Vogue has a new profile and interview with Oprah Winfrey. While they seem to have some begrudging respect for her business acumen, incredible empire and ability to connect to people, begrudging is the operative word. I think I’m definitely influenced by the photos they sent us, above, one of which features Oprah with her eyes closed and her face scrunched up, as if they’re making fun of her inwardly focused nature. (Kaiser described it as looking like Oprah is taking a sh-t. She always comes up with the best analogies.) Plus Vogue’s PR people didn’t even send us the pull quotes, it’s like they’re not even trying.
The interview was conducted by the same journalist who did Oprah’s cover profile, back in 1998, Jonathan Van Meter. Remember that? Editor Anna Wintour admitted that she suggested Oprah lose weight for that cover, so she went on a crash diet, as Oprah does, and lost 20 pounds. They posed her like a model with her smaller arms up around her head to show she was now worthy. There’s a whiff of that in this interview, but Oprah is Oprah and she’s the boss of everything while making you want to hug her and spill your guts. If you just read what she says you’re shaking your head yes and finding life wisdom. Oprah is immune. Here’s some of what she told Vogue:
She got depressed and ate after Beloved didn’t do well at the box office
I shall never forget Saturday morning, October 17. I got a call from someone at the studio, and they said, ‘It’s over. You got beat by Chucky.’ And I said, ‘Who’s Chucky? What do you mean it’s over? It’s just Saturday morning!’ I knew nothing about box-office projections or weekend openings. It was ten o’clock in the morning, and I said to Art, ‘I would like macaroni and cheese for breakfast.’ And soooo began my long plunge into food and depression and suppressing all my feelings…
I actually started to think, Maybe I really am depressed. Because it’s more than ‘I feel bad about this.’ I felt like I was behind a veil. I felt like what many people had described over the years on my show, and I could never imagine it. What’s depression? Why don’t you just pick yourself up? [She was depressed for six weeks] That’s when the gratitude practice became really strong for me, because it’s hard to remain sad if you’re focused on what you have instead of what you don’t have…
It taught me to never again—never again, ever—put all of your hopes, expectations, eggs in the basket of box office. Do the work as an offering, and then whatever happens, happens.
You have to be ok with not topping your own success
I started reading this incredible article about Michael Jackson, and one of Jackson’s friends was quoted as saying, ‘His number-one problem is that he never realized that Thriller was a phenomenon. And he spent the rest of his life trying to chase it… I didn’t want to be the person chasing a phenomenon. And that is what the Oprah show was. All the right elements came together at the right time. That won’t happen again. People would ask me, ‘Who will be the next Oprah?’ And the answer is: ‘There won’t be.’ ”
On how her grand plans for OWN fell through
I thought I was going to bring this spiritual consciousness–awakening channel! And I soon learned: Ain’t nobody care about that… Oh, my God. America is not ready to be awakened in that way! So what I learned is, you got to give them—what did I call ’em?—snackables! You need snackable spirituality—snackable, digestible moments in an entertaining format, so people can receive it.
On what would have happened if she married Stedman
We would not have stayed together, because marriage requires a different way of being in this world. His interpretation of what it means to be a husband and what it would mean for me to be a wife would have been pretty traditional, and I would not have been able to fit into that.
Oprah starred in Beloved with Danny Glover and she didn’t do another movie until The Butler in 2013. You know when Oprah’s Vogue cover was? It was the October, 1998 issue. Beloved and Chucky came out on the same weekend, starting October 16, 1998. Because Oprah lost all that weight for Vogue extremely quickly, likely just a few weeks prior, she must have felt deprived and that led to her bingeing. She has food addiction issues and then she suffered a disappointment so she ate. She’s found a way to manage that now and make bank with Weight Watchers, the most sensible of the for-profit weight loss programs. It’s worth noting that not once did she plug Weight Watchers in this interview though. If she did they left that out. Oprah is one of the richest and she’s successful, but she’s not full of herself and she knows she doesn’t have to hit a home run every time. She also knows she doesn’t have to wallow when she’s not number one. Somehow it’s reassuring to hear Oprah admit to the same insecurities and issues that affect all of us. That’s her thing and it never felt like a shtick. Oprah next stars in Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, which is out next March. I have the feeling that movie is going to kill it at the box office and even if it doesn’t, Oprah is going to counting her points and will stay on track.