Malia Obama mystery selfie: What's the message?

The photo that surfaced in the past few days on Instagram appears to be that of Malia wearing a Pro Era t-shirt. The rarity of such unofficial shots reminds us how well the Obamas have kept their daughters out of the public eye in the social media era.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
President Obama (r.) with his daughter Malia Obama, waves as they arrive at the White House on Sunday, back from a family vacation in Hawaii.

Has the White House suffered another stunning leak of top secret information? Something really closely held, known to only a select few at the very top of the Obama administration?

No, we’re not talking about NSA surveillance revelations or some other national security item. We’re talking about the Malia selfie – a photo that appears to be that of the first daughter wearing a Pro Era T-shirt that appeared in the last few days on Instagram.

The White House hasn’t actually confirmed Malia’s identity here, so there’s still a shadow of doubt. But if it’s not her, it’s a virtual double. She’s got her hands behind her head, which kind of scrunches up the logo of the Brooklyn rap collective Pro Era.

Joey Bada$$, a member of said group, has stated to a number of news outlets that Pro Era got the photo from a “mutual friend of Malia” and posted it as a promotional tool.

That make sense – let’s put up a photo of a minor whose dad has the FBI on speed dial. Sure, the increased sales will cover the legal fees.

Anyway, there’s nothing special about the picture, per se. In an era when teens communicate as much with Snapchat photos as with actual words, it’s perhaps surprising that more Malia or Sasha selfies haven’t become public.

Or maybe the Obama girls are sealed off from most social media. In 2013, first lady Michelle Obama told Barbara Walters that she did not believe in Facebook for young people and that Malia and Sasha had only “limited” access to the site.

That’s likely to change now that the girls are older. Malia in fact is on the verge of flitting out of their direct control – she’s a junior in high school, which means she’s looking at colleges. Apparently, she wants to be involved in filmmaking, so she’s already toured Stanford and the University of California-Berkeley, which have good film programs.

But add up the months – she’ll be going off to a dorm in the fall of ... 2016. Right about the time the voters will be getting ready to pick her dad’s successor.

In that context, this latest selfie really reminds us how well the Obamas have kept their daughters out of the public eye during their years in the White House. The biggest story about Sasha and Malia has been whether they looked bored when their dad pardoned a Thanksgiving turkey.

If that’s the most drama that’s come out of their teenage years, the Obamas are very fortunate parents indeed.

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