Don’t call her Obama! Malia Obama, who made her directorial debut at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival with her short film The Heart, raised eyebrows when she unveiled her new stage name.

What Is Malia Obama’s Stage Name?

The writer/director dropped her famous father’s last name from her ​onscreen credit. Malia’s filmmaker stage name is “Malia Ann,” substituting her middle name for her widely recognized last name.

Why Does Malia Obama Use a Stage Name?

Although she hasn’t spoken publicly about her decision to drop her last name, Malia may be trying to establish a filmmaking career on her own merit rather than riding the coattails of the former president.

However, this has not stopped critics from referring to her as a “nepo baby” on her film’s Letterboxd page.

“Calling yourself ‘Malia Ann’ is not going to avert any Nepo Baby criticisms, Miss Former First Daughter,” one wrote. “Can you really be a true indie filmmaker if your dad was President?” another commented.

What Filmmaking Experience Does Malia Obama Have?

The former first daughter began her career in the entertainment industry before she even graduated high school. She worked as a production assistant on the CBS sci-fi series Extant in 2014 and interned for HBO’s hit comedy Girls during the summer of 2015. Beginning in February 2017, Malia worked as an intern for the New York office of The Weinstein Company, the film production company founded by Harvey Weinstein.

In 2021, Malia graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies. She developed her interest in filmmaking while attending the school, per the institution’s official website.

Malia also served as a writer for seven episodes of the 2023 horror series Swarm, which was cocreated by Donald Glover, as listed on her IMDb page.

What Has Malia Obama Said About Her Filmmaking Career?

In an interview posted to the Sundance Institute’s YouTube channel on January 17, 2024, Malia described the premise of her directorial debut, which she also wrote.

“This is an odd little story, somewhat of a fable about a man grieving the death of his mother after she leaves him an unusual request in her will,” Malia explained. “The film is about lost objects and lonely people, forgiveness and regret.”

Malia added that “the folks who came together to make this film have [her] heart.”

One commenter on the interview praised Malia’s decision to step away from her father’s last name, writing, “I’m so proud of Malia. I noticed she’s also going by her middle name. It’s amazing to see people create their own lane. I’m sure she will be a great storyteller.”