A good writer always searches for a strong lead sentence, one guaranteed to grab your attention. I’m pleased to see Amy Chozick, writing for the Wall Street Journal, say ‘flip it’ to the Google SEO gods, and capture our 110 percent attention by writing: Desirée Glapion Rogers is the descendant of a Creole voodoo priestess named Marie Laveau Glapion.
Welcome to the world of Smart Sensuality woman Desirée Rogers, CEO of Brand Obama and the ultimate social engineer on planet earth. The job title ‘social secretary’ just doesn’t sum up the real Rogers mission in Washington.
Desirée Rogers is a power player, a business and American culture broker, holding the keys to what used to be Camelot but is now — just simple — “the People’s House.”
Rogers, who calls herself the “eyes and ears” of Mrs. Obama, has known the first lady for nearly two decades. They met through Rogers’ ex-husband, John Rogers Jr., who played basketball at Princeton with Mrs. Obama’s brother, Craig Robinson. They have an easy way together, elbowing and joking, chatting about their daughters and smiling widely at each other, the way only old girlfriends do. Mrs. Obama pops her head in Rogers’ office to chat like someone who is still surprised that she works down the hall from her friend. Friendships with all the right people may be one of the reasons that Obama chose Rogers for the job of planning every social event that takes place at the White House—from black-tie dinners to pickup basketball games, press conferences, movie nights and birthday parties.
I like the way Desirée Rogers’s mind works. She compares her management of Brand Obama with Dove’s Cultural Creative Campaign for Real Beauty, a project that I’ve written about multiple times. If you don’t understand the Dove Campaign, you will never understand the platform of Michelle Obama.
Pundits waiting for Michelle to get off the Greyhound and onto the Gulfstream jet, will still be saying eight years from now, that she hasn’t assumed the podium to deliver her big message. Trapped in a box of Modern brand expectations and messages, they will miss her “daily dose” of Brand Obama — or Michelle-speak ”, even though the little people — that’s us — hear her just fine.
This is an in-depth WSJ Magazine feature, so we learn things about Michelle Obama, not reported in our 500-word or less ‘news’ stories. Reading about Michelle’s garden planting with 26 fifth-graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, I don’t recall reading the the First Lady yelled: “Let’s hear it for vegetables!Let’s hear it for fruits!”
In a very strategic move to manage the Obama brand (and message), the East and West wings of the White House are unified — rather like the Obama marriage, I would say.
Rogers and her five-person staff are a vital part of its political operation, according to a White House aide. Every morning at 8:15a.m., Rogers strides from the East to West Wing, where she attends a meeting with Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, top Obama aide David Axelrod and other senior White House officials.
Here’s another interesting ‘bon mot’. The writer volunteers that the WSJ provided Rogers with an Oscar de la Renta outfit to wear for the photo shoot. She ‘demurely’ declined.
Raised in an untraditional household in New Orleans, Rogers is aware of the need not to consume caviar in the White House, given the current economic crisis. She bristles, though, over suggestions that there should be fewer parties in the White House.
Canceling parties isn’t in Rogers’ blood. When her father died in 1999, jazz tunes belted out of a polished saxophone and a party commenced at the funeral, a custom rooted in African spiritual practices that got muddled up with French traditions. “We’re not going to cancel weddings. We’re not going to cancel anniversaries,” Rogers says. “In fact, you might need a little more joy given the hardship.”
Finding joy in the midst of hardship is a fundamental aspect of African American life in America. Music and popular culture are key planks in Brand Obama, and we’ll be seeing many more parties in Washington. They won’t be ‘fancy pants’ parties, but images of the first lady serving homemade huckleberry cobbler and caramel ice cream, while POTUS is meeting with foreign dignitaries.
These are the images that make feminists bristle, but we must trust the women in charge of America’s biggest brand campaign. Cultural Creatives Desirée Rogers and Michelle Obama are Ivy League grads who have run major institutions. No one is holding their heels to the fire, telling them how to brand the First Lady.
Pundits must study the Dove Campaign to get things right, in understanding Michelle Obama.
Few bodies of research on women worldwide has offered more insights on the internal struggles of American women, versus women in Europe, South America and other parts of the globe.
We American women have our own unique set of demons. The Smart Sensuality East Wing ladies understand them deeply, perhaps because of their African American heritage. Whatever the ambivalences of white American women, they are surely magnified among African American women.
At 5’10” Desirée Rogers stands tall next to Michelle Obama. Can we assume that she has big feet also? The very stature of these Smart Sensuality women makes me trust them to lead American women forward into a new way of thinking about themselves and issues that matter in our new century.
Don’t be thrown off by Desirée Rogers wearing a trench by Victor & Rolf and earrings by Cartier.
Perhaps even more so than Michelle, Rogers is the Modern woman who never forgot her Cultural Creative roots. Like her friends Michelle and Barack, her agenda for change runs deep in her blood, all the way back to Marie Laveau Glapion, who surely knew that one day decades later Desirée Rogers would be the new ‘go to’ girl in town.
Amazingly that town isn’t New Orleans or even Chicago, Illinois, but Washington, D.C. Rogers is the East Wing consigliere, an elegant, sensual breast cancer survivor … a true warrior in fashionista clothing.
Only the first 100 Days are written in this tantalizing, branding and marketing story. Never before, has an administration taken the learnings of the Harvard business School and applied them so directly to ‘packaging’ the White House for public consumption.
To date, there’s only one East Wing grade in town, and it’s A+ in my playbook. I can’t wait to read the next chapter in this ‘real women’ brand campaign.
We must remember that — when you’re sitting on a pedestal — there’s only one place to go, if you move carelessly. The crowd has been known to turn viciously before, which is why Desirée Rogers surely has eyes in the back of her beautiful black head. Anne