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Grammys 2019: Why Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance

'A big part of friendship is showing up for your girls,' said the former first lady

Alicia Keys, left, kisses Michelle Obama at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on February 10. AP
Alicia Keys, left, kisses Michelle Obama at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on February 10. AP

When it comes to friends, we all need one like Michelle Obama. The former first lady of the United States made an unexpected appearance at Sunday night's Grammy Awards, walking on to the stage to rapturous applause and cheers, as she was joined by Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jennifer Lopez and the night's host, Alicia Keys.

The mother-of-two helped kick off proceedings, as the group of industry powerhouses each revealed just what impact music has had on each of their lives.

"From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side, to the 'who run the world' songs that fuelled me through this last decade, music has always helped me tell my story, and I know that's true for everybody here," Obama said in her speech.

"Whether we like country or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves. Our dignity and its sorrows, our hopes and joys, it allows us to hear one another, to invite each other in. Music shows us that all of it matters. Every story within every voice, every note within every song. Is that right, ladies?"

Her words sent out a compelling message one year on from the controversial 2018 Grammys ceremony, which were dominated by male acts, and Lorde – the only woman nominated for album of the year – was not invited to perform solo, unlike her fellow category nominees.

Following uproar about the lack of female representation at the 2018 awards, Recording Academy chief executive Neil Portnow said women need to "step up". He later revealed regret over his word choice, adding in a statement: "Our industry must recognise that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced."

This year's opening cast of lawyer and author Obama with star singers signifies a changing wind, with the former first lady later revealing she was "thrilled" to share the stage with host Keys.

"For me, a big part of friendship is showing up for your girls – whether that’s for a birthday, a quick catch-up after work, or a major milestone," Obama wrote on her Instagram account, alongside an image of the group. "So I was thrilled to be there for the one and only @aliciakeys at the #GRAMMYs. She is one of the most genuine, caring, and thoughtful people I know - there’s no one better to help us all celebrate the unifying power of music!"

For her appearance, Obama wore a shimmering belted two-piece by Sachin & Babi, a New York label founded by Indian husband and wife design duo Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia.

Her speech, which received a standing ovation before it had even begun, was widely praised across social media, with many commending Obama's empowering message.

Scroll down for some of the best reactions to Michelle Obama at the Grammys 2019.

Updated: February 11, 2019 12:03 PM