Single-Minded: Plowing Through the Oprah Bio
Kitty Kelley forgot to read the memo about good reporting and good writing before she spawned her big, big book on the Queen of Daytime.
Since Oprah, her life partners Stedman Graham and Gayle King, or anyone of note (besides a few random cameos by authors Alice Walker and Erica Jong) wouldn't go anywhere near the author, Kelley was forced to get her dirt from family members with a bone to pick and former employees who've been seeing red. And in the interest of full disclosure, I got my start in publishing as an intern at O Magazine in 2002--a proud bullet point that will remain on my résumé until I retire. I have one pivotal story from those days when I was making $5.15 per hour and was forced to walk from 128th Street in Harlem to the magazine's offices in midtown every day--twice a day (alright, two stories).
Pulling in only $188 dollars a week sucks. I survived off the kindness of strangers, Ramen noodles and free food in the break room. I could barely afford my $550 share of the rent, much less afford to fly back home to California for Christmas. One week before the holidays, Gayle King, wearing a Santa hat and a smile, walked into the conference room to announce that everyone (interns, included) was getting a week's pay as a bonus, funded personally by Oprah. I have never needed $188 dollars more in my entire life and because of that: "Don't nobody better say nothing bad about Miss Winfrey!"
But truth be told, it isn't beyond the scope of even the hardest Opraholic to believe that the media meteor is fallible. Millions of minds out there in TV land won't explode upon learning that Winfrey may have a Pluto-sized ego, may have done drugs in the ‘70s, may have struggled with her younger brother's sexuality, had a son at 14, a family that asks for more handouts than hugs, and rules her billion-dollar kingdom with a titanium fist. If it's lonely at the top, then one can probably lose oneself in the stratosphere.
When I got tired of constantly double-checking Oprah's "own words" (thousands of separate files Kelley amassed over two decades of interviews) with the 44 pages of end notes at the back of the book, I started entertaining myself with Oprah's take on relationships, which, with 2010 inflation, would probably land her on Nightline.
In 1981 (when I was a 1-year-old), Oprah told the women of Goucher College in a commencement speech "unlike our mothers, we know that by the time we are middle-aged we have more than a 50-percent chance of never being married ... So there's no denying the obvious. We have to take care of ourselves." In a 1993 interview she said, "I dislike this notion of a desperate woman who wants to get married." Winfrey also said that she cared whether or not a potential match was a "ditch digger." "I know that sounds elitist. But I have such great expectations for myself in life ... that I just don't understand people who don't aspire to do or be anything."
Now I wonder what Steve Harvey would have to say about that?
Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root. Her book, Bitch Is The New Black, will be released this summer. Follow her on Twitter.