Oprah Talks to Ralph Lauren
Oprah: Everyone always says one thing about you: You've kept your soul.
Ralph: What I feel best about is that while I enjoy what I have and don't want to lose it, I also don't need it.
Oprah: Right. I know your name used to be Ralph Lifshitz. Where did the name Lauren come from?
Ralph: My given name has the word shit in it. When I was a kid, the other kids would make a lot of fun of me. It was a tough name. That's why I decided to change it. Then people said, "Did you change your name because you don't want to be Jewish?" I said, "Absolutely not. That's not what it's about." There were also people who thought that because I was Jewish, I had no right to create these preppy clothes. Harvard, Yale, Princeton: "Why do you like these kind of things?"
Oprah: Why did you choose the name Lauren?
Ralph: My cousins who lived in California had changed their last name to Lawrence. So I just thought, "I'm going to pick a nice last name"—it wasn't particularly connected to anything or anyone. I was 16, and it was years before I became a designer. It had nothing to do with Jewishness, it had nothing to do with not being proud of who I am. It had to do with not wanting to be at a detriment for no reason in a world that makes fun of things.
Oprah: Yes—Lifshitz is a hard one. I don't know if I'd want to buy the Lifshitz towels.
Ralph: If I had it to do over, would I change my name today? I'm not so sure.
Oprah: Do you still celebrate your Jewishness and honor the holidays?
Ralph: Absolutely. I'm very proud of my history and of my life. But there are always people who will shoot at you.
Oprah: A lot of people have described you as shy. Do you see yourself that way?
Ralph: I'm not great at cocktail parties. I can sit with you and talk about anything, because this is a real conversation. It's not about bullshit. It's about realness, and that's what I'm good at. If you get me on a subject I know about, I'm very strong. If I don't know much about it, I don't say much. The one thing I admire in others that I missed is a really great education. I would have loved to speak several languages. I would have loved to be much better read than I am. I was so busy trying to become something that I didn't have some luxuries. I had to work.