I understand why the unauthorized biography raises the hackles of its subjects, for it means an independent presentation of their lives, irrespective of their demands and decrees. It is not bended-knee biography. It does not genuflect to fame or curtsy to celebrity, and powerful public figures, accustomed to deference, quite naturally resist the scrutiny that such a biography requires. Oprah Winfrey was no exception.
Look at that lovely predatory smile. Look at those cold and calculating eyes. I hate biographies written by someone else other than the person who lived it. Unless you’re BoJack Horseman. He can have it done. Kitty Kelley banked on Oprah’s massive popularity to write her book and cash in on the back of the famous.
I was curious, so I borrowed my friend’s copy (I did not want to purchase my own copy) and I had a read.
In lieu of speaking to her directly and having to rely on fragmented memories, I decided to gather every interview she had given in the last twenty-five From this resource I was able to use Oprah’s own words with surety.
So, instead of interviewing Oprah, she scoured the newspapers and put together her life based on third party reports and media interpretation… very professional! We all know how the media distorts a news story and tends to lean on one side of the truth or another to be able to showcase a point. At least she got one thing right!
Being one of the most admired women in the world, Oprah Winfrey is adored by millions for her many good works. She is an exemplar of black achievement in a white society, an African American icon who broke the barriers of discrimination to achieve unparalleled success.
I have used Oprah’s book list for the better part of the last 10 years to see what book I should read next. I’ve picked up “The secret life of bees“, “White Oleander“, “12 years a slave”, “Ice Cream Star”, “Find me” and many more I am yet to read. Never failed me. Plus I’ve watched her shows ever since I was little and know that she made all of her money relying just on her wits and by being a powerful woman fighting against the odds.
She started off as the host of a radio show and then starred in “The Colour Purple”.
“”I was destined for great things,” she said. “I’m Diana Ross, and Tina Turner, and Maya Angelou.”
She approached her shows with a new angle – to show the world the lives of the abused, the mistreated, the ones who were the victims of violence. And people loved her and her ascension to fame began. But it came with a price. With every TV show, with every victim, Oprah would bare a bit of her soul. She revealed on live TV she was molested as a child and raped by an older cousin.
“He told me not to tell. Then he took me to the zoo and bought me an ice-cream cone.”
She wasn’t afraid to come out and say it and other people drew faith and courage from her actions.
As the local host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she received her first national publicity in Newsweek, when she dethroned Phil Donahue in the ratings. She was thrilled to get a full page in the national news magazine, but she resented being described as “nearly two hundred pounds of Mississippi-bred black womanhood, brassy, earthy, street smart and soulful.” “I did not like it,” she told the writer Robert Waldron. “I don’t like the term ‘street smart.’ I think it’s a term that gets put off on black people a lot. Rather than say intelligent, it’s easier to say we’re street smart and that kind of explains a lot of things. ‘Oh, well, she made it because she’s street smart.’ Well, I am the least of the street smarts. I’ve never lived on the streets. I don’t know anything about it. I never was a hustling kid. I mean, I had my days of delinquency. But I was never like a hustling kid, or streetwise. I wouldn’t last ten minutes on the streets.”
The author continues to quote different journals – seemingly focusing more on the scandals and the outrageous eating habits than on the good work she’s done with women’s groups. I sense the green-eyed monster!
“Every night I write down five things in my journal I’m grateful for,” Oprah said. “If you concentrate on what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you constantly focus on what you don’t have, you’ll end up having less.”
The book goes on for a bit about the negative publicity Oprah received and at this point, I really wanted to trash the book. Add it to my burn pile. But it wasn’t my book so I sighed. I wanted to see how far it’ll go on the mud throwing.
The Sun-Times later reported that a seventy-three-year-old woman following Oprah’s advice to light scented candles and “be reminded of the essential qualities of your light” had accidentally set fire to her retirement high-rise, sending a dozen people to the hospital.
Yep, it went there. I put the book down and flipped through the rest dismissively. 40 pages were dedicated to all the articles she’s scoured to put together this book report on Oprah. Not one single face-to-face interview. This book is trash.