Glossy Review: Oprah & The Weight of Great Expectation (with a capital OMG)
With The Ultimate Australian Adventure scheduled to run on the OWN network from January 18-20 (in Australia on Network Ten, 7.30pm, from Jan 19-23), despite a flurry of travel cancellations in light of the Queensland floods, a look into O The Oprah Magazine reassures that life goes on with the comfort and hope it brings...
So, you've started the new year and perhaps not everything's going to plan. For example, your house might be steeped in six feet of water.* The diet got lost in a packet of Tim Tams. You committed two spelling errors on Twitter already (Ipswitch? Hilary Clinton?). Your boss, post-holiday, still sucks butt. Or you are stuck in a monumental work/love/life rut. Have no fear, Oprah is here!
To give you some perspective, as if seeing families losing their homes and loved ones wasn't enough, imagine being in Oprah's shiny, plum Prada (yes, they are-da) shoes: she's started her new TV network and the whole world is watching. Or not. And that, friends, is one of her biggest fears. That OWN, with its meaningful and "mindful" programming, go-girl mantras and impressive cast of O-friends, would be met with the sound of crickets, disappearing like Warnie into televisual obscurity.
She needn't have worried. The network, on air since January 1, debuted with one million viewers in its first night of prime-time programming, 389% more than Discovery Health, the network OWN replaced. PHEW.
"Anxiety, like, Oh my God, this is coming down the track. Oh my God. Literally. Capital OMG. What have I done? So much responsibility. Then I would talk myself down and say, Okay, what is that all about? There was an underlying instinct that this was a divine opportunity and I had to separate the opportunity from my fear of it. And then I had to get very clear about exactly what I was afraid of. I was afraid of failing; I was afraid of what the press would say. I was afraid it wouldn't be what The Oprah Winfrey Show has been, and has meant, for a these years. I was afraid I wouldn't be as successful. I was afraid that, you know, it just might not work..."
Oprah's anxiety and fears, relative in size to her grandiose celebrity and success, were not unfounded. She shares the depression she experienced after her 1998 film, Beloved, bombed at the box office in the January issue of her magazine.
"I learned a huge lesson with Beloved, which was not successful at the box office but was a great life teacher for me. I went into a real depression after Beloved – a real depression... I just expected that many people were going to see the film, and then when they didn't, I was really depressed."
As Oprah tells it, what she'd created with the film was a hopeful story about slavery and no one came to the party, as the film was more about the message than creating something marketable.
"Granted, it was not the best business decision. That's why I don't consider myself to be a businesswoman. I don't think business first; I think about what is right for me, personally. Which means that sometimes things work and sometimes they don't. And with this network I would wake up like [gasps] and think, What in the world is that? I thought, Maybe this is about me facing the fear...
"What I realized is that I've never been afraid before. Not with any decision I've ever made... this was a classic case where being famous and being successful puts you in a box, and you're trapped by that. Because now you've got to live up to what that fame and success is... But I came to see that The Oprah Winfrey Show was the basis and the foundation for me to be able to create everything else. And everything else will have the energy that it's supposed to hold."
The great weight of expectation on her shoulders (manifested, as we all know, in her upsie-downsie bodily weight), are a study in what drives some of us to do the things we do, particularly where work and career are involved.
Perhaps some, like Oprah, are called to devote their whole selves (and holidays; she says, "I've never had an extended vacation where I wasn't conscious of the clock always ticking") to their "calling", all the way to heights of success? And perhaps life success is achieving that without giving yourself a heart attack? Either way, if Oprah weren't always striving to better herself, the O machine might pack itself in; the cost being selling herself off at a price in the process.**
Despite now managing an ENTIRE network, Oprah is hopeful about the year and her ability to manage her schedule. "I get to design how I really want to live my life," she says. "Up until now, the work has been my life and has defined everything I've done... But now the show no longer comes first. Yes! I'm putting myself first. Isn't that big?".
If living Oprah's life is not your aspiration, you will still find inspiration within the pages of the January issue, which I intend to tuck away for those inevitable days when To-Do lists seem insurmountable and are certainly not on par with my self-esteem nor the number of hours in a day.
Martha Beck writes on goal setting with candor ("This is not a beauty pageant (those contestants can afford to wish for world peace; they've all reached their target weight"), Suze Orman whips our finances into shape (apparently, it's not okay to bury your bills in a draw in the hope they will disappear) and Dr Oz prescribes New Year health advice in bite-sized pieces (add fish oil, read food labels, have sex twice a week, drop a pound a month... eek).
The front-of-book presents us with a bunch of beautiful women each carving their out their own slice of pie: visual effects artist Kristen Trattner got tongue cancer at the age of 36, became addicted to cooking shows and is now the co-owner of a gourmet cafe; Laurie Marker is helping to save cheetahs from extinction; 17-year-old photographer Chrissie White is attracting prestigious commissions; Sofia Coppola pushes a stroller for a "quickie workout"; and TV journalist Lisa Ling (of OWN) takes us to Afghanistan, where she was assigned as a fledgling reporter ("I realized how insulated America can be, and decided then that I wanted to change that.").
For some light relief, Catherine Price shares her "everygirl" experience in 'Aiming Higher', where she says she finds it hard to be compassionate towards herself ("I have a gift for letting trivial things suck me into a vortex of self-loathing") but learns via CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) that she can find a level of acceptance and diffuse negative thoughts before they build into depression.
Laura Beil makes a case for getting to bed earlier in 'Lights Out' ("countries generating the most light at night have the highest incidence of breast cancer"), and Oprah's trainer Bob Greene gives readers ten good reasons to exercise... none of which include "So I can eat more chocolate". Bummer.
Oprah's cast of OWN ladies and gents get prime-time magazine space with Rosie O'Donnell, Gayle King, Sarah Ferguson and Shania Twain, amongst others, sharing their visions.
I adored reading 'A Life In Books', Sarah Nelson's words on Jackie O's career as a book editor:
"While undeniably privileged and sometimes imperious, Onassis would also sit down on the floor with her manuscripts, show up occasionally in the company cafeteria (though she had to be told she was expected to pay for lunch), and write encouraging notes in the margins of manuscripts. Her hard work and common touch as an editor flew in the face of JFK's assertion, during their marriage, that she was "a little too much status, not enough quo."
Charismatic guy, but what an A-hole.
The double page of 'What I Know For Sure' inspirational quotes is worth tearing out and sticking on your inspiration board, as is Oprah's own last page, where she writes of Michael Jackson.
"In July I read a Vanity Fair article about the making of Michael Jackson's album Thriller. The piece quoted some of Michael's friends saying that one of his biggest mistakes was never realising that Thriller's becoming the number-one-selling album in history was a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. And because he didn't realise that, he spent the rest of his life chasing that success.
Reading that was a big aha for me. The reason I had wavered was fear: I was afraid I wouldn't be able to duplicate what I've done. But as I thought about Michael Jackson, I began to see that not only can you not duplicate success, you're not supposed to. Every new endeavour is created out of the quality of the energy you bring to it and is meant to be its own thing."
Floods, failures and social networking faux pas need not keep us from dreaming or pushing on. Which is what the February issue of O promises.
On with the show...
A glossy worth your pocket money?
*With all due respect to those who've lost loved ones and loved homes.
**A spiritual note: as a wise Christian recently reminded me, "When we are empty we sometimes attempt to fill the gaps by talking about ourselves or talking to people who have something to offer us. It's all about empty spaces. When God isn't enough for us, we find ways to grasp at value and we find ways to meet our own needs... When you get to the point when you can honestly say, "I'm okay with God and he's okay with me", it fills you up so much that you no longer need the approval or acceptance of others to keep you afloat; you don't need to piss in their pockets to gain anything because your pockets are already full of God's love."
Girl With a Satchel
Posted by Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) at Friday, January 14, 2011