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Michelle Obama is the most pop culture, friendly first lady in history — Michelle Obama might seem like an unlikely cover subject for an entertainment magazine, but as Variety proves in an in-depth look at the first lady’s media presence, there’s a reason why and how she’s become such a prominent figure in her own right.

As Obama’s launched her own initiatives — like anti-obesity campaign Let’s Move and educational project Let Girls Learn — a large part of her strategy to gain support has been to embrace the power of pop culture to raise awareness of more than just those who are already keyed into the political news cycle.

“’Where are the people?’” Obama says she asked herself. “Well, they’re not reading the op-ed pieces in the major newspapers. They’re not watching Sunday morning news talk shows. They’re doing what most people are doing: They are watching TV.”

And so she turned to TV shows that are wide-ranging in genres and audiences, from CBS’s NCIS to Nickelodeon’s iCarly to NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. She rocked out to the song Diane Warren wrote for Let Girls Learn — “Let’s Hear It for the Girls” — on James Corden’s carpool karaoke, which boosted sales by a stunning 1,562 percent.

While she says she knows some might find the segments she appears in silly — most especially her weirdo turn on Billy Eichner’s decibel-shattering game show Billy on the Street — Obama’s also firm in her belief that humor is one of the fastest ways to connect with someone, whether in person or through a TV screen. “My view is, first you get them to laugh,” she says, “then you get them to listen.”

Obama recognizes that she’s “a product of pop culture.” When she was 10, she tells Variety, The Mary Tyler Moore Show made her realize that a single woman could prize her career and not need a husband at the end of the tunnel. Today, she says, she fervently believes in the power of pop culture to show people lives they might not have considered before — or to validate the lives they’re already living. Click here for more

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