Oprah Winfrey: The Phenomenon And The Vehicle

Oprah Winfrey The Phenomenon and The Vehicle

Did I confuse you with the title above?  Good!  I’m glad that I may have done so.  I say that because I have reason to say it which of course, I’d like to explain.

Oprah comes across to many, many people as a “guru” of sorts.  She gives the appearance of knowing almost everything about Life and how to live it.  After all, she is a billionaire, right? She has to know something that the rest of us who aren’t as self-esteemed and wealthy understand.  She’s grasped a concept or two or a thousand that the rest of us ordinary Joes and Janes haven’t unearthed or, did she?

With all of the stories running amok about Oprah’s “poor childhood” and all of the struggles that she came up against to fight and win or, to use her idol, Maya Angelou’s phrasing, “rise from the dust”, there is little there that many, many of us haven’t experienced in one way or another, to some extent or another.  The only differences between Oprah and the rest of us, she had luck on her side while she worked her way to the top.

If one were to truly listen to interviews that Oprah has done, one can feel her projection of self-confidence coming through.  It’s little wonder.  She’s made radio, television and even acting, her work in Life.  She’s well seasoned and knows how to present herself in front of an audience.  Winfrey does so with poise and a skill that she learned long ago.  In actuality, she fell into it all by complete accident and partially, because of the colour of her skin as well as her gender during a time when the media she worked for, was looking for people to pull up their ratings.  Oprah was there, needy and hungry for not only money but, for work of some kind.  She got it and built upon it, using a lot of different pulls that she had long since learned worked for her such as her gender and the race she came from during a time when media was looking for ways to bring both her skin colour and gender into recognition.  In other words, Oprah got the jobs that she did not because of her talent (she had none and admits it openly during interviews) but, because of her need, race and gender.

If your chin is hitting your knees right now, mouth open, brows furrowed and your fingers ready to send me hateful comments, indulge yourself and me by reading on first.

In truth to the title of this piece, Oprah was what we’ll simply call a phenomenon.  She didn’t make herself one, she was one.  To clarify that statement, Oprah was given jobs in radio and later, television not because she struggled as most of us do but, because she was in need and willing to do whatever media moguls wanted her to do and do so, at a time when women’s rights as well as Black Americans were starting to be hired for these positions as what one could call, “tokens”.  In short, Winfrey was in the right places, at the right times, with a hunger for money that showed through to those in the media.  Oprah wasn’t as self-made as she’d love us all to believe.

While I won’t downgrade her work and effort by even a small percentage, I will say that her story of how she succeeded, doesn’t match her other statements given during interviews.  There are two sides to Oprah.

  1. The downtrodden, poor Black American female whose life was poverty stricken and has she rose like The Phoenix from the ashes to reach heights through her own determination, drive and ambition to prove that she was a “pioneer” for successful, poor, Black Women.
  2. She’s the vehicle by which the media built up their audiences and ratings with only Oprah and her closest friends, knowing how she fell into all of her fame and fortune by chance, luck, timing, being hungry for money and simply by being in the right place at the right time.

The reality is, there is truth to both sides of Oprah but, for those who adore her, please listen carefully to some of her interviews with others where her stories contradict one another and she shows how most of what she’s developed into the script of her life’s story, is more about the above than it is about her trudging through a system and single handedly, opening doors for herself with bravery and determination.  You might be surprised that if you truly listen to her words, you’ll figure out that Oprah was not as self-made as she would love you to believe.  She got lucky and she persevered through to where she is today.  Not many other poor, downtrodden, African American women get the same chances that Oprah did.  It was never about her “talent” as much as it was the chances that she was given. Trust me, if you listen carefully to enough of her own words, you’ll see what I’m talking about here.

Here comes the part where Oprah became a vehicle.  Nothing Oprah spews out is new.  In spite of her wisdom sounding advice, words, phrasings etc., most of what Oprah has and still does, spew out, are words that someone else has said.  She repeatedly quotes other people’s ideas and uses quotes or paraphrases what has long ago come out of other’s mouths, writings and interviews with her.  Networks knew that much and they capitalized upon her ability towards being able to recall and use what she’d read, learned, heard and been shown by others.  It all sold air time and Oprah had become not only a phenomenon but, a vehicle by which the media was catching onto as their gold mine.  Spirituality was becoming a concept that the public and Society in general was catching onto and gulping down with as much gusto as they could muster swallowing.  They couldn’t get enough of it and therefore, the networks profited in many ways as did Winfrey.

Maya Angelou, the African American female poet, speaker and who wore many hats, was Oprah’s idol.  What Angelou said, was regurgitated by Winfrey often.  Yet Angelou never reached the realms of stardom or financial success that Oprah did.  Why?  Have you asked yourself that question?  I did.  The answer is simple.

Angelou didn’t sell out or give her soul for money.  Angelou stayed true to herself and her work.

Throughout many interviews that I’ve heard Oprah do on her life thus far, one thing became apparent in her own words.  Oprah was wanting the fame and fortune.  Oprah had gone with whatever would bring her both of those and, more to the point, Oprah did so on Angelou’s back, words, work as she used it often enough to give herself the look and appearance of someone brilliant.  In actuality, Winfrey was not original in most things that she did.  She was given multiple platforms, had a pair of Lady Balls and went after the Gravy Train by using not only the story of her poverty, her wicked, strict old father, her rape and everything else from her past (as many others had kept in their closets) but, she had worked what others were being lauded for having said or thought of in order to gain attention, applause and fame.  In other words, Winfrey was and is, a made up vehicle whereby her rise to fame and fortune has become a script for her success story.

There’s not a single one of us who couldn’t use our past hurts, experiences, pain, suffering or stories to build upon.  What we all lack is the opportunities to get them out there the way that Oprah did.  There’s not a single thing that Oprah can come up with from her life’s story that the rest of us can’t also come up with as well.  We’ve all suffered, been hurt, used, abused, been rejected and yet, we keep on going.  There are many African Americans out there who have had it far worse than Oprah had it yet, they didn’t get the “breaks” that Oprah has been given nor, do they use it as their platform to rise to stardom.  Oprah had those opportunities fall into her lap and she used them.  In other words, Winfrey was “discovered” so to speak and she made media moguls rich while making herself a vehicle for messages that she would paraphrase or quote with citations as her own.

Lest you think that I hate Oprah, I don’t.  I admire the facts behind her success and her determination to build upon her past like not many others have done.  I also take great interest in how she’s built herself into a financial powerhouse where she’ll likely not be reliant upon anyone else for her future.  Kudos to her for having done so.  My hat is certainly off to anyone who can do what she has done with herself and her life.

What I will say, in closing, is that Oprah’s story is not exactly the way that it’s portrayed to be nor, has she created everything from simple, hard work or determination.  A lot of what Oprah has achieved has been through “luck” and, her past is what she will let us know versus what she won’t.  One would have to do a lot of digging to find those things in her hidden past.  It’s by omission that most of the world knows her as she wishes her story to be told now.  It may not have started out that way but, it’s the way that it’s become.

From my little corner of life to yours,

Be well, Love and Light.

Have a great day or evening.



Published by ponderinglifetoo

I'm a wife, mother, artist, photographer and bookkeeper. I love writing out my thoughts in journals but, am finding my way to sharing these with others now.

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