s comments to pick up on the endless debate about whether it is right for women, especially those of a certain age, to be so concerned with their appearance.

For the record, I’m pro-choice; get work done, don’t get work done, but do whatever feels right for you. (And while we’re on the topic, I am not the fashion police. Yes, Fabulous After 40 is about fashion and style advice for women but I never want to come across as if I’m preaching there’s only one way – my way – to look good.)

My friend Lynn, has a slightly different view. While chatting about Michelle’s comment she told me, “I agree that women should be able to do what they want but here’s the thing, if everyone else starts getting Botox and filler, it makes me feel pressured to do it too. I  don’t really want to go to the trouble and expense but if I don’t, I’m afraid I’ll end up being the last wrinkly, saggy woman standing.  It’s like that peer pressure we experienced in high school, only instead of having to have the latest designer jeans, now it feels like you have to have the latest face or body.”

I agreed with my friend that it would be nice to just all age together, but with Botox etc. as common as going to the dentist, that’s never going to happen. It made me wonder if the same kind of debate went on when hair dye came into vogue in the ‘50s and ‘60s.”

So ladies, here’s my question to you: why does something like this hit such a nerve? Why are we gals so quick to judge each other – and often so harshly – on our appearance?

Does it have to do with the Tall Poppy Syndrome, where we resent, criticize and attack people we see as richer or prettier or more successful than us? Are we afraid that if everyone else starts getting Botox and we don’t that we’ll be at a disadvantage?  Or do we simply feel that a woman who has a cosmetic enhancement is sending a negative message about aging? What do you think?

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9 thoughts on “Michelle Obama’s Botox Comment: Why Did it Hit Such a Nerve?

  1. Im a country girl, hailing from the Big Apple. Big lifestyle change. while still young in NYC, I did run-way modeling work and was actually getting booked for gigs. But while the work was glamorous, the crowd affiliated with this career, was, can I just say “less than desirable to this catholic girl. Heavy make up, revealing clothing, etc. I fit in, but I didn’t want to. Today at 48, I rarely wear make up at all. I don’t think I am aging too terribly, and if I was, so what. I feel good about me, my days are what I want them to be. I am happy, healthy and spiritually content. Life is good, and not having the “How do I look” monkey on my back, makes for one less wrinkle.

  2. Great topic, always a hot button. It all boils down to the way our country, our culture, views older women. People aren’t as tough on men as they age. But we women seem to turn “invisible” after 40, and the pressure to look younger is impossible to escape.

    Why do we do this to women, ourselves? I’m a journalist and currently reviewing several books on this topic. One is especially interesting: “French Women Don’t Get Facelifts.” Apparently, it’s true: France values its older women, and they don’t feel compelled to appear anything but their authentic selves. Sigh.

  3. If in my ageing process I found that something just looked “off”, my face is my eyes were drooping so much I could barely see, I looked angry or tired all the time, I would do something about that. Thankfully we live in an age where it’s possible to correct such things. Ageing may be natural, but it’s not always pretty and I think it’s perfectly okay to acknowledge that. I don’t look 25 anymore, that’s fine with me, but if in ageing I was looking not old but bizarre, I’d fix it.

  4. Its a bit sad that your friend is long beyond highschool, yet is still influenced by what she terms “peer pressure” and i call keeping up with the jones’s……

  5. I heard her comments and thought nothing negative, it’s the FLOTUS’ choice to have or not have anti-aging treatments. Personally, I don’t think I would have Botox but would jump at the chance of getting Liposuction!!

  6. I’m 45. I won’t be getting botox. I like the idea of my face actually showing all the wonderful expressions and emotions I have and I’m not worried about aging. I believe in choice. I wouldn’t negatively judge ANY woman who decided she wanted botox. It’s NONE of my business. I think we as women need to stop butting our noses into other women’s lives and live and let live. Stop being so dang judgmental people

  7. It’s a self-esteem issue. These ladies probably haven’t learned to be truly comfortable in their own skin, and to enjoy who they are now, at this moment. Until they are, they will need to do things to enhance who they are to make themselves be something that they feel others value. My family and close friends value me for who I am and how I am. That’s all that matters. I wear reasonably fashionable clothing for my age. I keep my hair groomed in a reasonably fashionable cut that is appropriate for my hair and age. Is it grey? YES! But that is who I am RIGHT NOW! I don’t need or want to look younger. I look confident and healthy and I am 47 and very happy with that. It’s too bad that others can’t feel that same contentment with who they are.

  8. I am on the cusp of turning 46. I am feeling the pressure to get botox injections. Though not many people I know admit to the procedure, it sure seems that people around me are looking younger and younger. But maybe that’s because I keep getting older and older. I’ve kicked the can down the road by getting bangs! Maybe by the time I tire of them, I’ll have the confidence to own my age. I have 3 great older role models in my life for aging. 2 have never had any procedure, 1 had a facelift. They all look great. I think it comes down to living a healthy lifestyle and being confident in your own appearance, taking the time to make an effort in how we look.

  9. Yes, I’ve had Botox…three or four times. I’ve also had laser tightening (didn’t work) and fillers.

    Botox- works- lifted my hooded eyes and filled in my 11s.

    Fillers worked somewhat. They filled in my below eye hollows, filled in the lines above my lips…but the placement on my cheeks was a little lax…had a vertical line I didn’t care for…but that’s specific to me- needed more or specific to practitioner – placement issues.

    If I could afford it, I’d do it again. It’s only temporary. For the amount I put into my face with all the work- about 3k- it lasts 6moths or so. I’d be better off saving the 3k for many more months for a more permanent solution. At the time, I didn’t think it did much, but now that I’m deflated and look back at photos…I looked MUCH better- younger and fresher looking.

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