Michelle Obama's Advice for High Schoolers is Perfect for Entrepreneurs


You go to school. You dream. You work hard. And then one day…you start your own business with a huge support team. Sound like wishful thinking? Not according to Michelle Obama who spoke to 300 college-bound high school seniors (mostly first-generation) at College Signing Day last week. The former FLOTUS started the star-studded affair four years ago, and has plans to continue “celebrating you all and supporting you and lifting you up no matter what house we live in,” she says.

The MTV-hosted event, held at The Public Theater, was emceed by Nick Cannon, and featuring appearances from Bella Hadid, Andy Cohen, Billy Eichner, Questlove, Donna Karan, Tamron Hall, Robin Roberts, and Soledad O’Brien, but Obama’s main message of finding a community to support and encourage you was the real highlight, and, best of all, it can easily apply to female entrepreneurs.

"Getting in was just the beginning, because there will be struggles. I certainly had my share of struggles," Obama said wearing a Princeton Tigers shirt from her alma mater. "You’re not supposed to go through this on your own. No one gets through college, or life, on their own."

"Don’t sit in your room alone. Do not stew or stir," she continued. "Go out and build your base of support… You cannot do this alone. I didn’t. No one on this stage did, and we are not expecting that from you."

And, there’s good news that women in business can learn from.

"Once you find that community — and you have to find your community in college, and it may take some time — you’re gonna get this thing,” she says. “You're gonna soar, and you’re gonna continue to make us proud."

Michelle Obama at the College Signing Day // D DIPASUPIL/FILMMAGIC

Obama’s message couldn’t have been more timely. According to The Global Entrepreneur Monitor, there are 200 million women entrepreneurs across the globe in the process of starting or operating new businesses. And, that number is steadily increasing.

Supporting the youth and entrepreneurship isn’t new to Obama, in fact she hosted a similar event as part of her Reach Higher initiative through the White House last year in Harlem, in Detroit the year before, and again in San Antonio in 2014.

While there Obama also mentioned the importance of having a College Signing Day. “We want young people to know that there is nothing more important than getting your education,” she said. “We need to make going to college the event that we make so many other things. You know, it’s gotta be more important than going to the NBA. It’s gotta be more exciting than getting a recording contract. We gotta celebrate students going to college bigger than we celebrate the Final Four or the Super Bowl. This is important. The number of acceptance letters that you get should be more important than the number of followers you have on social media.”

Aside from the celebrities in attendance, other stars showed their agreement on social media. Kerry Washington tweeted “Join me in celebrating #collegesigningday with @MichelleObama and thousands of students across the country,” next to a photo of herself wearing a George Washington University hat.

Sounds like Obama’s support team is in full swing.


A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.

Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.