look book

The Look Book Goes to the Obama Portraits

At the Brooklyn Museum, guests got an early look at Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s presidential portraits.

Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland
Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

Hannah Traore (pictured above)
Curator and gallerist, Williamsburg

Who is your favorite Obama? 
I really love their daughters. Sasha’s my girl. I can tell. She has bad-bitch energy — or, like, hot-girl energy.

Do you generally dress in monochrome? 
I actually have a color-coordinated wardrobe. All my clothes go from black to white. I have a section for dresses — short dresses, long dresses — long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved shirts, and so on. It’s so helpful. Like this morning, I saw my neon-green pants and thought, Oh, I love those pants. So I went to my green section and found this shirt.

You must have a big closet. 
Yes, I actually just moved. I feel like a spoiled brat, but honestly, I moved because of my closet. I just have so much stuff, and so I needed a new space. Packing was — well, horrific is probably the perfect word. But I’m opening my own gallery now, and I need an excellent outfit every single day. I can’t be, like, having piles on the floor because there’s no space.

Madison Jones

PR specialist, Washington Heights

Christophe Roberts

Artist, Bedford-Stuyvesant


How long have you lived in the city?

Ten years or so. Before that, Chicago. I loved it there, but I was starting to get too comfortable. Here, I’ve had so many crazy interactions. Like during the height of COVID, Spike Lee reached out, invited me to his studio, and purchased some of my work. People like that are in reach here if you have the hustle. And I’m 24/7 when it comes to the arts. 

Blu Ellis

CEO and owner, Bedford-Stuyvesant

Folake Ologunja

Communications strategist, Prospect Heights

Keely Kritz

Associate Casting Director, Bedford-Stuyvesant

Katherine Block

Fund-raiser, Crown Heights


Do you come to the museum often?

Yes, my whole childhood. I took classes here; I did the summer camps. I mean, my mom brought me to the “Sensation” show in 1999 ten times. I was always happy to go to the Brooklyn Museum. Except for the day of my First Communion. That day, I had to go to class right after church and I really wanted to get ice cream.

Jessica Cox

Visitor-experience associate, Crown Heights

Estelle Bailey-Babenzien

Co-founder and interior designer, Fort Greene


Is it your first time seeing the portraits?

It is — they’re magnificent. I actually met Obama once at an event at a brownstone in Brooklyn with, like, 30 people. I got to ask him how he felt about meditation being taught in schools. I think he responded that he agreed it was something younger people should learn at an earlier age. But I can’t really remember.

Christian Kyle Harrell

Artist, Bedford-Stuyvesant

Seimi Rurup

M.F.A. student, Bedford-Stuyvesant

Juliet Gray

Museum consultant and educator, Crown Heights


How do you like living in Crown Heights?

Well, I emigrated from Jamaica to the neighborhood with my mom when I was 11. And obviously, the area has changed a lot. I don’t really know my new neighbors. They’re not friendly like my old neighbors, who were mostly people of color. When I walk around the blocks where it’s all Black people who’ve been able to stay, Lord given, they all say “Good morning, good afternoon.” I mean, it’s just the polite thing. How do you not?

Que Peterson

Video artist, East Harlem

Yvonne Ashley Kouadjo

Documentary producer, Crown Heights

Emanuel Sabino

Entrepreneur, Crown Heights

Valencia Tuit

Financial analyst, Financial District

Patricia Tovar

Jewelry designer, Parkchester

Michelle Smith

Fashion designer, Harlem


Didn’t you make the dress Michelle Obama is wearing in her portrait?

Yes. I dressed Ms. Obama throughout both terms. And I also designed Malia’s prom dress. When I saw my dress in the portrait for the first time, I was in Paris. More specifically, I was alone in my hotel room jumping up and down on my bed.

Stacey Griffith

SoulCycle instructor and author, Upper East Side

Photographs by DeSean McClinton-Holland
Madison Jones  PR specialist, Washington Heights
Christophe Roberts Artist, Bedford-Stuyvesant. How long have you lived in the city?  Ten years or so. Before that, Chicago. I loved  it there, but I was starting to get too comfortable. Here,  I’ve had so many crazy interactions. Like during the height of COVID, Spike Lee reached out, invited me to his studio, and purchased some of my work. People like that are in reach here if  you have the hustle. And I’m 24/7 when it comes to the arts.
Blu Ellis CEO and owner, Bedford-Stuyvesant
Folake Ologunja  Communications strategist, Prospect Heights
Keely Kritz Associate Casting Director, Bedford-Stuyvesant
Katherine Block Fund-raiser, Crown Heights Do you come to the museum often?   Yes, my whole childhood. I took classes here; I did the summer camps. I mean, my mom brought me to the “Sensation” show  in 1999 ten times. I was always happy to go to the Brooklyn Museum. Except for the day of my First Communion. That day, I had to go to class right after church and I really wanted to get ice cream.
Jessica Cox Visitor-experience associate, Crown Heights
Estelle Bailey-Babenzien  Co-founder and interior designer, Fort Greene    Is it your first time seeing the portraits?  It is—they’re magnificent. I actually met Obama once at an event at a brownstone in Brooklyn with, like, 30 people. I got to ask him how he felt about meditation being taught in schools. I think he responded that he agreed it was something younger people should learn at an earlier age. But I can’t really remember.
Christian Kyle Harrell  Artist, Bedford-Stuyvesant
Seimi Rurup M.F.A. student, Bedford-Stuyvesant
Juliet Gray Museum consultant and educator, Crown Heights How do you like living in Crown Heights?   Well, I emigrated from Jamaica to the neighborhood with my mom when I was 11. And obviously, the area has changed a lot. I don’t really know my new neighbors. They’re not friendly like my old neighbors, who were mostly people of color. When I walk around the blocks where it’s all Black people who’ve been able to stay, Lord given, they all say “Good morning, good afternoon.” I mean, it’s just the polite thing. How do you not?
Que Peterson Video artist, East Harlem
Yvonne Ashley Kouadjo Documentary producer, Crown Heights
Emanuel Sabino Entrepreneur, Crown Heights
Valencia Tuit  Financial analyst, Financial District
Patricia Tovar Jewelry designer, Parkchester
Michelle Smith Fashion designer, Harlem Didn’t you make the dress Michelle Obama is wearing in her portrait?   Yes. I dressed Ms. Obama throughout both terms. And I also designed Malia’s prom dress. When I saw my dress in the portrait for the first time, I was in Paris. More specifically, I was alone in my hotel room jumping up and down on my bed.
Stacey Griffith SoulCycle instructor and author, Upper East Side

Madison Jones

PR specialist, Washington Heights

Christophe Roberts

Artist, Bedford-Stuyvesant


How long have you lived in the city?

Ten years or so. Before that, Chicago. I loved it there, but I was starting to get too comfortable. Here, I’ve had so many crazy interactions. Like during the height of COVID, Spike Lee reached out, invited me to his studio, and purchased some of my work. People like that are in reach here if you have the hustle. And I’m 24/7 when it comes to the arts. 

Blu Ellis

CEO and owner, Bedford-Stuyvesant

Folake Ologunja

Communications strategist, Prospect Heights

Keely Kritz

Associate Casting Director, Bedford-Stuyvesant

Katherine Block

Fund-raiser, Crown Heights


Do you come to the museum often?

Yes, my whole childhood. I took classes here; I did the summer camps. I mean, my mom brought me to the “Sensation” show in 1999 ten times. I was always happy to go to the Brooklyn Museum. Except for the day of my First Communion. That day, I had to go to class right after church and I really wanted to get ice cream.

Jessica Cox

Visitor-experience associate, Crown Heights

Estelle Bailey-Babenzien

Co-founder and interior designer, Fort Greene


Is it your first time seeing the portraits?

It is — they’re magnificent. I actually met Obama once at an event at a brownstone in Brooklyn with, like, 30 people. I got to ask him how he felt about meditation being taught in schools. I think he responded that he agreed it was something younger people should learn at an earlier age. But I can’t really remember.

Christian Kyle Harrell

Artist, Bedford-Stuyvesant

Seimi Rurup

M.F.A. student, Bedford-Stuyvesant

Juliet Gray

Museum consultant and educator, Crown Heights


How do you like living in Crown Heights?

Well, I emigrated from Jamaica to the neighborhood with my mom when I was 11. And obviously, the area has changed a lot. I don’t really know my new neighbors. They’re not friendly like my old neighbors, who were mostly people of color. When I walk around the blocks where it’s all Black people who’ve been able to stay, Lord given, they all say “Good morning, good afternoon.” I mean, it’s just the polite thing. How do you not?

Que Peterson

Video artist, East Harlem

Yvonne Ashley Kouadjo

Documentary producer, Crown Heights

Emanuel Sabino

Entrepreneur, Crown Heights

Valencia Tuit

Financial analyst, Financial District

Patricia Tovar

Jewelry designer, Parkchester

Michelle Smith

Fashion designer, Harlem


Didn’t you make the dress Michelle Obama is wearing in her portrait?

Yes. I dressed Ms. Obama throughout both terms. And I also designed Malia’s prom dress. When I saw my dress in the portrait for the first time, I was in Paris. More specifically, I was alone in my hotel room jumping up and down on my bed.

Stacey Griffith

SoulCycle instructor and author, Upper East Side

Photographs by DeSean McClinton-Holland

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The Look Book Goes to the Obama Portraits