Chain reaction: Michelle Obama’s ‘vote’ necklace goes viral

Chain reaction: Michelle Obama’s ‘vote’ necklace goes viral

Former first lady shows support for Democrats and little-known African American jeweller

Throughout Michelle Obama’s powerful 18-minute virtual Democratic national convention speech one message was clear: V-O-T-E, spelled out not just through her evisceration of Donald Trump but also by the letters of her necklace.

“Vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris like our lives depend on it,” Obama said, while wearing a gold necklace that quickly went viral, and became a top US Google search term during the last hour of the convention.

This piece was from ByChari, a small Los Angeles-based jewellery company owned by Chari Cuthbert, who is African American.

Obama’s decision to promote Cuthbert echoes a trend seen also on the recent cover of British Vogue, in which 40 activists wore clothes largely by BAME designers, for influential people and organisations to seek out small black-owned businesses to promote, rather than defaulting to the largely white-run conglomerates that dominate the fashion industry.

Obama is a master of using her clothes to create a visual message, and in promoting marginalised and under-the-radar businesses with her style choices.

Cuthbert, who launched ByChari in 2012 and recently spoke to Time magazine about the challenges of running her business during the pandemic, tweeted on Monday night that she was “beyond honoured and humbled” that Obama wore her necklace.

Michelle Obama’s necklace
Michelle Obama’s necklace

The necklace also echoed Bruce Davidson’s photograph from the Selma March, in which the word “Vote” was written on the forehead of a civil rights protester.

Barack Obama spoke movingly about Selma in his eulogy of John Lewis in July, in which he praised the Democratic congressman’s perseverance and spoke out against the dangerous forces that continued to discourage voting.

The former first lady expanded on these themes on Monday night, urging the public to request mail-in ballots and ensure their friends and family did the same, and go out in person.

“We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown-bag dinner, and maybe breakfast too, because we’ve got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to,” she said.

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