When Sheletta Brundidge gifted her girlfriends each a book for the holidays, she had no idea how a small gesture would lead to an adventure of friendship and purpose.
“I just wanted to share a little stocking stuffer with ladies who’ve been a blessing to me,” says Brundidge, who gave her friends Michelle Obama’s newest book, Becoming. Brundidge, of Cottage Grove, is a wife and mom of four, and hosts a regular podcast on WCCO Radio called Two Haute Mamas.
The gifts were the spark for a book club that introduced new friendships among a diverse group of six multi-generational women—all from different cities, who found connection in Obama’s message of growth and empowerment. Busy women in different seasons of life, the newfound friends used messaging apps Skype and Tango to stay connected over the book.
“When I first picked up the book, I didn't realize how much Michelle Obama has truly accomplished in her life, and all the internal struggles that went along with her success,” says fellow book club member Heather Belair. “She is extremely inspirational, regardless of your political views.”
The club decided to come together to attend Obama’s live book tour appearance in March. The women had fun with their fandom, creating custom matching tees, a “bedazzled” Michelle jean jacket—and Brundidge even wore some Michelle Obama shoes.
“We wanted Michelle to hang with us, but since she couldn’t, we took a cardboard cut-out Michelle around town with us,” explains Brundidge, who says they made a day of it, with lunch and a glam session before the main event at Spalon Montage in Woodbury. “Everybody was just down for a good time, for girl talk, for having fun. We have to find creative ways to become the women we want to be. And in order to do that you need your girls,” she says.
And to prove to her friends she was truly the former first lady’s biggest fan, Brundidge commissioned a welcome banner from Image360 in Woodbury, literally the size of her two-story house. The banner, which said, “Minnesota Loves Michelle,” sparked a hashtag that went viral.
“When Sheletta told us about her Michelle Obama banner on her house I thought she was crazy,” says Belair. “But when she explained that it was going to be auctioned off to Girls in Action [a charity in Minneapolis that mentors at-risk young girls] I was completely on board with her wild idea.”
In fact, the banner caught the attention of Michelle Obama in a big way. She re-tweeted Brundidge on Twitter, thanking her for her support of young women. Then, during the live event, Obama acknowledged Brundidge live, as her family photo was put on the Xcel Center’s big screen, as well as a picture of the banner.
“I started running up and down the aisles like I was on The Price is Right Showcase Showdown where I won the car and the trip to Hawaii,” says Brundidge with a big laugh. “After the event, there was a line of 300 people to take pictures with me. It was bananas.”
Brundidge says her book club's adventure shows how individual successes are really linked. “We all have to find a way to a be a blessing to one another, so you can achieve your best moments to share with your friends and sisters, and they can achieve theirs,” she says. The club plans to continue connecting over a new book soon.