First Lady Michelle Obama

NEW YORK, April, 15, 2016 – Seventeen, the largest monthly teen media brand, today unveiled the May 2016 flip issue featuring First Lady Michelle Obama and two real girl winners of the Seventeen Better Make Room essay contest on one cover, which opens to a 11-page commencement section, and singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor on the other. This marks the first time that a First Lady has appeared on the cover of Seventeen, and inside the First Lady offers advice to the winners—and all Seventeen readers!—on preparing for college.

In support of the Better Make Room campaign, launched by the First Lady, Seventeen’s essay contest asked girls to write about how they plan on using a higher education to pursue their dreams and help their communities. The contest, which received hundreds of submissions, had two winners—Gemma Busoni, 17, of California, and Zaniya Lewis, 18, of New Jersey. Both received an all-expenses paid trip for themselves and a chaperone to Washington, D.C., where they met the First Lady and interviewed her alongside Seventeen editor-in-chief Michelle Tan. Each winner also took home a $10,000 grant provided by Microsoft.

For the interview, the First Lady shared a personal story about her own perseverance: “…when it was time for me to apply to colleges there were some counselors who said, ‘Maybe, with Princeton, you’re reaching a little high.’ And I thought, ‘You really don’t think I can do it?’ But here’s what I did: I decided to ignore the doubters. I plunged ahead and got in. I went on to Harvard Law School and every step of the way I used those doubting voices as motivation.”

Other quotes from the First Lady’s interview include:

On knowing what you want to be when you grow up: "I always tell people, the question of what you want to be when you grow up is one that you will eternally be answering. I’m still asking myself that question! What am I going to do when I leave here? How do I want to impact the world? I’ve gotten used to the fact that I don’t have to know. I’m always going to be discovering new parts of myself, and you’ll find that you will be too.“

On whether she though she would become the First Lady: “… I never thought I’d be First Lady! [laughs] When I was growing up, the notion that we would have an African-American president, the possibility that we would have a woman president, that wasn’t even on the horizon. I didn’t believe it until we walked into the White House!”

On her advice for picking the right college: “The one thing I’ve been telling my daughters is that I don’t want them to choose a name. I don’t want them to think, ‘Oh I should go to these tops schools.’ We live in a country where there are thousands of amazing universities. So, the question is: What’s going to work for you?”

Better Make Room is a new public awareness campaign that calls on young Americans to seek higher education–whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university–and guides them through the steps to get there. The campaign also celebrates those reaching higher by spotlighting their higher education stories across various media and advertising platforms. User-generated content appears on the Better Make Room website, posters, outdoor street art, and more, allowing for self-expression, support and encouragement. Better Make Room is part of the Reach Higher initiative to create higher-education opportunities for low-income and minority youth.

“So much of Seventeen is about encouraging and empowering teens to reach their full potential,” said Tan. “It was an absolute thrill to give two incredible readers, Gemma and Zaniya, the opportunity to meet First Lady Michelle Obama, who is such an inspiration for those seeking higher education and the very definition of girl boss. Their honest and real conversation is the perfect way to kick off our bonus commencement section filled with life-changing advice for high school graduates.”

The special commencement section also includes edit from the First Lady on ten things to know before going to college and advice from six inspiring women—Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Ellie Kemper, activist and model Ashley Graham, fashion designer and Celebrate author Lauren Conrad, Hamilton’s Phillipa Soo, Black Lives Matter Cofounder Opal Tometi, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Cofounder Melinda Gates—for the Class of 2016.