Michelle Obama Reminded Barack Not to Get Too Close to People and Hug Them at the COVID-Era Inauguration

Amid all the excitement of President Joe Biden's Inauguration Day, former First Lady Michelle Obama had to keep her husband in check, reminding Barack Obama to be careful about hugs during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Inauguration poet Amanda Gorman shared the anecdote in an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Tuesday, telling the talk show host that she overhead Mrs. Obama chiding the former president.

"I remember Michelle Obama, like, being close," the 22-year-old told DeGeneres. "And she kind of kept yelling at Barack like — 'Stop hugging people. Stop getting close to people.' "

The unprecedented pandemic-era inauguration was dramatically slimmed down as a health precaution. Attendees were masked and often exchanged fist-bumps and elbow taps.

In a clip shared on social media, Mr. Obama could be seen briefly hugging singer Garth Brooks following his rendition of "Amazing Grace." Garth also shook (gloved) hands with Gorman after she exited the podium.

Gorman added on DeGeneres' show that, even though the former first lady told her husband not to hug too many people, she didn't shy away from embracing the young poet once Gorman's reading was complete.

"When I was done, she kind of like pushed him out the way and gave me the just the biggest, warmest Michelle Obama hug," Gorman said.

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Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in memory, delivered her stirring piece "The Hill We Climb" at Biden's swearing-in ceremony last Wednesday.

Appearing on James Corden's Late Late Show, Gorman said that the work was warmly received by the Obamas.

"Barack Obama is standing next to me being like, 'You made us proud, you did a great job' in his characteristic voice," she recalled. "I didn't want to leave, and then Secret Service was like, 'No, really, you've got to go.

Also speaking on Good Morning America last week, the poet said she was "shocked" to be chosen to deliver the reading.

"I had not been expecting that, at 22, they would trust me with such an honor," Gorman said. "I was also daunted at the same time; I was scared of writing such a poem. I wasn't sure I could do it justice, but I'm so glad that I put my best foot forward and did it."

On Tuesday, Gorman told DeGeneres that she had met Mrs. Obama "a few times before" the inaugural ceremonies, though each interaction is still memorable.

"Whenever I meet Michelle I hope that she forgets meeting me because I just want a do-over," Gorman said. "I just want a clean slate. I just want to do it right this time. But she always remembers and she's always great."

"And when I hug her, I'm so short, my forehead is like in her belly button," Gorman added jokingly.

As is customary for such ceremonies, the Obamas reunited at the inauguration with former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who along with Obama went with Biden to a ceremonial wreath-laying following the swearing-in and appeared later in the night during the Celebrating America primetime special to wish the 46th president luck and to underscore the importance of transferring power.

Mrs. Obama attended the inauguration wearing a striking monochrome outfit from Black American designer Sergio Hudson, which included a plum-colored turtleneck, matching flared pants and an oversized gold belt.

Days after the inauguration, her stylist, Meredith Koop, shared a post on Instagram to provide more details about the ensemble. Though she noted that the choice of pants (rather than a skirt or dress) was a "liberating" styling choice, Koop added that the real draw of the ensemble was the woman wearing it.

"What I want to convey most, though, is that this particular outfit is about the woman wearing it more than anything," Koop wrote. "It is about her and what she means to you and to America … She is relatable and she is aspirational. She has consistently articulated over the years what has been in the hearts and minds of so many. She has taken a look at the rule book and turned the page. She leads, she inspires and she slays."

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