The day Michelle Obama asked to touch my ovaries
Who would have thought I'd meet Michelle Obama in my old yoga pants - the ones I've sewn up at the crotch multiple times - the ones with some pink paint on the left knee. Who'd have thought that when I'd meet Michelle Obama, she would ask, 'Olie, can I touch your ovaries'? Yes, really.
This year has been pretty darn crazy, so, while I certainly couldn't have painted our meeting with by exact expression, those who are part of my community know that wonderfully bizarre and joyous 'Olie things' simply unfold when you are around me.
On the back of my TEDx Talk, representing NZ in Hawai'i, preventing 2.2 million tampons and pads from reaching landfill in Aotearoa through my social enterprise Wā Collective, and becoming a prestigious Edmund Hillary Fellow; then the next thing happened.
Helping realise Wā Collective’s collective vision of preventing period poverty sustainably through reusable menstrual products, heart humour and inclusivity - connecting us to our bodies and the environment in the process, I've been invited to be an inaugural Obama Foundation Asia Pacific Leader. And that's the bit that leads me to my ovaries.
I write this from 37000 ft in the sky on my way back from the Obama Foundation convening in Kuala Lumpur. Nine Kiwis as part of 200 movers and shakers spanning from the Northern Mariana Islands to Mongolia.
If that wasn't already enough in itself, on day three of five, I was personally invited by Michelle's Girls Opportunity Alliance to a private round table event. 11 of us were hand picked for the work we do in supporting girls and young women / those with ovaries.
Pictured: Olie Body at the back with Michelle Obama, MayaSoetoro-Ng, Lana Condor and members of the 2019 Girls Opportunity Alliance Network
With a wall of press behind me and multiple stoic security guards, Michelle Obama an arms reach away, actress Lana Condor in front of me and President Obama's sister, Maya Soroto-Ng beside me, this was possibly one of the most formal events I've been called to speak at.
As you may imagine they were more like sheep gallivanting around my stomach rather than butterflies by this point.
Taking a breath of Michelle's own words, 'you belong here', I kicked my shoes off, sat cross legged on my chair, and had a quick yarn with Obama's sister.
Giving her a wink and with a concerted effort to try and slow my heart beat down, I flowed into explaining the importance of the work we are doing in Aotearoa. How we can't just be looking at women's health issues in isolation. How we must be making decisions for both people and planet, otherwise there will be no decision left to make. How we must operate on multiple levels of the systems we are all part of if we wish to shift these on the level needed. Of how important heart, humour and compassion are. Of how by living these values in only a year and a half we've saved menstruators over $700,000 they'd be otherwise be spending on chucking tampons and pads into landfill, or, not being able to afford to do so in the first place. Not gonna lie, my off the tongue speech was smooth.
Wrapping up, slicing into the formality further, in what was retrospectively a bit of a punt, I finished with, "And, we do this because no girl should miss out just because she's born with a mighty pair of ovaries!"
Michelle, who was already giving me her full, calm, presence, bust out laughing, clapping furiously saying "Oh my god! Yes! That so needs to be on a tee shirt!!" Yes it does Mrs Obama, yes it does.
In a moment of divine intervention, finishing up, I gestured to my bright red cherry earrings dangling from my lobes. "That's why I wear these", I said. "Fruit are ovaries and I'm damn well wearing them with pride on the outside [as well as the inside]". At that remark, Obama's sister, Maya spilled over me with a joyous supportive hug, cracking up, "Oh my god, you are amazing!"
Pictured: Olie Body front row before Michelle Obama addresses Obama Foundation Asia Pacific Leaders, 2019 Cohort
Michelle Obama gives the best, warm, full hugs. After we wrap up, she leans into me and laughs cheekily, 'Olie, can I touch your ovaries?!'. To be fair, it was more like she must touch them at all costs.
"Michelle, please touch my ovaries" I say with a grin.
And oh, the First Lady, she doesn't just touch my ovaries, she gets right in there and damn well cradles them.
What a bloody good day to be alive.
If you are interested in supporting our kaupapa - our 'cherrings' are basically sacred now - so grab yourself a pair, pluck Aunty Agnes a pair too and rock your ovaries boldly on the outside alongside me and Mrs Obama.
Olie Body xx