Oprah: I feel you have a connection with people, just as I have a connection with my audience.
Ralph: Yes, I've always said that. Sometimes when I walk into one of my own stores, I look at the display and say, "This looks so good—I want to buy it." Yet other times I walk in and the displays and mannequins will be all wrong, and I don't want to buy anything. When a customer walks into a store, she's looking for inspiration. So I'm tuned in to people, and I care about what they need and who they are. Where do they go on vacation? Who are their families? What do they value?
I've lived through dreaming and not having, and I've lived through having. The basics are still getting up in the morning and feeling good about yourself—I don't care how rich you are.
Oprah: But now you don't have to wonder what it's like to be wealthy.
Ralph: I was talking to Donna Karan at an event last night, and she said, "You know, Ralph, I still don't feel rich."
Oprah: Do you feel that way?
Ralph: I was sometimes embarrassed about making it—people look at you in a different way. You become this rich guy with the house. I wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's, but I've sometimes felt set apart from the people I work with. They think, "You're rich—you don't have problems."
Oprah: I saw an interview you did when you were about 26, and you said, "I always wanted to be special."
Ralph: And I still do.
Oprah: Unless you're set apart.
Ralph: Well I don't want to be a zero. I want to say something, to do something, to have a voice.
Oprah: There's this wonderful line in East of Eden where Steinbeck writes: "Will liked to live so that no one could find fault with him, and to do that he had to live as nearly like other people as possible." That struck me because it made me realize that if you're going to be extraordinary, then you can't be like most other people.
Ralph: Yes. And yet I've seen a lot of bad people become successful. You don't want anything they have because they've sold their souls.