There’s been a vague emptiness I’ve carried with me over the last decade. A hole where an important relationship once thrived. A foundational figure who once guided my footsteps in the dark, now gone.
Up until Sunday night I had been unable to pinpoint what, or who , I was missing. But then Oprah Winfrey appeared on my television screen and I knew in an instant it was she.
From the ages of 12 to 18, I spent 4:00-5:00 everyday in the kitchen with my mom and together we watched Oprah. I rarely missed an episode. (The episodes I did miss were the ones my mom wouldn’t let me watch because Oprah was talking about s-e-x).
Oprah’s show wasn’t so much entertaining television as it was essential television. Gospel, even. Oprah had answers to questions I didn’t even know I had. What books should I be reading? How should I invest my money? What kind of person should I date? How do I make a panini? And of course, what should I purchase this holiday season?
I taped Oprah’s Favorite Things episode every year. Not because I planned to purchase anything highlighted in the episode. I was 13, had $4 to my name and could hardly afford $500 eye cream. But I wanted for one hour once a year just to dream what it would be like to sit in that studio audience. I had to have been peak of happiness for everyone in attendance. Would we not all be the woman in pink?
Oprah was there in the dark times, too. I don’t remember much from the day of the Oklahoma City bombing, but I remember Oprah praying on air. We were watching Oprah that day because, not really knowing what else to do, it felt like the most appropriate thing. There was no one better to guide a nation through its collective grief.
I remember interviews with women who had escaped abusive relationships. I remember conversations she had with Black celebrities about the racism they faced in the entertainment industry. I remember her crying with Elizabeth Smart’s mom.
Oprah shaped some of my earliest opinions. There was no questioning whether she was right or wrong. She opposed the war in Iraq, so I opposed the war in Iraq. I of course had very few facts to back up this opinion, but Oprah had never led me wrong before. And I don’t think she did then. I SAID WHAT I SAID. I wore wore black jackets over bright colors with dark pants all through high school because Oprah said it was the most slimming silhouette. Right again.
I eventually left home to go to college and stopped watching Oprah every afternoon at 4:00 with my mom in the kitchen. My schedule became busier and less regular and I only caught the show every once in a while. By the time she showed up on 30 Rock, it felt like seeing an old friend with whom I had lost touch.
Then in 2011 she filmed her final episode of the show that had been so foundational not just to me, but to women and gay men all across America. And I’m not saying things got significantly worse in this country since she went off the air, but I’m not not saying that either.
Do I believe we would have beat covid last April if Oprah were still on the air? Yes. Do I believe every American would have access to affordable healthcare if Oprah were still on the air? Yes. Do I think we could reverse climate change if Oprah were still on the air? I do. All it would take is one “WEAR A MAAAA-AAAAA-SK!” And boom. Covid eradicated.
But while I revered Oprah as a nonreligious prophet as sorts, I don’t know if I really, truly, appreciated Oprah for her talent as a journalist until Sunday night’s interview with Meghan and Harry. I’ll get to the shocking meat of the interview in a podcast episode later this week, but for now, we need to talk about Oprah being the greatest interviewer of all time.
I guess maybe I had previously thought Oprah got lucky with a good time slot and a team of savvy interview bookers, and stumbled her way into enough clout to get the world’s biggest stars on her show. I had not realized how skilled she is as a conversationalist until she sat with the former prince and his wife.
Watch how she gives people the space they need to tell their stories, pushes for more information when needed, and reacts to the information they give her like a human. Not with ego or a wall of professionalism, but like a caring woman who just wants to help. Like the friend we need when we’re going through it. And it’s that, her ability to connect with anyone about anything, to be the friend who listens and empathizes, that makes her such a phenomenon.
I get that she’s spending her time now on other projects, wearing great glasses, having fabulous hair, hanging out in immaculate backyards, being on twelve magazine covers a year, and loving bread, but we need her back in our lives.
Oprah, please come back. I know streaming makes things weird now, but I would pay for premium Hulu if you promised to do your show like you used to. We need you. I haven’t read a book in years. I don’t know how to design my kitchen. No one is tracking Tom Cruise’s couch jumping habits. We’re bombing Syria again? We need you now more than ever.
I miss Oprah almost as much as I miss Dick Nourse, Bruce Lindsay, ROD DECKER,
and the gaggle of now retired local reporters who appear in Murder Among The Mormons. Eli, Rebiie, and I recorded an emergency podcast episode to discuss the series and what watching it is like for active Mormons, Mormons who no longer practice, and those completely unfamiliar with the church and its history.
Irene and I bemoaned the state of The Bachelor, YET AGAIN, and made predictions for the remainder of the season. While we don’t know for sure what will happen, we do know it won’t be pretty.
Nick Morley joined me and Eli to discuss Nomadland, the winner of this year’s Golden Globe for best picture.
LRE will join me and Eli for another EMERGENCY PODCAST EPISODE about the aforementioned interview, and my friend Trent Mano will tell us about his family history and the similarities he sees in Golden Globe winner Minari. Plus, Irene and I will conclude our coverage of Matt James’ season of The Bachelor and announce the winner of the weekly predictions, and Emily and I will release the first episode of our new Patreon-exclusive series covering every makeover episode of America’s Next Top Model.
AND Shelby Hintze is launching her column Dressing On The Side with a shop-your-closet Instagram giveaway, the winner of which will receive a pair of West Of Breakfast pajamas. Check your inbox tomorrow for more details.