From Beyoncé to Larry David to John Legend, the Obamas have made some very high-profile friends during their nearly eight years living at the White House. But as President Barack Obama‘s time in office winds down, the question is whether he and Michelle Obama‘s celebrity pals are likely to remain their BFFs after they leave 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Sometimes I think that the way you measure it is, are they inviting some of these celebrities over to the private residence? Are they going out of their way to spend with them? Things that they normally wouldn’t have to do,” Ted Johnson, a senior editor at Variety who covers politics, says when asked whether the first couple’s friendships with Hollywood heavyweights are more than just temporary acquaintances.
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The famed pair have been at the Obamas’ side countless times at both personal and political events, hosting fundraisers, visiting the White House and performing at various functions, including the 2013 inauguration and at the first lady’s 50th birthday party in 2014.
“I think someone like Beyoncé, for example—when [Obama] does have young daughters, or someone that he thinks could be a good role model for them—certainly I think will be in his life and he will stay friends with,” Kim Serafin, an entertainment reporter and former deputy press secretary for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, tells E! News. “In addition to Beyoncé and Jay-Z supporting them politically, it sounds like they have a true friendship there,” she says.
DeGeneres boasted she had hung out with Winfrey more recently than the first lady had, but Michelle fired back, “I was still on her magazine cover first.”
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Oprah must have been busy that night.
While the friendships may be genuine, Johnson, who also hosts PopPolitics on SiriusXM, says they can be mutually convenient as well.
“I think a lot of [celebrities] do like being close to power,” Johnson says. “Their day-to-day lives when it comes to publicity tends to be their latest movie— something a lot more superficial. It gives them a little more cache I think to say, ‘Hey, I was hanging out with the president.'”
Many celebs “like what they can get accomplished if they have a relationship with somebody in the political world,” Serafin says. “When you can get an endorsement from President Obama or just the proximity to President Obama, a friendship in some way with him and Michelle, it helps their own cause. It gives them some credibility to their own charitable efforts.”
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Former President Clinton had a “very close relationship with Hollywood,” says Serafin. It’s one that he and Hillary Clinton, parlayed into a wealth of celebrity support for the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, and more recently for Hillary Clinton’s own presidential campaign.
Friendships with the stars could help the Obamas with their own eponymous foundation and the future causes they aim to promote.
“I can see [Michelle Obama] using some of these celebrities to help out, whether it’s Beyonce, or Eva Longoria or Kerry Washington, or certainly Oprah—they’ve got a long friendship and relationship with Oprah,” Serafin says. “I think Ellen DeGeneres, Sarah Jessica Parker, I can see them, in whatever they decide to do especially when it’s their charitable issues that they’re involved in, to kind of recruit these celebrities to help them. And I think all of these celebrities absolutely would line up to help them in whatever they wanted to do.”