When Michelle Obama’s stylist called Chari Cuthbert a few weeks ago to order a custom necklace with charms spelling out the word VOTE, the designer was overjoyed.
“But we had no idea where she was going to wear it,” Cuthbert told The Daily Beast. “We just knew that she wanted it.”
It wasn’t until Monday afternoon that Cuthbert learned that the former first lady was wearing the $430 ByChari gold chain—a literal statement necklace—for her Democratic National Convention speech.
“There was a snippet from her DNC speech on CNN and my mom sent it to me,” Cuthbert said. “I couldn't believe it. Out of respect, I didn’t post it or anything, because I didn’t want to take advantage.”
Hours later, as Cuthbert watched the convention, her phone began blowing up. People were tagging her on social media and calling to ask if Obama was sporting one of her creations.
“It was surreal,” she said. “I sat at my desk and cried.”
“Michelle Obama! If you talk about your ideal dinner guest, she is it for me. And to see her wearing my necklace, it’s insane,” the designer said, choking up.
Cuthbert said her company—which consists of five female employees—had seen what she humbly called “a significant uptick in sales” in the hour after the speech.
“My finance guy just texted me a bunch of exclamation points, so I assume that’s a good thing,” she said. “He said, I'm so happy for you, this is everything you’ve worked for.”
Cuthbert, 36, was born in Miami to Jamaican parents. In 2012, the self-taught artist quit her office job and moved to Hawaii with $100 to start her business. Four years later, she relocated to Los Angeles.
That was 2016. Cuthbert said she usually avoided mixing politics and business but decided to make a VOTE necklace and post it on the ByChari Instagram page.
Cuthbert is not sure if Obama or her stylist saw it then or just came up with the idea for a VOTE necklace on their own this time around. What they certainly didn’t know was that Cuthbert had a plan to use the VOTE necklace to promote political activism and was in the process of making a bunch of them to give to celebrities to wear ahead of the election.
“I'm wearing mine right now,” she said.