The thinking and work that led to Michelle Obama taking on the role of guest editor at More magazine spanned years, hinging on a genuine sense of goodwill between the magazine and the first lady that started before it was certain that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would become her home.
The initial seedling of an idea was an abstraction. “When Lesley [Jane Seymour, More’s editor in chief] came to More seven years ago, she began to think about her dream More women,” deputy editor Jennifer Braunschweiger told FishbowlDC. Michelle Obama, then assisting her spouse in his bid for the presidency and fresh off an impassioned speech at the Democratic National Convention, became for Seymour the woman who “epitomized and embodied More values,” says Braunschweiger.
In Oct. 2008, 10 years after it launched, the Meredith title became one of the first magazines in the country to put Michelle Obama on its cover, along with an accompanying Geraldine Brooks-penned profile. That decision, along with another cover for the first lady in Feb. 2012, would prove pivotal. “Because of the long-standing relationship [the process of getting Michelle Obama to agree] was much more smooth than you would imagine,” says Braunschweiger.
And the working relationship between the magazine, the first lady and the White House was just as amicable. “The White House was great to work with,” says Braunschweiger, “Michelle Obama has a very tight team and they were very involved. They reviewed and approved everything multiple times. Normally we’re used to Lesley giving the final approval; this was another layer. Everything went through the White House, but it was quick. It was a new way of doing things, but it wasn’t excruciating.”
While the first lady remained in Washington during the collaboration, a contingent of More staff made the trip to DC, an experience, says Braunschweiger, that left them “rather wide-eyed about how great it was to spend time at the White House.”
The first lady’s willingness to open up really made an impression on the staff. “We were really quite pleased with how personal she was,” says Braunschweiger of Obama’s contributions. “There are personal and revealing moments that are really quite lovely.”
[Photo credit: Official White House Photo, Amanda Lucidon]