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Malia Obama: As she turns 18 see how Barack Obama's daughter prepares to strike out on her own

Miriam Foley

At ten years old, Malia Obama was just a little girl when her father Barack Obama entered office as the President of the United States. Now, Malia Ann – named in a nod to her father's roots – Malia means Mary in Hawaiian, where Barack was born – has met everyone from Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis to heart-throbs Justin Bieber and Ryan Reynolds, attended a state dinner at the White House, accompanied her parents on official tours and was named, along with her sister, as one of The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014 by Time magazine.

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Barack and Michelle Obama with their two daughters in 2004

Along the way, she has blossomed into a smart, stylish and self-assured young woman. And she turns 18 on 4 July, none other than Independence Day.

As the eldest daughter of Barack, the first black president of the USA, and his high-powered wife Michelle, Malia has a lot to live up to. She has made a good start. Her milestone birthday comes just weeks after another big achievement in her life; her graduation from the private Sidwell Friends School, where she, her younger sister Sasha – and in previous years the presidential children of the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton – have received a top-class education.

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Malia attended her first state dinner earlier this year

 Malia's graduation marks the end of an era, and coincidentally took place on Sasha's 15th birthday, meaning the close sisters could celebrate in style together. Now, as she embarks on her future, Malia will find the core values of the 133-year-old Quaker school stand her in good stead – particularly its insistence that the "inner light" inside each person can guide them to reach their full potential, and that the best way of life is one of egalitarian simplicity.

AT HOME IN THE WHITE HOUSE

Michelle, along with her husband, has endeavoured to instil a sense of normalcy into Malia and her sister's lives. Like most US teens, Malia has learned to drive, albeit with secret service agents as instructors. She and Sasha have shared their White House years with the puppy they'd been promised, and have enjoyed dinner for four each evening there, despite Barack's presidential commitments, while home rules kept the use of social media to a minimum.

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This year is also extra special for Barack's eldest daughter, she has graduated from high school

The presidential couple also protected their little ones from the public eye as far as was feasible. Speaking to ET Online last year, the First Lady explained her approach to bringing up her daughters. "I've spent my children's entire lives raising them to be independent, confident young women who are ready to build great lives for themselves...."

Her down-to-earth parenting style was revealed after Malia and Sasha were named two of The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014. She told Good Morning America: "I don't know why. …they're not influential, they just live here. They have done At ten nothing to gain any influence." That may be so, but Malia's model First Daughter behaviour hasn't gone unnoticed. Her picture-perfect smiles and waves to the crowd, the way she watches over her little sister, her close bond with both her parents, her elegant yet teen appropriate dress sense that follow closely in her fashionable mother's footsteps, and even her Spanish language skills – put to the test when she came to her dad's aid while on a historic trip to Cuba – all point to a confident and able young woman who can master whatever she turns her hand to.

A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITY

Now, everyone is eager to see what the daughter of the President of the United States will do next. While it's not yet known what Malia will study, we do know that she has been accepted by Harvard where, in 2017, she will become the latest in a long line of presidential children to attend the prestigious university.

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The teenager has inherited her father's tall and slender figure

First though, the blossoming beauty, who has inherited her father's tall, slender figure and her mother's beautiful, beaming smile, will take a gap year, which will allow her time out of the spotlight during the period when her family depart the White House next January. No doubt the outgoing teen will make the most of that freedom. She's already proved herself something of an all-rounder; a talented athlete who enjoys soccer and tennis, but also dance, drama and piano. And she is not afraid to carve out her own path. Clearly interested in filmmaking, she has already spent the past two summers completing internships in TV studios in New York and Los Angeles, last year on the set of HBO's Girls, and previously as a production assistant on Extant, a CBS sci-fi drama strarring Halle Berry.

Adventures certainly lie in wait for the promising Miss Obama. And whatever she does, no doubt she'll make her parents very proud. For now, though, Michelle is happy to see her, and eventually her little sister, flee the nest and experience life. "I'm going to be happy to see them thriving on campus, travelling and having all these wonderful independent experiences that are going to make them phenomenal people," she told ET Online.

Barack, meanwhile, summed up his daughter earlier this year, telling TV host Ellen DeGeneres: "She's just a really smart, capable person and she's ready to make her own way."

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