Oprah Winfrey is a true international superstar and unparalleled media mogul. More importantly, I personally discovered she is a sincere and gracious lady. Maybe that’s why everybody loves Oprah.
Less than a week after the launch of OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, Oprah sat beaming in front of a ballroom full of members of the Television Critics Association in Pasadena. She was telling everyone how proud she is to be “the ‘ow’ in own!” It has exceeded her expectations already, with ratings and advertising. There are remarkable reports that the network will turn a profit in its first year. That’s the power of Oprah.
The new cable channel is packed with lifestyle, educational, and inspiring programs.
“The whole network is about encouraging people to live with an open heart. It’s about opening yourself to all that is possible,” Winfrey said.
Seeing her at the interview session, Oprah was everything I expected her to be, and my expectations were very high. I expected her to be pleasant and inspirational, and she was. I expected her to be generous, and she was. Not with a car or other lavish gifts that have surprised her audience members over the years, but she was generous with her time and thoughtful answers to the questions she got from the TV writers.
Thinking how hard it must be to maintain that perfect persona, I asked her if she ever feels like “taking a day off from being Oprah?”
Wearing the color purple, the 56-year-old talk show queen answered me as if I were an old friend concerned with her well being. “Yes, many times. I have felt the same as everybody. The difference is I have a TV show and I don’t have a sub host. I have to show up even when I’m not feeling 100 percent. Sometimes I’ll come out and they [the audience]say ‘You look tired.’ I am tired, people,” she sighs at the thought of those exhausting days. That’s when she is shooting The Oprah Winfrey Show, which will come to an end this May after 25 ultra-successful years on the air.
After that, I wanted to know if she could enjoy a vacation away from the cameras. She’d like to, but Oprah told me she had to make a big shift in the way she thought about creating and launching her own network.
“I was under the illusion that I could have a network, and build it, and travel the world, finish my show, build a boat, go to France, sail around and come back, do a show every now and then, check ‘how are things over there at OWN,’ and carry on with my life,”
Oprah joked about how simple it might have sounded to her at first. Nowadays she knows the reality of having a network with her name on it, and the time it takes to do it right.
“So the shift for me was that I was not going to be able to have that ‘relax, take it easy, travel the world’ life for at least the next three years,” Winfrey said. “But I do need to see the world, and have a little more balance. That’s exactly what I’m striving for. That will be a successful life for me.”
Oprah assured that she is looking forward to having a vacation in 2014. I hope she gets around to it a lot sooner.
After the interview session, there was a party on the tented back lawn of the posh Langham Hotel. The stars of the OWN programs were there, including Oprah’s best friend Gayle King, who talked about her New York based interview show. Lisa Ling will have an investigative show called Our America, premiering Feb. 16. Suze Orman hosts a money management show. Even boxing champ Mike Tyson was on hand, and was very pleasant as he talked about his upcoming show about raising and racing pigeons. Tyson’s show is for Animal Planet, part of the Discovery Networks.
The folks from the reality competition show Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star were there. Produced by Mark Burnett (Survivor), it has ten lucky finalists (including Valley Village gal Leigh Koechner) being mentored by successful TV hosts, such as Nancy O’Dell and Carson Kressley. The winner will actually get a show to host.
OWN is a joint enterprise between the Discovery Communications and Oprah’s Harpo Inc., with Christina Norman as CEO of OWN, and David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery. But as everyone knows, Oprah is the driving force behind the venture.