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Whoopi Goldberg defends Malia Obama’s stage name against critics

Whoopi Goldberg has defended Malia Obama’s decision to ditch her famous last name for her creative projects.

Last month, the eldest daughter of former US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama premiered her debut short film, The Heart, at the Sundance Film Festival.

The 18-minute short starring Tunde Adebimpe and Latonya Borsay, is written and directed by the 25-year-old. However, instead of being credited as Malia Obama, she chose to go by her first and middle names: Malia Ann.

Her decision has been picked apart by critics who see the switch as an attempt at trying to shield herself from any “nepo baby” stigma.

Addressing the naysayers on the latest episode of The View, Whoopi argued: “She knows she’s an Obama, why do you care?

“Why do you care what she calls herself? If she wanted to call herself Jeanette McDonald, she has the right to! If I can be Whoopi Goldberg, she can be whoever the hell she wants to be!”

Whoopi Goldberg and Malia Obama (Getty Images)
Whoopi Goldberg and Malia Obama (Getty Images)

Goldberg’s real name is Caryn Elaine Johnson. However, in the early years of her career, the comedian renamed herself professionally after a whoopee cushion, she revealed in a 1997 PlayBill interview.

“I mean, why are people triggered by this kind of stuff? Why are people wasting their time?” she said.

While Goldberg’s co-host Joy Behar mostly agreed, she added: “It’s not like her last name is Nixon. Her last name has great vibes around it. So she might as well use it.”

Co-host Alyssa Farah Griffin considered Behar’s comment before saying: “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

“If she went as Malia Obama, they’d be like ‘She’s riding her parents’ coattails.’ And I can’t think of a bigger shadow to feel like you’re living in than the president and first lady of the United States.”

The Heart is about a grieving man who receives an unusual request from his mother in her will. It is also “about lost objects and lonely people and forgiveness and regret”, Malia teased in a “Meet the Artist” video from the festival. “But I also think it works hard to uncover where tenderness and closeness can exist in these things.”

Before making her directorial debut, Malia worked as a writer on Donald Glover’s Prime Video series Swarm. She has also worked as an intern on the HBO series Girls, as well as a production assistant on the TV series Extant, starring Halle Berry.