Malia Obama's new stage name

Malia Obama attends the "The Heart" premiere during the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. (Courtesy/Getty Images)

Malia Obama, the elder daughter of former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama has made a bold move in her filmmaking career by opting to use a stage name, dropping the famous "Obama" surname.

This change was made public ahead of her short film, "The Heart in Utah," premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.

The 25-year-old Harvard graduate is now professionally known as Malia Ann, a decision she made in January, as highlighted in the Sundance Institute's Meet the Artist spotlight video.

"The Heart" explores the deep and complicated relationship between a mother and her son, featuring actors Tunde Adebimpe, LaTonya Borsay, and John Weigand in the lead roles.

Malia described her film as “an odd little story, somewhat of a fable, about a man grieving the death of his mother after she leaves him an unusual request in her will.”

Despite the absence of her high-profile parents at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this month, Malia made her red carpet debut, introducing her work to the filmmaking community and the public.

However, her entry into Hollywood has reignited discussions about the influence of family connections in the entertainment industry, with some critics labelling her a "nepo baby"—a term used to describe individuals who may benefit from familial success in their careers.

A review on Letterboxd, a film-review website, commented on the perceived advantage Malia might have, stating, "it's nice The Obamas took on entire new careers so Malia Obama could be a nepo baby in the right industry."

Despite the criticism, Whoopi Goldberg supported Malia Obama's choice to use a stage name for her ventures in the film industry, challenging the critics during a recent segment of "The View."

Goldberg's defense highlighted the autonomy individuals should have over their professional identities.

"She knows she’s an Obama, why do you care? Why do you care what she calls herself? If she wanted to call herself Jeanette McDonald, she has the right to! If I can be Whoopi Goldberg, she can be whoever the hell she wants to be!” she said.

Goldberg questioned the public's fixation on Malia's decision, emphasizing the needless attention it has garnered. “I mean, why are people triggered by this kind of stuff? Why are people wasting their time?” she questioned.

The New York Times called her film a "promising debut" but speculated on the identities of 'Steven and Kate' mentioned in the credits, suggesting a connection to industry heavyweights Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw.

Before her directorial debut, Malia gained experience in the film industry through internships with the HBO drama series "Girls" and Harvey Weinstein's production company.

She has also contributed as a staff writer for Donald Glover's Amazon Prime series "Swarm," showcasing her diverse talents and commitment to her career in entertainment.


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