Malia Obama Goes By A Different Name For Her Film Career

Instead of following in the political footsteps of her father, Barack Obama, Malia Obama has chosen to work in film and television. Sharing a name with a former president can be a double-edged sword, as it opened some doors but also left Malia vulnerable to excess criticism. The burgeoning filmmaker created a short film for Donald Glover, and the "Atlanta" star spoke about the pressure that put on Malia. "The first thing we did was talk about the fact that she will only get to do this once," Glover told GQ in April 2023. "You're Obama's daughter. So if you make a bad film, it will follow you around."

The short film, written and directed by Malia, is called "The Heart" and it premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January. It follows a man tasked with fulfilling an unusual request left in his mother's will. "The film is about lost objects and lonely people and forgiveness and regret," Malia said in a video released by Sundance titled "Meet the Artist." She went on to add, "We hope you enjoy the film and it makes you feel a bit less lonely."

For the project, she dropped "Obama" from her name and went by Malia Ann. Fans who watched the Sundance video weighed in on the stage name. "I noticed she's also going by her middle name. It's amazing to see people create their own lane," one YouTube user wrote. But seeing the filmmaker go by Malia Ann was a source of debate, and even Whoopi Goldberg had a strong opinion.

Fans were split about Malia Obama's name change

Fans had split opinions on Malia Obama's decision to go by Malia Ann, and not use Barack Obama's last name for her short film. "Malia Obama is a good filmmaker but she's ditching her last name. Sometimes having a recognizable political name is a disadvantage outside of politics," one user wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. Others, meanwhile, believed it was a futile effort. "Obama's daughter trying to sneak past Nepo baby discourse by not using her last name," another X user mused.

The conversation surrounding Malia's name change sparked debate on an episode of "The View." Whoopi Goldberg came to the defense of the former first daughter. "Leave this child alone ... Why do you care what she calls herself?" Goldberg said on February 21 (via The Mirror). Viewers watching the talk show chimed in online. "Let Malia Obama have a stage name if she wants to. It's not a problem," a fan tweeted

This may have been the first time Malia went by a different name, but it was not her first foray into Hollywood, as she'd already worked as a writer on the Amazon Prime series "Swarm." The series' showrunner, Janine Nabers, had high praise for Malia, who wrote an episode titled "Girl, Bye." "Some of her pitches were wild as hell, and they were just so good and so funny," Nabers told Entertainment Tonight in March 2023. "She's an incredible writer. She brought a lot to the table." Malia's television writing was later discussed by her father.

Malia Obama interned on TV shows as a teenager

During an interview with Hasan Minhaj, Barack Obama was asked if he'd had a chance to watch episodes of "Swarm" that Malia Obama wrote for. According to the former POTUS, he tuned in because he was a fan of series creator Donald Glover's previous work, and to support his daughter. "So, of course, I've got to watch it," he told Minhaj in a YouTube interview from June 2023. Barack was also asked if he skipped the NSFW scenes in the show. "Look, if what you are suggesting is that there are aspects of that show that I found a little disturbing ... That's the nature of art these days," he added while discussing the show his daughter worked on.

Prior to being a paid writer, Malia dipped her toes into Hollywood by working as an intern. When she was 17 years old, Malia interned on HBO's "Girls" in 2015. "Obviously, we weren't making her go get our coffee ... but she wanted to do all the jobs. That was the cool thing," the show's creator and star, Lena Dunham, said on "The Howard Stern Show" in February 2017. Dunham also recalled how a secret service agent blocked her from using the bathroom when Malia was using it.

After "Girls," Malia interned on Halle Berry's CBS show "Extant" in 2017, and she was humble about the opportunity. "Yeah, she was down to do whatever a PA is asked to do," Berry said of Malia on "Watch What Happens Live" in August 2017.