Amanda Gorman captured the world’s attention at the inauguration of President Biden, with a moving performance of her original poem, The Hill We Climb. Now, she’s on the cover of TIME magazine and was interviewed by former first lady Michelle Obama for the feature.
The cover is a striking image, where she wears the same bright yellow she did on the day of the inauguration. In the feature, Gorman and Obama talk about the role of art in activism, politics, identity, inspiration, optimism and the pressures Black women face in the spotlight.
“Speaking in public as a Black girl is already daunting enough, just coming onstage with my dark skin and my hair and my race—that in itself is inviting a type of people that have not often been welcomed or celebrated in the public sphere,” Gorman told Obama.
In the interview, Gorman also revealed she has a speech impediment, and felt a wave of imposter syndrome before the inauguration.
“As someone with a speech impediment, that impostor syndrome has always been exacerbated because there’s the concern. Is the content of what I’m saying good enough? And then the additional fear, Is the way I’m saying it good enough?” she said.
“President Biden has talked about having a stutter. Maya Angelou was mute for several years….For a long time, I looked at it as a weakness. Now I really look at it as a strength.”
“My mantra is: ‘I’m the daughter of Black writers who are descended from Freedom Fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.’ I say that to remind myself of ancestors that are all around me whenever I’m performing.”
Gorman is the United States’ National Youth Laureate, and she is also the youngest poet to have performed at a presidential inauguration. After the event, her three upcoming books shot to the top of bestseller lists, and the NFL soon announced she would perform another original poem at the Super Bowl LV.
Gorman also offered some advice for girls and women of colour who suddenly find themselves in the spotlight: think about the big picture.
“Especially for girls of colour, we’re treated as lightning or gold in the pan—we’re not treated as things that are going to last,” she said. “You really have to crown yourself with the belief that what I’m about and what I’m here for is way beyond this moment.”
“I’m learning that I am not lightning that strikes once. I am the hurricane that comes every single year, and you can expect to see me again soon.”