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Michelle and Barack Obama's daughter Malia changes her name as she steps out of her parents' shadow

The former White House occupants share two daughters

malia obama sundance film festival 2024
Jenni McKnight
US Lifestyle Editor
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Michelle and Barack Obama have one of the most famous surnames in the world – but their daughter, Malia, appears to want to distance herself from it as she forges her career. 

The 25-year-old is a budding filmmaker and showcased her short film, The Heart – about the relationship between a mother and her son – at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah on January 18. Watch it below.

WATCH: Malia Obama debuts first short film, The Heart

In what appears to be an attempt to distance herself from the nepo-baby stigma – her parents launched a production company, Higher Ground, in 2018 – the Harvard graduate has dropped 'Obama' from her last name in favor of a different stage moniker. 

During the Sundance Institute's Meet the Artist spotlight video, it was revealed that Malia is using her middle name as she was referred to as Malia Ann. 

Malia is proving herself in the entertainment industry after interning on HBO's Girls and at Harvey Weinstein's production company. 

She also worked as a staff writer on Donald Glover's Amazon Prime series Swarm, and he had nothing but good things to say about her work ethic. 

Malia Obama at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah© Dia Dipasupil
Malia goes by the stage name Malia Ann

"Her writing style is great," he told Vanity Fair in 2022: "She's just like, an amazingly talented person. She's really focused, and she's working really hard." 

He added: "I feel like she’s just somebody who's gonna have really good things coming soon." 

Donald wasn't the only one who saw her talent either. His brother, Steven Glover, who often collaborates with his sibling, had plenty of praise for Malia too. 

Malia Obama at the Sundance Film Festival © Dia Dipasupil
Malia Obama at the Sundance Film Festival

"Donald always says perspective is important," he revealed during the same interview. "And people with different perspectives are important for a writer's room. 

"And for sure, she definitely has a unique perspective on everything. So, we wanted to hear her stories and have her work with us. Listening to her stories and having her involved really gave us a lot of good ideas." 

Steven also joked that "we can't be easy on her just because she's the [former] president's daughter." 

The Obamas stood together with their dogs© Handout
The Obama family while in the White House

Malia and Donald have maintained a close working relationship as The Heart was one of the first projects produced by his company, Gilga. 

Speaking to GQ about her film debut, he said: "The first thing we did was talk about the fact that she will only get to do this once. You're Obama's daughter. So, if you make a bad film, it will follow you around." 

The Heart is Malia's first film to appear at Sundance after it was chosen to premiere in the acclaimed festival, which sees over 14,000 filmmakers submit their work but only around 100 are selected. 

Barack Obama stands on stage along with his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha during an election night gathering in Grant Park on November 4, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois© Getty
Malia moved into The White House when she was 12

Speaking about the project, Malia described it as "an odd little story, somewhat a fable, about a man grieving the death of his mother after she leaves him an unusual request". 

She continued: "The film is about lost objects and lonely people and forgiveness and regret, but I also think it works hard to uncover where tenderness and closeness can exist in those things." 

Malia Ann Obama attends the "The Heart" Premiere at the Short Film Program 1 during the 2024 Sundance Film Festival© Dia Dipasupil
Malia was selected from over 14,000 filmmakers

Malia added: "We hope it makes you feel a bit less lonely or at least reminds you not to forget about the people who are. 

"The folks who came together to make this film have my heart, pun intended!"

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