TIME Family

Michelle Obama: I Love ‘Splurging’

US-POLITICS-EASTER-OBAMA
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama speaks alongside President Barack Obama and the Easter Bunny during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 21, 2014 SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images

The First Lady said that pigging out on favorite foods was fine from time to time, just so long as kids maintain a balanced diet and do plenty of regular exercise

Michelle Obama said Monday that “splurging is the key to life,” as long as it’s a small part of a healthy lifestyle.

“How would you appreciate vegetables if you never had chocolate?” the First Lady said during the White House Easter Egg Roll. “You couldn’t live without a little chocolate, a little French fries.”

The First Lady took questions from kid reporters during a question-and-answer session at the annual White House Easter event, and emphasized that occasionally splurging was O.K. as part of a balanced diet, alongside regular exercise, the Associated Press reports. “I still splurge when I can, but that’s why I try to exercise almost every day,” she told the young journalists, ages 6 to 13 years old.

Obama also said that her favorite sport is tennis, and she plays with her daughter Malia about once a week. She added that Malia also likes track and Sasha likes basketball and dance.

[AP]

TIME White House

All The President’s Celebrities: How The White House Used Stars To Sell Obamacare

The Obama administration turned to a powerful source to help persuade 7 million uninsured Americans to enroll in health care plans under the Affordable Care Act — a veritable army of celebrities

In the summer of 2013, when the White House was gearing up to sell the Affordable Care Act, senior aide Valerie Jarrett convened a meeting of some of the nation’s biggest celebrities to secure their advice and help sell the law to the American public.

The meeting brought together singer and actress Jennifer Hudson, actor and on-off White House staffer Kal Penn and comedienne Amy Poehler, as well as Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and YouTube Comedy’s Daniel Kellison, and representatives for Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, and Bon Jovi. Nine months and hundreds of videos, tweets and media appearances later, the White House believes the meeting paid dividends, with the celebrities helping the administration enroll more than 7.04 million people in Obamacare through Monday night, the end of the open enrollment period in the healthcare exchanges.

The celebrity effort was just one component of a broader campaign modeled after Obama’s efforts to win the White House, including rally-style speeches from the president, field efforts on the ground, and targeted messaging to specific communities with high rates of the uninsured. All told, more than 5,000 events were held in support of the enrollment push in the past six weeks, according to the White House, include 45 featuring administration officials. The strategy was coordinated by Senior Communications Advisor Tara McGuinness, with the field campaign bolstered by the addition in October of veteran Obama campaign staffer Marlon Marshall.

Funny Or Die produced more than a half-dozen videos raising awareness about the law, including Obama’s appearance on “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis, while LeBron James appeared in a YouTube PSA.

Administration officials point to both appearances as sparking major jumps in traffic to the Healthcare.gov websites. James’ appearance in particular, made it easier to line up other celebrities for the healthcare campaign, further helping line up surrogates.

First Lady Michelle Obama appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Joe Biden plugged the law on on the inaugural episode of Late Night with Seth Meyers. Former NBA stars Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning appeared in ads produced by the Department of Health and Human Services that aired during March Madness, while

Celebrities, from Ellen DeGeneres to Scrubs star Zach Braff flooded Twitter over the past several days with pleas to #GetCovered, which the White House claims reached about 350 million Twitter followers, and retweeted more than 40,400 times. (Those numbers do not count unique people, since many on Twitter follow multiple celebrities.)

The celebrities appearing in videos in support of the law include YouTube stars Hannah Hart, Tyler Oakley, the Fine Brothers, Nice Peter, ERB, Barely Political, VSauce. The mothers of Jonah Hill, Adam Levine, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lopez, appeared jointly in a video, while others included Nina Dobrev, Nikki Reed, Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Eva Longoria, Olivia Wilde, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Scott, Elizabeth Banks and Eddie George.

The administration’s final push in support of the law also heavily invested in radio, with the White House saying more than 300 interviews have been given by the President, top administration officials, and surrogates. Since February, the list engaging on radio has included Kobe Bryant, Grant Hill, Kerry Washington, Jonelle Monae, Nia Long, Jurnee Smollett, Star Jones, Tatyana Ali, Nikki Reed, Aisha Tyler, and Dan Rooney, chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It was a massive effort. To get a sense of the scale, consider this list of celebrity tweets that went out Monday, March 31, the last day of open enrollment, when about 70 celebrities reached out with Twitter accounts connected to more than 90 million other accounts:

Ellen DeGeneres, 28.2 million followers

Ellen DeGeneres@TheEllenShow 29s

Today’s the last day to #GetCovered. Everyone in my house is covered. We even have a covered garage. https://www.healthcare.gov/

Nina Dobrev, 4.54 million Twitter followers / 3.6 million Facebook Likes

Nina Dobrev@ninadobrev 4m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered Don’t be an April Fool tomorrow and go to http://healthcare.gov NOW! http://youtu.be/pARcZeRoH8w

Zooey Deschanel, 5.43 million followers

zooey deschanel@ZooeyDeschanel 1m

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

John Legend, 5.24 million followers

John Legend@johnlegend 28s

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Sarah Silverman, 5.16 million followers

Sarah Silverman@SarahKSilverman 1m

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered y’all. Go to http://Healthcare.gov now

Rainn Wilson, 3.82 million followers

RainnWilson@rainnwilson 1m

HEY UNINSURED PEOPLE: Today’s your last chance to get health insurance in 2014. http://ofa.bo/cQe #GetCoveredNow http://healthcare.gov

Pharrell Williams, 3.17 million followers

Pharrell Williams@Pharrell 14m

Stay healthy, guys. Today is the last day to #getcovered at http://www.healthcare.gov

Russell Simmons, 3.1 million followers

Russell Simmons@UncleRUSH 42m

Today is the last day to #GetCovered at http://Healthcare.gov!! If you do not healthcare, go to the site NOWWWWWW!!!!!!!

Questlove, 2.95 million followers

Questlove Jenkins@questlove 19m

procrastinators: you’ve put it off forever. can you really afford to NOT #GetCoveredNow? today is last day for 2014 http://bit.ly/1ggsJVP

Alyssa Milano, 2.67 million followers

Alyssa Milano@Alyssa_Milano 1m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered . Go to http://Healthcare.gov NOW!

Wil Wheaton, 2.55 million followers

Wil Wheaton@wilw 17m

#GeeksGetCovered! RT @Alyssa_Milano: TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered . Go to http://Healthcare.gov NOW!

Conan O’Brien, 2.4 million Facebook Likes

Tyler Oakley, 2.14 million followers

Tyler Oakley@tyleroakley 57s

My BFF @BarackObama keeps nagging me to tell y’all that today is the last day to #GetCoveredhttp://Healthcare.gov – go now, sign up.

Jared Leto, 1.7 million followers

JARED LETO@JaredLeto 4m

TODAY is the LAST DAY to #GetCovered. Visit http://healthcare.gov + apply now.

kerry washington@kerrywashington 43s

Today is the last day to #GETCOVERED! RT + Sign up now. http://1.usa.gov/HaCX0w

Elizabeth Banks, 1.45 million followers

Elizabeth Banks@ElizabethBanks 55s

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Shaun White (Facebook Post), 2.6 million Facebook Followers

Chatting w our President and heard it was the last day to #GetCoveredhttp://bitly.com/SWGetCovered

Zach Braff, 1.39 million followers

Zach Braff@zachbraff 15m

There is nothing sexier than someone with health insurance. #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Zach Braff@zachbraff 2h

If you randomly get hurt or sick, you shouldn’t lose every dollar you and your family has.

#GetCovered! Go to

http://Healthcare.gov

now.

Zach Braff@zachbraff 5h

TODAY is the Last Day to

#GetCovered! Go to

http://Healthcare.gov

now.

Olivia Wilde, 1.33 million followers

olivia wilde@oliviawilde 1m

Don’t stall. This is the LAST day to #GetCovered. Go to http://healthcare.gov and protect your future-self. (Or pay fines later = not fun.)

Sophia Bush, 924K followers

Sophia Bush@SophiaBush 1m

Last day to

#GetCovered! Don’t be a Fool tomorrow. Go to

http://Healthcare.gov

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pARcZeRoH8w&feature=youtu.be

Nikki Reed, 719K followers

Nikki Reed@NikkiReed_I_Am 21s

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://www.whosay.com/l/rDU867d now!!!!!!

Rashida Jones, 669K followers

Rashida Jones@iamrashidajones 59s

Come on everybody! Today is the Last Day to #GetCovered. Go http://toHealthcare.gov now and make this happen.

Olivia Munn, 592K followers

oliviamunn@oliviamunn 3m

Today is the Last Day to #GetCovered. Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Shonda Rhimes, 589K followers

shonda rhimes@shondarhimes 30m

People! Get some health care. It’s the last day! https://www.healthcare.gov #Obamacare #freebirthcontrol

David Boreanaz, 565K followers

David Boreanaz@David_Boreanaz 4m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered Go to http://Heathcare.gov NOW. #DoIt

Janelle Monae, 517K followers

Janelle Monae@JanelleMonae 15m

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Kate Walsh, 500K followers

Kate Walsh@katewalsh 1h

Remember that today is the LAST day to #GetCovered! Visit http://Healthcare.gov now. http://1.usa.gov/1i8ttPy

Team Coco, 465K Twitter Followers

Team Coco@TeamCoco

Last day to #GetCoveredNow. Don’t wait for a zombie apocalypse to take your health seriously: http://healthcare.gov pic.twitter.com/emjvX2A9gq

Nia Long, 423K followers

Nia Long@NiaLong 2h

http://Healthcare.gov is the place to go!!!! #GetCovered @BarackObama makes it easy for everyone to have healthcare.

Mia Farrow, 421K followers

mia farrow@MiaFarrow 58s

Bo-1st-Dog says #GetCovered MT @WhiteHouse: I signed the #ACA so millions could know the peace of mind that comes with health insurance. -bo

Melissa Joan Hart, 405K followers

Retweeted by Melissa Joan Hart

HealthCare.gov@HealthCareGov 3h

http://HealthCare.gov serving consumers. 1.7M+ visits and 364k calls Sunday. Deadline is today for coverage this year. #GetCoveredNow

Melissa Joan Hart@MelissaJoanHart 51m

Yes but don’t want people penalized. RT @swin24: . just RT’d @HealthCareGov. Isn’t she a Republican?

Emily VanCamp, 378K followers

Emily VanCamp@EmilyVanCamp 2m

Today is the last day to #GetCovered ! http://healthcare.gov

Lance Bass, 370K followers

Lance Bass@LanceBass 8m

The deadline is finally here! TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now

Hannah Hart, 353K followers

Hannah Hart@harto 31s

Hey! Independent cool kid who thinks they will live forever! Today is the last day to #GetCovered just in case. http://healthcare.gov

Torrey DeVitto, 328K followers

Torrey DeVitto@TorreyJDeVitto 6m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered. Go to http://healthcare.gov NOW! 🙌💗

Mayim Bialik, 327K followers

Mayim Bialik@missmayim 1m

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now. you deserve it! don’t be left out!

CAA Foundation, 325K followers

CAA Foundation@caafoundation 1m

Time is almost up – #GetCovered today! Visit http://healthcare.gov + apply now! (via @JaredLeto @zachbraff @Alyssa_Milano)

Aisha Tyler, 313K followers

Aisha Tyler@aishatyler 2m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered! If you don’t have health coverage visit http://Healthcare.gov now. You don’t need it, until you do.

Tatyana Ali, 281K followers

Tatyana Ali@TatyanaAli 2m

It’s March 31st!!! Happy Monday! TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Dule Hill, 239K followers

Dulé Hill@DuleHill 2m

Twittersphere! The deadline to #GetCovered is today! Go to http://Healthcare.gov https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pARcZeRoH8w&feature=youtu.be … @NikkiReed_I_Am @ninadobrev @glove

Goku, 215K followers

Goku@Goku

Today is the Last Day to #GetCovered. Go to http://Healthcare.gov . Then have yourself a Dragon Ball Z marathon.

Brian Baumgartner, 210K followers

Brian Baumgartner@BBBaumgartner 2h

A guy I know once said: if u don’t have Health Insurance… You know… You probably kinda should. Today is the last day to #GetCovered.

Kal Penn, 208K followers

Kal Penn@kalpenn 33s

If you like your gonorrhea, you can keep your gonorrhea! Or get health insurance. Or live with gonorrhea. #GetCovered http://healthcare.gov

Star Jones, 184K followers

Star Jones@StarJonesEsq 5m

Don’t want to be an #AprilFool tomorrow? Remember, TODAY is Last Day to #GetCovered. Go to http://Healthcare.gov now. #heartHealth matters

Arielle Kebbel, 166K followers

Arielle Kebbel@ArielleKebbel 1h

Did you know: TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered. Go to http://healthcare.gov NOW! Ps- PLS!!!!!! ;)

Billy Eichner, 159K followers

billy eichner@billyeichner 1m

As a respected diplomat, I want to remind u that today is the last day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov. pic.twitter.com/qw0tsMRn9L

Scott Foley, 134K followers

scott foley@scottkfoley 11m

Tweeps! TODAY is the LAST DAY to #GetCovered. Go to http://healthcare.gov NOW!

Darby Stanchfield, 123K followers

Darby Stanchfield@darbysofficial 1m

Tweeps! Today is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov to sign up. #FreeBirthControl

John Cho, 113K followers

John Cho@JohnTheCho 1m

TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered. Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Jerome Bettis, 102K followers

Jerome Bettis@JeromeBettis36 10m

Today is the last day to help yourself with health care!! Go to http://Healthcare.gov to sign -up

Jurnee Smollett, 98K followers

jurnee smollett@jurneesmollett 1m

Listen tweeps, over 6mil people have signed up for healthcare. TODAY is the Last Day to #GetCovered! Go to http://Healthcare.gov now.

Amaury Nolasco, 96K followers

Amaury Nolasco@amaury_nolasco 20m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered Don’t be an April Fool tomorrow and go to http://healthcare.gov NOW!

Michael Rosenbaum, 91K followers

Michael Rosenbaum@mrosenbaum711 15m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered. Go to http://healthcare.gov NOW!

Angela Bassett, 73K followers

Angela Bassett@ImAngelaBassett 1m

I did it. @CourtneyBVance did it. Did you? Click here. NOW. https://www.healthcare.gov/ #GetCovered

Craig Newmark (Founder of Craigslist), 70K followers

craignewmark@craignewmark 55s

Spread the word! Today’s the last day to sign up for health coverage. #GetCoveredNow http://hc.gov/RUXFYn , pic.twitter.com/CoecJAeRVf

Eric Balfour, 58K followers

ERIC BALFOUR@ERICBALFOUR 57m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered. Go to http://healthcare.gov NOW!

Brandon Routh, 50.4K followers

Brandon Routh@BrandonJRouth 2m

Last day to #GetCovered! Don’t be a Fool tomorrow. Go to http://Healthcare.gov https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pARcZeRoH8w&feature=youtu.be @NikkiReed_I_Am @ninadobrev @glove

Josh Hopkins, 40K followers

Josh Hopkins@MrJoshHopkins Jan 11

Nothing is more important than our health. Make it your family’s top priority and #GetCovered today.

John Lyman, 32K followers

Joshua Lyman@joshualyman 2h

Are you all signed up or in line for Santoscare? #ACA

Adrianne Palicki@AdriannePalicki 5m

#GetCovered Don’t be a fool tomorrow! Go to http://healthcare.gov now!!!

Leo McGarry, 21K followers

Leo Thomas McGarry@LeoMcGarry 2m

Life is random. Your health care doesn’t have to be. #GetCovered. #YesYou

Donna Moss, 18.2K followers

Donna Moss@donnatella_moss 4h

Last day of open enrolment for Santoscare today. Young invincibles, don’t make me call your mothers. #GetCovered #ACA

Sam Seaborn, 16.8K followers

Sam Seaborn@SamSeaborn 5h

Still not covered? Go to http://healthcare.gov now. Today is the deadline to #GetCovered for this year.

Jayson Blair, 13K followers

Jayson Blair@Jayson_Blair 29m

TODAY is the last day to #GetCovered Don’t be an April Fool tomorrow y’all. Go to http://healthcare.gov NOW!

TIME

Here’s Michelle Obama Just Feeding Apples to Some Pandas In China

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and her mother Marian Robinson feed apple to giant pandas as they visit Giant Panda Research Base in Chengdu
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (L) and her mother Marian Robinson (R) feed apple to giant pandas as daughter Malia looks on during their visit at Giant Panda Research Base in Chengdu, Sichuan province, March 26, 2014. Petar Kujundzic / Reuters

No big deal

During her weeklong visit to China, First Lady Michelle Obama carved out some time to stop by the Giant Panda Research Base in Chengdu to hang out with some pandas. With the assistance of her mom, Marian Robinson, and daughter, Malia, the FLOTUS used a bamboo shoot to feed apples to some of the cuddly creatures and it was probably the cutest thing in political history.

 

TIME Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama’s China Trip As Seen Through Instagram

The First Lady takes to Instagram to share her travels abroad.

As first lady Michelle Obama embarks on her good-will tour across China, she and her aides have been using photo-sharing platform Instagram to document her travels. She even has her own hashtag for the trip: #FLOTUSinChina.

Check out a filtered view of her trip abroad below:

First lady Michelle Obama lands in Beijing.

The first lady, along with Peng Liyuan, the wife of China’s President, Xi Jinping, stopped by a robotics class at the Beijing Normal School, one of China’s elite high schools.

“While we loved our visit to the Forbidden City, we only wish we had more time to see everything. But then again, I’m not sure there could ever be enough time to fully appreciate all of the art and history within this extraordinary place,” said Obama on Instagram.

“When it comes to expressing yourself freely and worshiping as you choose and having open access to information, we believe those universal rights — they are universal rights that are the birthright of every person on this planet,” said Obama to Chinese and American students at Peking University.

Obama also visited the Summer Palace in Beijing.

In response to her first visit to the Great Wall, the first lady said, “Simply breathtaking.”

TIME Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama Arrives in China in Style

Accompanied by her two daughters and mother, Michelle Obama visited China and met with the country’s president and his wife. See the different outfits that the first lady wore during her stay.

TIME Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama Defends Free Internet in China Speech

First Lady Michelle Obama Travels to China - Day 3
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama delivers a speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University on March 22, 2014 in Beijing, China. Feng Li—Getty Images

"It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the Internet ... because that's how we discover the truth," the First Lady said. Her remarks are a veiled swipe at China's harshly restrictive media environment

First Lady Michelle Obama used a trip to China on Saturday to promote the liberating “power of technology” in a veiled swipe at the harshly restrictive Internet and media environment in the country.

At her first — and only — major speech scheduled during her goodwill tour to China, Obama said new technology can “open up the entire world and expose us to ideas and innovations we could never have imagined.”

“It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the Internet and through the media,” she said. “Because that’s how we discover the truth, that’s how we learn what’s really happening in our communities, in our country and our world.”

The First Lady spoke on March 22 at the Stanford Center at Peking University, China’s oldest national university, set in a cherry-blossom and willow-tree enclave in northwestern Beijing. Speaking to a mix of Chinese and American students, Obama spent much of her speech to 200-odd people promoting the values of study-abroad programs that she, as a child of parents who had not attended college, never even considered.

For a lot of young people like me who are struggling to afford a regular semester of school, paying for plane tickets or living expenses halfway around the world just isn’t possible. And that’s not acceptable because study abroad shouldn’t just be for students from certain background.

But it was the section about Internet freedom that may raise eyebrows. Obama praised the technology’s power to spread freedom without mentioning the many ways in which the so-called Great Firewall limits Chinese access to the Internet, by blocking social-media sites like Twitter, Facebook and blogging software — plus various foreign news and human-rights websites considered too sensitive for domestic consumption.

The new U.S. ambassador to China Max Baucus, the former Democratic Senator for Montana, also extolled the virtues of Twitter and Facebook in his introduction to Obama’s speech. Both of these sites, however, are blocked in China. Western businesses have complained that such restrictions are undercutting operational efficiency, even causing some to downsize their China operations for other Asian nations with better telecommunications.

But despite constantly shifting censorship directives, the hottest news in China now spreads on native social-media platforms like Weibo or Weixin. The nation’s official news agency is far behind both in terms of public trust and substantive stories. At the same time, the rise of yellow journalism in China, exacerbated by the tendency of poorly paid reporters to accept cash payments for showing up to a press conference, is compromising journalistic objectivity.

The First Lady praised a “new era of citizen diplomacy,” a phrase she attributed to a naturalized American citizen whose parents arrived from Eritrea when he was a child and is now studying in China. But she also cautioned against a government’s tendency to shield itself from criticism, even from scurrilous tabloids, for fear of denting media freedoms:

That’s how we decide which values and ideas we think are best — by questioning and debating them vigorously, by listening to all sides of the argument and by judging for ourselves. And believe me, I know how this can be a messy and frustrating process. My husband and I are on the receiving end of plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens, and it’s not always easy, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Because time and again, we have seen that countries are stronger and more prosperous when the voices and opinions of all citizens can be heard.

Obama’s speech was pointed, although it stopped short of naming China. The rest of the First Lady’s trip — ranging from a tour of the Summer Palace and Great Wall in Beijing, to a stop to see the terra-cotta warriors in Xi’an and a cuddle with giant pandas at a reserve in Chengdu — is far less political than this Stanford Center at Peking University speech. Obama’s defense of Internet and media freedom is only a small portion of her March 22 trip.

Nevertheless, Obama’s first-ever trip to China, which she has embarked up with her mother Marian Robinson and daughters Malia and Sasha, had one further pointed stop. In Chengdu, which is not far from Tibetan regions where disaffected locals have self-immolated to protest repressive Chinese government rule, Obama will stop to eat at a Tibetan restaurant. Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, is blessed with vibrant, spicy food. Tibetan cuisine, however, isn’t considered one of the world’s tastiest cuisines.

Nevertheless, the Obama women and girls are scheduled to tuck into a meal that will likely involve variations on tsampa (roasted barley flour), racks of yak meat, heavy dumplings and tea laced with salt and yak butter. A senior Administration official cautioned against reading too much into Obama’s Tibetan dining choice: “Tibetans are an important minority in China.” And that was that. So much for imbuing further political meaning into the First Lady’s goodwill tour.

TIME Asia

Michelle Obama Tours Beijing With China’s First Lady

Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping shows U.S. first lady Michelle Obama how to hold a writing brush as they visit a Chinese traditional calligraphy class at the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to go abroad in Beijing, March 21, 2014.
Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping shows U.S. first lady Michelle Obama how to hold a writing brush as they visit a Chinese traditional calligraphy class at the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to go abroad in Beijing, March 21, 2014. Andy Wong—AP

Obama is on her first-ever trip to China, alongside her mother and two daughters, and will spend four days in Beijing before heading to a string of popular tourist sites in the interior cities of Xi'an and Chengdu

Back during the Ming dynasty, some four centuries ago, the Hall of Earthly Tranquility in Beijing’s Forbidden City was the redoubt of China’s empress. On Friday, under rare unpolluted skies, the first ladies of the world’s two biggest economies, Michelle Obama and her Chinese counterpart Peng Liyuan, embarked on a lightning tour of the imperial residence. They strode through the Hall of Supreme Harmony, checked out the Hall of Preserving Harmony and admired a golden throne off-limits to most tourists. Obama and Peng glided past by a large stone carving that was labeled “Large Stone Carving.” Alas, time was running tight so they had to skip a tea ceremony in the Lodge of Fresh Fragrance.

Perhaps next time.

A day before, Obama had arrived on her first trip ever to China with her mother Marian Robinson and children Malia and Sasha in tow. She is set to spend four days in Beijing before heading to the interior cities of Xi’an and Chengdu, where she will take in some of China’s most famous tourist sights: the terra-cotta warriors and the giant pandas. Obama is even blogging about her China experience, a process that will likely require her handlers to use a virtual private network to evade Chinese Internet censorship. In a month, President Barack Obama is also due in Asia. But his four-nation tour, somewhat controversially, will not include a China stop. Instead, it was left to his wife to help smooth ties and develop a relationship—however brief and somewhat stiff—with Peng.

“The relationships between the United States and China couldn’t be more important,” Obama said on Friday morning, “and having the opportunity to travel here, to listen, to learn, to hear more about the education initiatives here in this country and to share my travels with students throughout the United States is a very unique experience, and it’s one that I will never forget.”

Obama began her day at Beijing Normal School, an elite high school whose students enjoy a leafy campus and state-of-the-art equipment. The walls are decorated with murals glorifying both Euclid and Karl Marx. She and Peng visited a robotics class, where students were learning about various robots, including a hexagonal snowflake robot that one student described to Obama as “very amazing and adorable.” The first ladies also took in a calligraphy class, where Peng wrote a four-character aphorism that describes how individuals with high morality can accomplish major tasks. She presented the calligraphy to Obama as a present.

Finally, the two wrapped up their school tour by visiting a ping-pong class where students spend 40 minutes slamming plastic balls onto green tables with metronomic precision. Table tennis is a serious sport in China, with deep political significance. After enduring decades of international isolation during which the world chose the government in Taiwan as China’s rightful representative, Beijing began to integrate into the global community. Ping-pong led the way.

After a speech in which each ping-pong teacher was introduced with great solemnity, Obama slipped out of her vest-coat and tried her hand at ping-pong. The students stayed silent as she whiffed her first few attempts. But as she began to make contact with the table, the kids broke out into gasps and claps. Afterward, Obama, who has made physical fitness one of her signature campaigns, joked about her husband’s ping-pong prowess. “My husband plays,” she said. “He thinks he’s better than he really is.” The students laughed nervously.

The Chinese first lady, whose hair was coiffed in an elaborate braid known in China as “scorpion head,” declined to play. She did, however, nod and smile at her American counterpart’s enthusiastic efforts. For years, Peng, now 51, was far more famous in China than her husband, President Xi Jinping, who quietly rose through the Communist Party’s ranks. A folk singer with the People’s Liberation Army, Peng attained the rank of major general and was known for warbling rousing socialist ditties like “People From Our Village.” While she has been far more visible than her predecessors, who rarely appeared in any photo-ops with their leader husbands, Peng still hews to a script. She stood rigidly next to Obama as they gazed upon robots, exchanging not a word. Nor did she engage in much small talk with the Beijing Normal School students, although she did admit, as she picked up her calligraphy brush: “I’m somewhat nervous, too.” Peng also spoke phrases of well-enunciated English.

More than 30 American kids are studying at Beijing Normal School, part of a growing corps of 20,000 American students in China (the number of Chinese students in the U.S. is upwards of 200,000). Obama has made the importance of education one of the themes of her China trip, and she is using her personal story as an example of American social mobility.

“As someone from a modest background, [Obama] has parents who didn’t go to college but who emphasized education… as a way to succeed and move forward,” said Tina Tchen, Obama’s chief of staff.

Some of the American students studying at Beijing Normal School come from the U.S.’ toniest private schools, like Phillips Academy Andover in Mass. and Sidwell Friends in Washington, which Obama’s daughters attend. The Beijing Normal School program for some foreign students, according to two American teenagers, costs $50,000 a year. Obama is promoting a State Department-backed program called 100,000 Strong that will send American children of all economic backgrounds to study in China.

On Friday evening, Obama, her mother and daughters headed to the Diaoyutai State Guest House for dinner. There, they met with Xi and posed for photographs with the Chinese President. Obama told Xi that she had tried a little ping-pong earlier in the day. “Not so good,” she remarked, of her sporting foray. She described the rest of her China trip so far as “wonderful.”

TIME Style

L’Wren Scott’s Best Dresses on the World’s Best Dressed

Celebrity fans included Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Obama, Amy Adams, Christina Hendricks, and many more

Venerable fashion designer L’Wren Scott, who was found dead in her New York apartment on Monday, dressed everyone from movie stars to First Ladies, in classic and distinctive styles that worked well on almost all body types. She taught herself to sew during her childhood in Utah, partly because she stood 6 feet tall and couldn’t find any clothes to fit her. Her clothes routinely won spots on Best Dressed lists, which made her a popular pick for first-time red carpet stars.

She even won the approval of the notoriously hard-to-impress Vogue editor Anna Wintour. “L’Wren was a total perfectionist, someone who absolutely embodied everything her marvelous clothes stood for: strength of character combined with a confident and powerful style,” Wintour said in a statement. “In person, L’Wren was always unbelievably generous, gracious, kind, and so much fun. Her old world American manners and charm were from another time, but her sensibility was always fiercely modern. We will all miss her.”

  • Sarah Jessica Parker

    Sarah Jessica Parker wearing L'Wren Scott
    Dave M. Benett—Getty Images for The Serpentine Gallery; Fred Duval—FilmMagic/Getty Images; Steve Granitz—WireImage/Getty Images

    Sarah Jessica Parker knows a thing or two about fashion, and the Sex & The City star regularly wore L’Wren Scott. In 2011, Parker said of Scott, “I think L’Wren has an extraordinary ability to make dresses that genuinely flatter a woman. She makes an unbelievably contemporary dress in a remarkably old-fashioned way for all sorts of women and body types.”

    Parker, a frequent client of Scott’s, notably chose (from left) a gold fringed L’Wren Scott dress at the annual Serpentine Gallery Summer Party in London on June 26, 2013, a hot pink L’Wren Scott mini to the London premier of her film Did You Hear About The Morgans? on Dec. 8, 2009, and a skin tight black L’Wren Scott dress to the MTV Movie Awards on June 1, 2008.

  • Nicole Kidman

    Nicole Kidman wearing L'Wrenn Scott
    Daniele Venturelli—WireImage/Getty Images; Kevin Winter—Getty Images; Gregg DeGuire—WireImage/Getty Images

    A long time friend of Scott’s, Kidman said, “L’Wren and I have been dear friends for years now…She knows what aspects to accentuate in a woman, and is able to make you feel incredibly sexy and sophisticated when you are in one of her exquisite designs.”

    Kidman frequently wore Scott’s designs, most notably (from left) to the Rome Film Festival premiere of Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus in 2006, to the 81st Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles in 2009, and again to the Academy Awards in Hollywood in 2013.

  • Christina Hendricks

    Christina Hendricks in L'Wren Scott
    Jeff Kravitz—FilmMagic/Getty Images; Anthony Harvey—Getty Images

    The Mad Men star has turned to Scott’s designs often and said of the designer, “L’Wren’s clothes make you feel like a sexy pin-up, a sophisticated lady and a rockstar all at once. She designs for how women want to look and for what men want to look at.” Many other fans echoed the point that Scott had a particularly good understanding of how clothes fit the body.

    Hendricks took two memorable turns in L’Wren Scott gowns, first at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Sept. 20, 2009 (left), and more recently at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in West Hollywood, Calif, on March 2, 2014.

  • Michelle Obama

    Michelle Obama wearing L'Wren Scott
    Kevin Lamarque—Reuters/Corbis; J. Scott Applewhite—AP

    One of Scott’s highest profile clients, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama has become as famous for wearing L’Wren Scott as she is for wearing J. Crew. Obama has been seen wearing Scott’s designs several times during President Obama’s two terms, including a slinky gold dress during an official dinner at the Casa Presidential in San Salvador March 22, 2011 (left) and a pink two-piece ensemble while speaking at the GMA Science Forum meeting in Washington, D.C. on March 16, 2010. Obama also famously insisted on wearing her own raspberry L’Wren Scott dress for a shoot for Harper’s Bazaar in 2010.

  • Allison Williams

    2013 CNN Heroes
    Slaven Vlasic—Getty Images; Gary Gershoff—WireImage/Getty Images

    Girls star Allison Williams has become known for her sophisticated sense of style on the red carpet. She has also become a loyal fan of Scott’s, wearing a graphic red and black dress to the Seventh Annual Women Of Worth Awards on Dec. 6, 2012 in New York City (left) and a skin-tight blue leather sheath to the 2013 CNN Heroes: An All Star Tribute at The American Museum of Natural History on Nov. 19, 2013 in New York City.

  • Angelina Jolie

    From left: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at "The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford" premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater Sept. 18, 2007 in New York City.
    Evan Agostini—Getty Images

    In 2012, it was rumored that Jolie wanted Scott to design her wedding dress for her nuptials to partner Brad Pitt. A long-time fan of Scott’s, Jolie chose a classic L’Wren Scott L.B.D. to wear to “The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford” film premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater Sept. 18, 2007 in New York City with Pitt.

  • Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

    France's President wife Carla Bruni Sark
    Ludovic—AFP/Getty Images

    Former French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy frequently wore L’Wren Scott while her husband was in office, including this perfectly tailored black dress on June 22, 2009 at the Chateau de Versailles outside Paris.

  • Naomi Campbell

    63rd Annual Cannes Film Festival - Cinema Against AIDS - Arrivals
    Mike Marsland—WireImage/Getty Images

    Beloved by actresses and models alike, Scott’s designs have been a favorite of Naomi Campbell’s. She wore a memorable floor length feathered L’Wren Scott gown to amfAR’s Cinema Against AIDS benefit gala at the Hotel du Cap on May 20, 2010 in Antibes, France.

  • Amy Adams

    83rd Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
    Kevork Djansezian—Getty Images

    Adams chose a L’Wren Scott gown for the 2011 Academy Awards, the year she was nominated for Best Actress her work in The Fighter. The shimmering navy column, paired with Cartier jewels, was one of the most memorable red carpet looks of the event.

  • Penelope Cruz

    83rd Annual Academy Awards - People Magazine Arrivals
    Kevin Mazur—WireImage/Getty Images

    After spending several months out of the spotlight while pregnant, Cruz made a big return to the red carpet in this sparkling red L’Wren Scott gown for the 2011 Academy Awards. Cruz would later choose Scott again that year when she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of fame.

  • Madonna

    Madonna wearing L'Wren Scott
    Ian Gavan—Getty Images; Jon Furniss—WireImage/Getty Images

    In 2009, Scott quit modeling and became a celebrity stylist instead. Madonna was one of Scott’s first clients, and remained loyal to her as Scott became a designer. Madge chose several of Scott’s designs while promoting the film W.E., her directorial debut, choosing a black shift dress for the 68th Venice Film Festival on Sept. 1, 2011 in Venice (left) and a similarly cut patterned dress for the 55th BFI London Film Festival on Oct. 23, 2011.

  • Jessica Paré

    "Schiaparelli And Prada: Impossible Conversations" Costume Institute Gala
    Kevin Mazur—WireImage/Getty Images

    Mad Men star Jessica Paré is a newer devotee of Scott’s, choosing her gowns for key moments in her burgeoning career. Paré made a bold statement (and many best-dressed lists) with a gold floor length L’Wren Scott column for her first Met Gala in 2012.

  • Tina Fey

    70th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals
    Jason Merritt—Getty Images

    All eyes were on Fey when she hosted her first Golden Globes ceremony in 2013 with Amy Poehler. While Poehler wore several Stella McCartney gowns, Fey favored L’Wren Scott, wearing two of her designs, one stunning black and white sleeveless on the red carpet (pictured) and a deep teal floor length gown later on stage.

  • Kyra Sedgwick

    60th Primetime Emmy Awards - Arrivals
    Steve Granitz—WireImage/Getty Images

    Fashion forward Sedgwick has favored Scott’s designs for her red carpet appearances, and has also attended Scott’s fashion shows with her husband, Kevin Bacon. Sedgwick landed on InStyle’s ‘100 Best Dresses of the Decade’ list with this white and silver L’Wren Scott sheath at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 21, 2008 in Los Angeles.

TIME fashion

A Look Back at L’Wren Scott’s Relationship With Mick Jagger

The famous designer who dressed Michelle Obama was found dead in her New York home Monday from an apparent suicide

MORE: L’Wren Scott Found Dead In Apparent Suicide

TIME fashion

Fashion Designer L’Wren Scott Found Dead

The 49-year-old fashion designer for big names like Michelle Obama was reportedly found hanging by a scarf in her Manhattan apartment on Monday. A spokesperson for Jagger said he was "completely shocked and devastated"

+ READ ARTICLE

L’Wren Scott, who designed clothes worn by Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie, was reportedly found hanging in her New York City apartment Monday in an apparent suicide, according to multiple media reports.

The 49-year old model and designer was also known for being the long-term girlfriend of singer Mick Jagger. She was allegedly found hanging by a scarf, and it is not yet clear if she left a note.

Scott recently collaborated with Banana Republic to create an affordable collection. Her public relations firm would not comment on reports of her death. A spokeperson for Jagger told CNN the singer was “completely shocked and devastated by the news.”

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