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A look at Barack and Michelle Obama's stunning, unique official portraits.

Kehinde Wiley is an inspirational figure in the world of art and a perfect choice.

A look at Barack and Michelle Obama's stunning, unique official portraits.

The presidential portrait has a long, storied history dating all the way back to George Washington.

On Feb. 12, Barack and Michelle Obama's likenesses were added to the collection.

The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery unveiled the portrait of former President Barack Obama, immortalizing the 44th president for future generations. The oil painting, created by New York-based visual artist Kehinde Wiley, shows Obama perched atop a chair against a backdrop of rich ivy. On the verge of tears at times during his speech, Wiley remarked on his "obsession with chance" and how that put him in the room with America's first black president.

Kehinde Wiley's portrait of Barack Obama. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.


Another portrait, of former first lady Michelle Obama, was painted by Baltimore artist Amy Sherald. During the unveiling ceremony, Sherald described her work, which tends to take a somewhat minimalist approach to subjects and their surroundings, saying, "The paintings I create aspire to have ... a message of humanity." Wiley and Sherald, selected by the Obamas, made National Portrait Gallery history as the first black artists to paint a presidential couple.

Michelle Obama and artist Amy Sherald unveil the former first lady's portrait. Photo by Saul LoebAFP/Getty Images.

There's a lot of meaning built into Barack Obama's portrait, hidden away in the background.

Among the ivy are dashes of blue, pink, purple, and gold. Wiley explained that the blue lilies were meant to represent Kenya, where Obama's father was from; jasmine flowers represented Hawaii, his birthplace; and the bright chrysanthemums, Chicago's official flower, represented his adopted Midwestern home. Tying the flowers together the ivy vines might symbolize how it all — his status as the son of an immigrant with a varied geological and racial background — blends together in a symbol of America at its best.

Barack Obama looks at the portraits. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

It's that ability to blend old and new that makes Wiley such a remarkable, innovative artist.

During his speech at the Obama portrait unveiling, Wiley reflected on the fact that, growing up, he didn't often see people like him represented on canvas and how that inspired him to try to provide a bit of a correction in the art world. His work typically combines modern black models, some famous and some just people he found interesting, and elements of older paintings. The finished products tend to be distinct from both modern and historical works, making him the perfect person to paint a president who surely stands out in history and appearance.

Kehinde Wiley in front of one of his paintings in 2010 in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for PUMA.

A quick glance at some of his past work shows what makes Wiley one of the most fascinating living artists in America — if not the world.

Wiley's 2005 portrait of hip-hop trio Salt-N-Pepa. Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images.

Wiley's "Le paiement du tribut" at the International Contemporary Art Fair in 2011. Photo by Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images.

Wiley's "Abed al Ashe and Chaled el Awari" at the 2013 FIAC International Contemporary Art Fair in Paris. Photo by Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images.

Wiley's "Saint Francis" portrait sold at auction in September 2017. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images.

Wiley's work, including his Obama portrait, could help inspire a whole generation of artists not used to seeing themselves properly represented.

Just as Obama's election had the power to encourage young black Americans to get involved in government and consider running for office, Wiley's body of work sends the same message to kids in the art world — a message that they don't have to be ashamed of who they are and they can succeed by embracing it.

Photo courtesy of Capital One
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Growing up in Virginia, Dominique Meeks Gombe idolized her family physician — a young Black woman who inspired Meeks Gombe to pursue her passion for chemistry.

While Meeks Gombe began her career working in an environmental chemistry lab, after observing multiple inefficient processes in and around the lab, she took the initiative to teach herself to code in order to automate and streamline those issues.

That sparked her love for coding and imminent career shift. Now a software engineer at Capital One, Meeks Gombe wants to be a similar role model to her childhood mentor and encourage girls to pursue any career they desire.

"I'm so passionate about technology because that's where the world is going," Meeks Gombe said. "All of today's problems will be solved using technology. So it's very important for me, as a Black woman, to be at the proverbial table with my unique perspective."

Since 2019, she and her fellow Capital One associates have partnered with the Capital One Coders program and Girls For A Change to teach coding fundamentals to middle school girls.

The nonprofit's mission is aimed at empowering Black girls in Central Virginia. The organization focuses on designing, leading, funding and implementing social change projects that tackle issues girls face in their own neighborhoods.

Girls For a Change is one of many local nonprofits that receive support from the Capital One Impact Initiative, which strives to close gaps in equity while helping people gain better access to economic and social opportunities. The initial $200 million, five-year national commitment aims to support growth in underserved communities as well as advance socioeconomic mobility.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


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