President Obama and Misty Copeland Have a Candid Discussion About Race and Body Image

"As the father of two daughters, one of the things I'm always looking for are strong women who are out there breaking barriers and doing great stuff."

Clothing, Collar, Coat, Shirt, Outerwear, Dress shirt, Suit, Formal wear, Style, Dress,
(Image credit: Getty Images)

President Obama and history-making ballerina Misty Copeland admire the hell out of each other—that fact is very clear in a new video conversation (opens in new tab) with TIME's Maya Rhodan. But the two, while discussing race, body image, and the rise to leadership, are also amazingly committed to questioning each other on the sides that they take—hoping to illuminate their own struggles but also give a better idea of where they stand. 

Obama admits he hasn't been as in tune with the pressures women face—especially for women of color. "When you're a dad of two daughters, you notice more," he says. "And that pressure I think is historically always been harder on African American women than just about any other women."

Copeland agrees, and is hopeful that her presence and appearance might inspire others  to have a "stronger sense of self" and embrace their own beauty. "I didn't want to pancake my skin a lighter color to fit into the ballet. I wanted to be myself," she says. "I didn't want to have to wear makeup that made my nose look thinner."

What are the legacies they hope to leave? "My view is that the strength of having been a minority on the receiving end of discrimination is that it should make you that much more attuned and empathetic towards anybody who's vulnerable. Towards anybody who's being locked out," Obama says. "So what I say to my kids is use this as something that provides you a particular power to be willing to fight on behalf of what you think is right."

Suffice it to say, everyone's a little better off with role models like these. Watch the video over at TIME (opens in new tab).

Follow Marie Claire on Instagram (opens in new tab) for the latest celeb news, pretty pics, funny stuff, and an insider POV.

Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for Latina.com, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.