You know you’ve really made it when you’ve reached first name basis fame in the press. Madonna, Beyoncé and Kim — all celebrities that don’t require a last name in news headlines. But without a doubt, the queen of them all — and all of media — is Oprah.
The journalist, activist, actress, TV host and media mogul has built a storied and award-winning career one can only dream of and has earned respect and admiration the world over. Which is why I was shocked to find out anyone would tell Oprah what to do. Some background: Oprah Winfrey covers the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter, spilling the beans on everything from her involvement with Leaving Neverland, her recently-announced series with Apple TV and her thoughts on BFF Gayle King’s newest CBS contract.
But deep, deep in the interview was a kernel of shade so delicious it’s the only thing I’ll think about for the rest of today. While discussing her upcoming documentary series with Apple — something she’s teaming up with Prince Harry for — Winfrey revealed she had parted ways with 60 Minutes after a brief working relationship with the news magazine. When asked to elaborate, she was so forthright and candid I was on the edge of my seat. “How should I say this? Never a good thing when I have to practice saying my name and have to be told that I have too much emotion in my name,” she began.
She continued: “I think I did seven takes on just my name because it was ‘too emotional.’ I go, ‘Is the too much emotion in the ‘Oprah’ part or the ‘Winfrey’ part?’ I had a deja vu moment because I’ve actually lived through this once before when I covered a story as a young reporter [where] the family had lost their home and my boss told me that I reported it with too much emotion. I had too much emotion in the story. I thought, ‘OK, so you’re not supposed to be involved in the story, I get that. You’re a journalist.’ But the same thing is true even with a read [at 60 Minutes]. They would say, ‘All right, you need to flatten out your voice, there’s too much emotion in your voice.’ So I was working on pulling myself down and flattening out my personality — which, for me, is actually not such a good thing.”
With over 40 years of journalism experience, Winfrey has revolutionized storytelling across all platforms, so the fact that someone was telling her to downplay the part of her we have come to know and love is ludicrous. Especially if it’s the reporting style she’s known for best. But what I’m going to take away from Winfrey’s frank response — besides that she’s a #boss — is her deep understanding of her value and just how much respect she has for herself. Winfrey is an example to all women in a workplace that shakes their confidence.
Also, please don’t tell Oprah how to pronounce her name.