By
with contributions from Kristi Ellis
 on August 2, 2016
President Obama, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, his wife Ho Ching and First Lady Michelle Obama.


The White House was abuzz for Tuesday night’s state dinner in honor of Singapore’s prime minister and his wife, Ho Ching. Before welcoming attendees at what was this administration’s 13th state dinner, the President and First Lady Michelle Obama joined the guests of honor for a photo-op.

The First Lady wore an ivory-colored Brandon Maxwell dress, according to a White House pool report. The New York-based designer is a favorite of Lady Gaga’s, and he recently helped Iman celebrate her birthday. Maxwell was overseas Tuesday night, but said via e-mail, “It has been an incredible honor for me and my team to create this dress for the First Lady. Strong and elegant, she is the embodiment of the woman that inspires me to create, and a role model for women all over the world.”

Earlier Tuesday during a tour of the National Gallery of Art with Mrs. Lee, FLOTUS wore a sunflower-colored sleeveless Naeem Khan dress. Khan said via e-mail Tuesday that the dress was designed “with the idea of something similar to a dress in my resort 2017 collection. We chose a flattering sleeveless and A-line style for quintessential summer entertaining, in yellow Guipure lace, with three-dimensional flowers.”

Tuesday’s state dinner guest list included media types like AOL’s Tim Armstrong, Vox Media’s Jim Bankoff, Harpo Studios/OWN’s Amy Weinblum, CNN’s Stephen Collinson and Bill Keller. Another wordsmith, Amy Tan, was also invited. Rolex’s Laurent Delanney was expected, as was Rosalind Brewer of Sam’s Club and Stefano Pessina of Walgreens Boots Alliance. Many of the more enterprising guests in the crowd may be angling for a word with Fred Hochberg, chairman and president, Export-Import Bank of the United States, or Charles Scharf, chief executive officer of Visa.

ESPN’s college basketball analyst Craig Robinson also made the cut. While the President is known to be a big-time basketball fan, he and the First Lady may also be devotees of the FX series “The Americans,” considering its costars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys were expected Tuesday night.

The gathering was meant to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which has attracted more than 3,500 U.S. companies to establish a presence in Singapore. The White House also noted how the bond has forged “strong security ties between our militaries, and led to increased exchanges of college students. As partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the Counter-ISIL coalition, and the Paris Climate agreement, the two leaders will discuss how our relationship can continue to address international challenges and advance a rules-based order for the Asia-Pacific.”

As a sign of each country’s floral beauty, orchids and roses were arranged on each table. White House executive chef Cris Comerford’s menu reflected the summer bounties of the states, including a Chesapeake Bay blue crab appetizer, local heirloom tomato salad and American Wagyu beef tenderloin with California-grown Asian yams. Executive pastry chef Susie Morrison whipped up peach sangria cake for dessert.

After the seated dinner in the East Room, musician Chrisette Michele was scheduled to perform a few songs in the State Dining Room. Her Grammy-award-winning “Be OK,” featuring Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, also landed her at the top of the Billboard charts. Michele’s latest album “Milestone” features collaborations with Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nas, The Roots and Wale.

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