Our February cover star, Oprah Winfrey, is making history
She’s the star of the moment, the icon every woman is idealising, and the woman leader we all hope will one day become ‘The Next President’ of the United States. Fabián W. Waintal discusses that powerful Golden Globes speech with Oprah Winfrey
Over 15 years ago, Oprah penned away in her journal that she would one day create a television network. “I always felt my show was just the beginning of what the future could hold. For me, the launch of OWN is the evolution of the work I’ve been doing on television all these years and a natural extension of my show,” says Oprah Winfrey.
OWN is best described as the network of self-discovery, one that connects people with each other, entertains, transforms and inspires, through real-life stories and present moments. It first debuted in 2011, at over 77 million homes on what was formerly known as the Discovery Health Channel, targeting women between 25-54. It comes as no surprise then that when this powerful entrepreneur gave her speech at the Golden Globes ceremony, she received a standing ovation by stars including Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks and Nicole Kidman, history was made. Reese Witherspoon even took to Twitter stating, “I will now officially divide time like this: Everything that happened before Oprah’s speech: Everything that will happen after.”
Last year at the Golden Globes ceremony, Meryl Streep started a Twitter war with Donald Trump when she received the Cecil B. DeMille Award. This time, along with a red carpet full of black dresses with the campaign #TimesUp against gender and sex discrimination, Oprah Winfrey started her campaign #Oprah2020, ‘The Next President’ after receiving the same award. The world is still speaking about Oprah Winfrey, standing by her side. Now, it’s time for Oprah to talk about herself, too.Last year Meryl Streep won the same Cecil B. DeMille Award and it felt like a completely different as it was all about Donald Trump becoming the President. This time there were all the sexual harassment allegations and everyone wore black at the ceremony. After your emotional speech, do you feel the country, together as a whole, is moving in a better direction than last year?
I always think, and know, having watched it over the years through thousands and thousands of interviews and watching people in their dysfunction, that when something negative is brewing, that there is the direct opposite reaction that is also possible. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When something as big as what started to happen in October with Harvey Weinstein (sexual harassment accusations), started to unfold, I thought, whoa, whoa, whoa, and with every day’s revelation, here is an opportunity for powerful growth. How do we use this moment to elevate what is happening instead of continually victimizing ourselves?
What did you think about the idea of wearing black and a ‘#TimesUp’ button on the red carpet?
I think that wearing black in solidarity is one step. What Time’s Up is doing with the legal defence fund is a major step. It was very important to all of us involved, to state that it’s not just about the women of Hollywood, because we are already a privileged group, but to extend to the women of the world. Because as I said in my speech, there isn’t a culture, a race, a religion, a politic, or a workplace that hasn’t been affected by it. And it’s been happening for a very long time. People didn’t feel that they could speak up, and there are so many women who have endured so much and remained silent and kept going because there was no other recourse, and now that we’ve all joined as one voice, it is empowerment to those women who never had it.
You are on top of the world and everybody talks about your speech at the Golden Globes. What humbles you right now?
The Cecil B. DeMille award humbles me. When they first called my name and said they wanted me to accept it, I said, “I shouldn’t be the person to get the Cecil B. DeMille award.” I was working with Reese Witherspoon this past spring and winter, and I happened to just say in the makeup room one morning, “Oh, how many movies have you done?” and she said “I don’t know. It’s been so many.” And then I thought, “I hope they don’t ask me because I think it’s been five.” And so, I didn’t understand it, but then they explained that it’s about overall entertainment. What I was able to do with the Oprah show and the cultural statement we were able to make throughout the world, I feel extremely proud of that, but I think that when it comes to films, I am really the new kid on the block. I always feel like when I’m acting, that I am out of my box. It’s the most intimidated I ever feel.
What would you say is the greatest lesson you’ve learned throughout your life and career?
It’s a lesson from Maya Angelou, when I first met her. And after I’d known her for a while, she said, “Baby, you need to know that when people show you who they are, you believe them the first time. And the problem is it takes you 29 times.” This is the same lesson coming in a different skirt, wearing a different pair of pants. I think that has been one of my greatest wisdom teachings, to assess from people’s behaviour, their actions, not just towards me, but towards other people – who they are and how they behave. Because if people talk about other people, they’ll talk about you. I think in business and personal relationships, that’s always been my greatest lesson. Also, staying grounded, has been great for me.
When you look over your life, what advice would you give to a seven-year-old Oprah Winfrey about surviving as a woman in this world?
At seven, I was so sad. All my real love came from my teachers. You have no idea the power of noticing another human being and what it feels like when somebody knows that they have been seen, truly seen by you. It is the greatest offering you can give, and all those years of the Oprah Show, the greatest lesson I learned was that after every show, someone would say, invariably, in one way or another, how was that? I did an interview with a father who killed his twin daughters, followed by an interview with politician George Bush, Beyoncé, and so on. They all say the same thing. How was that? I started to see this common thread in humanity where everybody wants to know. Did I do okay? Did you hear me? And did what I say something mean to you? I would have to say that recognising that in other people has helped me to become a person of compassion, a person of understanding, a person who can interview anybody about anything, because I know that at the core of you is the same as the core of me. You just want to be heard.
What wisdom could you pass on to the future generation of Hollywood that want to make films?
The way you make movies is to do stuff you love. For 25 years, I worked on the Oprah Show, and I will tell you there were nights when I came home and it was hard to even take off my clothes because I knew I was going to be getting up four hours later. I felt exhausted, but I never felt depleted. Do the work that comes straight from the soul of you, from your background, from stories that you’ve grown up with, from stories that bring you passion, from stories that you are not just drawn to tell it, but if you don’t tell them, they don’t get told.
What would you say is the real key to success in Hollywood?
The key to fulfilment, success, happiness, and contentment in life, is when you align your personality with what your soul came here to do. I believe everybody has a soul and their own personal spiritual energy. When you can use your personality to serve whatever that thing is, you can’t help but be successful. Films that come from the interior of your soul, art that comes from the interior of you, you cannot miss. It’s only when you are doing stuff that you think might make money, you think it may be a hit, or you think it may bring you some level of attention or success, that isn’t what does it. I would have to say that all the great, wonderful experiences of my life that have brought me to this moment, have come from working from the interior of myself, and that’s why I feel so authentic, because it is. And when you do that, you’ll win.