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Michelle Obama meets girl in viral portrait photo

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

A 2-year-old girl who was seen mesmerized by portrait of Michelle Obama in a photo that went viral last week came face to face with the subject of that painting on Tuesday.

Parker Curry, her mother, Jessica, and her 1-year-old sister, Ava, met the former first lady at her Washington, D.C., office on Tuesday morning.

Michelle Obama shared a short video of herself and Parker dancing to Taylor Swift’s “Shake If Off” on Twitter, along with an inspirational message.

The photo of the toddler seemingly transfixed by Michelle Obama’s portrait in the National Portrait Gallery — taken by a fellow museum-goer — quickly captured the internet’s attention.

It also captured the attention of Michelle Obama, who — according to a person with knowledge of the arrangement — reached out to the Currys personally to invite them to her office.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled commissioned portraits of Michelle Obama and former President Barack Obama in February. His portrait was painted by artist Kehinde Wiley; hers was painted by Amy Sherald. Wiley and Sherald were the first black artists commissioned to paint a presidential couple for the Smithsonian.

Official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama. His was painted by Kehinde Wiley; hers was painted by Amy Sherald. (Images courtesy Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery)

At her portrait’s unveiling, Michelle Obama said she was thinking of “all the young people — particularly girls and girls of color, little girls — and girls of color who, in years ahead, will come to this place and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution.”

“And I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives,” the former first lady said, “because I was one of those girls.”

The paintings drew mixed reactions on Twitter when they were first unveiled. But the image of Parker raptly staring at the first lady’s melted the hearts of the social network’s notoriously snarky users.

Sherald, the artist who painted the Michelle Obama’s portrait, shared Parker’s image on Instagram along with a story about the first time she saw the painting of a black man in a museum.

“I knew I wanted to be an artist already, but seeing that painting made me realize that I could,” Sherald wrote. “What dreams may come? #representationmatters.”

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