Barack Obama talks about the beauty pressures faced by his daughters

Julie Delahaye

President Barack Obama has spoken candidly about the pressures faced by his daughters Malia and Sasha when it comes to beauty. The 54-year-old joined ballerina Misty Copeland to talk about a range of issues including race and gender, admitting that fatherhood had made him more aware of the "challenge" when it comes to the beauty standards set for women.

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Barack Obama with his daughters Malia and Sasha

"I mean when you're a dad of two daughters you notice more," he said during the conversation hosted by TIME magazine. "When I was a kid I didn't realise as much, or maybe it was even a part of which is the enormous pressure that young women are placed under in terms of looking a certain way.

"And being cute in a certain way. And are you wearing the right clothes? And is your hair done the right way. And that pressure I think is historically always been harder on African American women than just about any other women. But it's part and parcel of a broader way in which we socialise and press women to constantly doubt themselves or define themselves in terms of a certain appearance."

Barack explained that he and wife Michelle work hard to "guard" their daughters from these pressures in order to try and help them stay confident. "And so Michelle and I are always guarding against that. And the fact that they’ve got a tall gorgeous mom who has some curves, and that their father appreciates, I think is helpful," he said.

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Barack revealed daughter Malia is "pretty opinionated" about beauty standards

The president revealed that his daughters have already begun voicing their own opinions, particularly 17-year-old Malia. "I mean Malia'll talk about black girls' hair and will have much opinions of that," he admitted. "And she’s pretty opinionated about the fact that it costs a lot, it takes a long time, that sometimes girls can be just as tough on each other about how they’re supposed to look. And so it’s, as a parent, that’s a constant learning process that you’re trying to hold the fort. "

When it comes to seeing a change in society, Barack revealed that he believes that stars such as Beyoncé are helping to pave the way. "I do think that culture's changing for the younger generation a little bit more. You see Beyoncé or you see some of these pop stars and what both white, Latino, black children are seeing as representative of beauty is much broader than it was when I was a kid," he explained. "You just didn’t see that much representation. And that's healthy and that's encouraging. But it's still a challenge."