Wanda Sykes, comedienne, TV producer, actress, and Emmy Award-winning writer, once sat near former First Lady Michelle Obama at an event during former President Barack Obama’s first year in office.
Most people in that situation would have relished the opportunity. But, at the time, Sykes wasn’t interested in a conversation. She snubbed one of the most popular people on the planet.
In promotion of her new Netflix special, “Not Normal,” Sykes talked about regretting the snub. During the 2009 White House Correspondents dinner, Michelle Obama wanted to chat, but Skyes’ mind was preoccupied.
“I still kick myself about it,” Sykes said in a recent interview with The New York Times. “When I did the dinner, I was sitting pretty much right next to Michelle Obama. She kept trying to make conversation, but I was so focused on having to go up and perform that I was blowing her off. I think I even looked at her one time like: “Will you shut up? Don’t you see I’m sitting here going over my notes?”
Luckily for Sykes, Michelle Obama has a good sense of humor.
“I saw her on her book tour, and we laughed about it,” Sykes said. “She was like, ‘I was just trying to make conversation, and you wanted nothing to do with me.'”
The day she snubbed the First Lady, Skyes actually made history becoming the first openly lesbian and African-American woman to appear at the White House Correspondents Dinner. After coming out in 2008, Sykes has used her platform to support the LGBT community and promote equality.
‘I pick up my phone, and it’s blowing up’
As a TV producer, her credits include “The Cosby Show,” “3rd Rock From the Sun,” “That ’70s Show,” and most recently, the reboot of the sitcom “Roseanne.”
But after Roseanne Barr posted a racist tweet about former President Obama’s adviser Valerie Jarrett, there was an immense backlash, and Sykes decided to depart from the show. ABC wound up booting Barr and changing the show to “The Conners.”
“The morning we were ready to come back for the second season, I pick up my phone, and it’s blowing up,” she told The New York Times. “I’m like, ‘What is this?’ I looked at the Valerie Jarrett tweet, and I was like, Aw, jeez, I can’t condone this.
“I emailed Bruce and Tom Werner and I was like, ‘Guys, I can’t be a part of this.” I didn’t hear anything right away. They were probably busy trying to figure out what they were going to do. So then I said: ‘I’ve got to get ahead of this. I can’t just be silent.’ That’s why I said I wouldn’t be going back.”
When asked if she thinks Barr is a racist, Sykes said:
“I think she has some issues. She’s said that she had some mental issues. But I don’t know. Here’s the thing. You could be a good person and a racist and not even know it. All racism doesn’t have to be nasty.”