Michelle Obama said Donald Trumps administration is a backward step but change cannot come in a straight line.
The former First Lady attempted to strike an optimistic note as she took to the London stage on Monday to promote her autobiography.
Michelle, 54, spoke with refreshing candour about the realities of life married to Barack and choked back tears recalling her fathers sudden death.
The mood turned lighter when she remembered the fuss over wanting to cut a fringe and how she got in trouble with the protocol police for touching the Queen.
Michelle pulled no punches during the event to promote her memoir Becoming.
It is part of a joint book deal with her husband Barack and in less than two weeks has already sold over two million copies to become the top seller of 2018.
Michelle was treated to a rock star welcome as Stevie Wonders Signed, Sealed, Delivered blared out at the Southbank Centres Royal Festival Hall.
When questioned about Trump by moderator, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she said: Change isnt a straight line if you look over the history of America.
We mistakenly thought Barack Obama would erase hundreds of years of history in eight years. Its ridiculous to think that could happen.
We put down markers and make progress. Going backwards doesnt mean the progress wasnt real.
Its hard. We are trying to overcome years of racism and segregation.
We are always laying foundations for the next generation. You do the work for your grandchildren.
Thats how you make progress.
Wearing a stunning white trouser suit, Michelle laughed when she recalled how the optics – or how things look to voters – dictated a lot of family and style decisions.
Staff were consulted to make sure it was OK for her to cut a fringe and, in a sly dig at Trump, she said they were advised not to look too happy, not to vacation too much or play too much golf.
Go figure! she joked to roars of laughter from the 2,700-strong crowd.
Michelle has often spoken about how as the first black First Lady, she was scrutinised more so than her predecessors.
She said she would always be supportive of Barack but, having been to Princeton and Harvard Law School, was never going to be the immaculately groomed doll-wife with the painted-on-smile.
She remembered how on her first visit to the UK in 2008, she had put her hand on the Queen as the pair both complained about their painful shoes.
I touched her! she laughed. After all those protocol lessons, I was human.
She said her husband adored the Monarch. Barack is so incredibly fond of Her Majesty, she said.
I wont go into his fangirling but I think its because she does remind him of his grandmother Toot.
Shes smart and funny and honest. He is a huge fan for sure.
During their eight-year tenure at the White House, the Obamas were driven everywhere except for on one occasion when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh drove to meet them at Windsor Castle.
It had been agreed by staff beforehand that Prince Philip would drive with Michelle up front with the Queen and Barack in the back.
However, the American former First Lady recalled how the Queen threw a spanner in the works by beckoning her to sit in the back seat with her.
Michelle recalled: I had all this protocol buzzing in my head and I was like “dont trip down the stairs and dont touch anybody, whatever you do” and so the Queen says “just get in, sit wherever.”
And shes telling you one thing and youre remembering the protocol and she says “Oh its all rubbish, just get in.'”
Michelles memoirs detail how as a child she saw first hand white flight out of her declining neighbourhood in Chicagos South Side.
She said she grew up to the sound of striving, including her father Fraser who despite his MS never missed a day of work at the citys water filtration plant.
The only sad moment of the 90-minute event came when Michelle recalled his sudden death from a heart attack in hospital.
Choking back emotion, she said: Its an emptiness I still havent gotten over because I think about all he has missed; all he gave us and all he hasnt been able to see.
He didnt see me walk down the aisle or meet any of his grandchildren.
And for him to be so kind, strong and decent theres a sense of injustice.
Despite being told by a school counsellor she wasnt Ivy League material, Michelle attended two prestigious universities before landing a top corporate job with law firm Sidley & Austin.
It was there she met a young Barack Obama, who would go on to become the 44th US President.
She said she only supported his Presidential run because she thought it wouldnt really happen and they could go on to lead a normal life.
I supported Barack for President because I thought there was no way he was going to win.
I could then be the supportive wife and say “oh honey.”
I didnt believe the USA was ready for a black President, let alone one with the name Barack Hussein Obama.
Plus he looked like he was about 12.
In Becoming, Michelle speaks openly about her miscarriage and the IVF the pair would need to have to welcome daughters Malia, now 20, and Sasha, 17.
The couple had counselling when Baracks fledgling political career would see him living away from home three days a week.
Speaking of marriage, she said: Trying to meld two lives forever is hard. People say Its love.”
Its not. You need to have some of it. But you have to have a lot of light and compromise and work.
She added jokingly: There are going to be times when you want to push him out the window!
Earlier in the day, Michelle visited the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, where more than 90% of students are black or from an ethnic minority.
In her role as former First Lady, she has been pushing for female empowerment and education for girls across the world.
She talks about the invisibility of colour adding it was still hard out there but people needed to slay any doubt that they couldnt lead the world.
I have been at every single powerful table, the G20, the UN, Michelle recalled.
They are not that smart. There are a lot of things that people are doing to keep their seats because they dont want to share their power.
And what better way to do it than to make you think that you dont belong.
Despite her self-assured confidence, Michelle said the main thought running through her head at large events was how to stay upright.
If youre thinking about my thoughts when I come out on stage its “dont fall, get down the steps in one piece.
One of my primary goals in the eight years was to never become a meme.
Michelle has cancelled book events in Paris and Berlin and will instead fly home for former President George HW Bushs funeral.