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Watch: Michelle Obama makes a surprise appearance at the opening of the Grammys

It’s a moment that echoed the opening of Obama’s book tour.

Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

The 2019 Grammys hosted some of the biggest names in music, but the biggest celebrity guest of the night wasn’t a musician — it was Michelle Obama.

Obama appeared during host Alicia Keys’s opening monologue, along with Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Jada Pinkett Smith to extol the power of music. The women took a moment to talk about the ways that music has helped them become their truest selves, including Obama.

“From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side to the ‘Who Run the World’ songs that fueled me through this last decade, music has always helped me tell my story. And I know that’s true for everybody here,” Obama said. “Whether we like country or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves, our dignity and sorrows, our hopes and joys. It allows us to hear one another, to invite each other in. Music shows us that all of it matters, every story within every voice, every note within every song.”

The moment shook up the room, but it felt in certain ways inexplicable. What was Michelle Obama doing at the Grammys?

There’s actually an explanation: She was reenacting the opening of her book tour.

At every stop on Michelle Obama’s arena book tour (which just picked up again after a brief hiatus), she begins every night by having a group of women take the stage to talk about who they are becoming (just like the title of Obama’s memoir, Becoming). Usually, the group includes a few celebrities, as well as public servants like veterans and young people like girl scouts.

For her appearance at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in December, Obama brought Alicia Keys with her.

“I am becoming more myself, unapologetically myself, with no desire for outside approval,” Keys said as the show opened. “I am deepening. I am blossoming. We are the greatest we have ever been, and we won’t dim our light for anybody! I am becoming more in love with my brothers and sisters in the world. I love you! New York City! We are becoming!”

The opening of the Alicia Keys-hosted Grammys seems to have borrowed from the opening of Michelle Obama’s Becoming tour. For both events, the opening is a moment to celebrate women becoming who they truly are and finding their voices, unapologetically.

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