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Michelle Obama Talks Women's Empowerment Through Music

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Michelle Obama

In a short film for Billboard's Women in Music event, Tori Kelly and FLOTUS spoke about the evolving influence of women in the music industry.

On Friday, Billboard held its annual Women in Music gala in New York, honoring some of the most talented, influential and successful women in the music industry. Before the event, Billboard partnered with American Express to present Women in Music: Inspiring a Generation, a short film that spotlights the importance of women in all levels of the industry, whether on stage or behind the scenes.

In the eight-minute video, such luminaries as Billboard Executive of the Year honoree Bozoma Saint John, breakout singer-songwriter Tori Kelly and even First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama weigh in on the increased empowerment of females in music. "Women have been rising to the top of just about every industry in this country," explains Obama. "And that’s particularly true of the music industry.”

The First Lady also discusses how women in music helped create the soundtrack for Let Girls Learn, the organization she founded with President Obama to empower young women. "The President and I launched Let Girls Learn in March 2015 to help girls worldwide get the opportunities they deserve to go to school," she says in the video. "The song 'This Is for My Girls' supports Let Girls Learn, and it serves as an anthem to rally women around the world to — and I quote — 'Stand up, put your head up, don't take nothing from nobody.'''

Meanwhile, Kelly uses her own story as an example of women finding success being self-reliant. "All these doors were getting closed," she recalls of her early career. "And I was just like ‘You know what, I’m just gonna start writing my own music, producing my own music, mixing my own music, just literally putting it out there onto YouTube or whatever platform was in front of me.'”

The video pays tribute to many other women who have served as trailblazers in the industry, including Beyonce, Taylor Swift and the legendary Aretha Franklin — whose classic "Respect" chorus Saint John can't help but break out into. "You feel powerful — you just wanna snap, and roll your neck, and tell somebody what to do," she says of the song's effect, laughing.

Ultimately, Women in Music serves as a well-deserved tribute to all of these women and so many more, acknowledging the tribulations they've overcome to become fixtures in a not-always-hospitable industry. “If you look at corporate America in general, it is so hard to be female in these industries," relates Janice Min, president and chief creative officer of The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group. "So what we like to do is celebrate the women who have achieved... they get to have their own girls’ club, when they’ve been in the boys’ club for so long.”

Billboard's Women in Music gala honored such female greats as Madonna (Woman of the Year), Shania Twain (Icon) and Kesha (Trailblazer). The event will air nationally on Lifetime this Dec. 12.

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