Whoopi Goldberg Blasts Criticism of Malia Obama’s Decision to Omit Last Name for Sundance Film: ‘Leave Her Alone’

The co-hosts of 'The View' all defended Barack and Michelle Obama's eldest daughter for 'trying to carve her own course' in her career.

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Malia Obama, 25, decided to drop her last name when she debuted her short film at the Sundance Film Festival in January, which Whoopi Goldberg, 68, doesn’t think she should be criticized for. The EGOT winner passionately defended Barack and Michelle Obama‘s daughter, who went by Malia Ann at the festival, on the February 21 episode of The View, and blatantly told Malia’s haters to “leave her alone.”

“If she knows she’s an Obama, why do you care?” Whoopi said. “Why do you care what she calls herself? If she wanted to call herself Jeanette MacDonald, she has the right to! If I can be Whoopi Goldberg, she can be whoever the hell she wants to be.” Whoopi was born Caryn Elaine Johnson, but she changed her name when she was getting big in Hollywood.

“I mean why are people triggered by this kind of stuff?” the Sister Act star went on to say on the ABC talk show. “Why are people wasting their time?”

All of Whoopi’s co-hosts chimed in to similarly defend Malia. Joy Behar pointed out that Malia is a Harvard University graduate and has been taking on internships and jobs in the movie industry without the help of her mom and dad.

“This is a grown woman,” Whoopi said. “She is not thinking about her parents.”

Alyssa Farah Griffin noted that Malia would be criticized whether she removed “Obama” from her stage name or not. “If she went as Malia Obama, they’d be like, ‘She’s riding her parents’ coattails.’ 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,” Alyssa said. “She’s trying to carve her own course in a new field that she’s been pursuing.”

Whoopi interjected again to give a direct warning to the people criticizing Malia. “Leave this child alone. Leave her alone,” she said.

Malia Obama
Malia Obama with her parents in January 2017 (Photo: JOSHUA LOTT/AFP via Getty Images)

Malia presented herself as Malia Ann when her short film, The Heart, premiered at Sundance on January 18. The Sundance Institute featured its “Meet the Artist” spotlight video which presented Malia without her famous surname. The 25-year-old also made her red carpet debut at the event, which Barack, 62, and Michelle, 60, did not attend.

Malia wrote and directed the 18-minute short film, which was produced by Donald Glover’s production company, Gilga. Malia described the project in the “Meet the Artist” video. “The film is about lost objects and lonely people and forgiveness and regret, but I also think it works hard to uncover where tenderness and closeness can exist in those things,” she said in the clip. “We hope you enjoy the film and it makes you feel a bit less lonely, or at least reminds you not to forget about the people who are.”

The eldest Obama daughter graduated from Harvard in 2021 and is pursuing a career in the movie business. She was a writer on the 2023 Prime Video series Swarm starring Dominique Fishback. Donald, who co-created Swarm, called Malia an “amazingly talented person” in a March 2022 interview with Vanity Fair.