The Ultimate O Interview: Oprah Answers All Your Questions
Oprah: There was certainly some bad hair and bad choices. The '80s were tough on everybody! But yes, there were some things I did that, today, I'm embarrassed to say I did. Years ago I did a show about women whose husbands had cheated on them. At the time we thought, "What a great booking—you've got the mistress, you've got the wife, you've got the husband—they all agreed to come on. But at one point, one of the husbands said to his wife—and this was live television—that his girlfriend was pregnant. And I saw the pain in his wife's face, and thought, "I'm responsible for that. I didn't know her husband was going to say it, but I was responsible. I thought, "That is not what this platform is supposed to be for. You're not supposed to do that to anybody, ever." The whole audience did what you all just did—everybody went "Oooh!" And the wife did what she could to hold on to herself. But in her eyes I saw the humiliation. There's nothing worse than being humiliated. There's nothing worse that you can do to a person than to make them feel worthless.
The flip side is, the greatest thing you can do is to make somebody feel that they matter. So that is my secret to interviewing: How do I find the common denominator that allows a person to know that I hear them, and that what they say means something to me? If you can do that in all your relationships, whether it's with your children, your boss, your girlfriends, or your spouse—if you can be present enough to really emit that energy, that's all anybody is looking for.
Violet: That's the book you should write.
Oprah: It would take too much time to write, though. That's a lot of time.
Keisha: After you pare down?
Oprah: After my party.
Keisha: Yes! Okay, next question: I think most would agree that you've transcended race. How do you balance your identity as a black woman with your need to reach a broader audience? Do you ever feel a conflict of conscience?
Oprah: Being a black woman has never been an issue for me. It's just always been what is. This is who I am. I have never given it a moment's thought, because it's so integrated into who I am. I am, first, a child born of God. I really do believe that of myself. I am spirit in a body, and I have incarnated as a female who is black in the United States of America. No better place to be born in the world. Earlier this year when the movie Precious got all its Oscar nominations, Gabby Sidibe, who was nominated—she'd never acted before in her life, was raised in Harlem—her name was called in the same breath as Meryl Streep's. Only in America can that happen. On the other hand, I understand that I carry the energy of every single person who came before me and didn't have the opportunity to do what I do. I think about that. I carry that with me. It's not like I'm sitting there with Tom Cruise thinking, "The ancestors are here—"
Gayle: Come on, Harriet!
Oprah: Exactly. Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth—come on, everybody, come meet Tom Cruise! No, I'm not thinking that. But I am aware of the people who came before.
Ellyn: Is there anything else you want to say about your relationship with God?
Oprah: Is there anything more you want to ask me? We can talk all day about my relationship with God. That's the big one. My favorite Bible verse is Psalms 37:4. "Delight thyself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." To me, the Lord is all that is good, all that is great, all that is love, all that is timeless, all that is peace. Delight thyself in all those things, and you will have the desires of your heart. And what I've realized is that all my issues—my health problems, weight problems, all that—are deeply related to my getting so consumed with my schedule. For years I told people to keep a gratitude journal, but the last few years I've been too busy to keep one myself. I'd be so tired when I got home that it was like, "Okay, I'm grateful for..."
Ellyn: This bed!
Oprah: Right. When I was a kid, my grandmother said, "Pray on your knees." And that's how I always prayed. But the last few years it's been like, "I'm too tired. Can I just pray lying down? Okay, God, thank you." So I've been crowding out the space that allows me to connect with God, with the source. Some people get that connection from going to church. I don't go to church unless I happen to be in a town where there's a really great service. Years ago I went faithfully, 8 o'clock service, 12 o'clock service. I was a tither. I was making 227 dollars a week, and I tithed 22 dollars and 70 cents every week. But after Jim Jones led the mass suicide in Guyana, I started to feel differently. The church I went to had a really charismatic pastor—you had to show up early to get a seat—and I remember sitting there one Sunday while he was preaching about how "the Lord thy God is a jealous God, the Lord thy God will punish you for your sins." I looked around and thought, "Why would God be jealous? What does that even mean?" And I'm looking at the people in the church, and everybody's up, shouting. And I started wondering how many of these people—including myself—would be led to do whatever this preacher said. That's when I started exploring taking God out of the box, out of the pew. And eventually I got to where I was able to see God in other people and in all things—in graciousness and kindness and generosity and the spirit of things. Okay? Okay, let's do a few more questions.
Oprah reveals the origin of her name and the advice she would give to her younger self