Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Oprah: A Biography

Author: Kitty Kelley
Genre: Biography
Pages: 445
First Line: "I met Oprah Winfrey when I was on a book promotion tour in Baltimore in 1981, and she was cohosting WJZ's morning show, People Are Talking, with Richard Sher."
Published: 2010

Synopsis: An unauthorized look into the life of the talk show diva who grew up in very humble surroundings and eventually became one of the richest and most recognized people in the world. From growing up in Mississippi, being molested as a child, to living on welfare with her mother, to working in Baltimore to getting her big break in Chicago --- this book probes into Oprah's life by using interviews and quotes from people around her including some family members as well as court papers, financial papers etc.

My Thoughts: Kitty Kelley has a lot of unauthorized celebrity biographies under her belt. The woman knows how to get the dirt on people ... especially when they don't want that information known. While I did learn a few new things about Oprah there wasn't a whole lot of "a-ha" moments in this book. The book lagged in several parts but overall was just an OK read.

Going into this book I figured that since it's unauthorized by Oprah that the book would have a very negative feel to it and not paint Oprah in the nicest of lights. I was right. Reading this book felt like dishing the dirt with a ticked off girlfriend out for revenge. While I like the fact that Kelley holds no punches and has the information to back up some of her claims about Oprah after a few hundred pages of reading ... I had had enough. I finished the book but admit that I skimmed through several parts that got really dry and repetitive. How many times can we comment on Oprah's weight fluctuation or her mountain of money? Apparently, MANY!

I did find it interesting how Kelley brings to light many instances where Oprah has contradicted herself regarding her upbringing and other experiences in her life in order to make herself appear to be more approachable to her audience. She wasn't as poor or neglected as she has made herself appear. Huh.

In the beginning of the book I found it hard to reconcile the Oprah I've seen on TV and the philanthropist with the image that Kelley portrayed. But after thinking on it, I can see Kelley's points. Oprah can often come off as 'high and mighty' and patronizing towards her guests and audience. I stopped watching Oprah for several years because I was tired of listening to how amazing she finds herself as she name drops the famous people (ie John Travolta, Celine, Julia Roberts, Nelson Mandela, Quincy Jones ...) she's friends with. It was also hard to connect with a person who spends hundreds of dollars on a pair of slippers or who has her sheets washed every day because she likes the fresh smell of laundered linen.

Oprah has been known to think that the world revolves around her. After the alleged sexual and physical abuse at her girls' school in South Africa came to light it seemed that Oprah was personalizing the experience in regards to how it effected her own image. Oprah was quoted as saying it was "one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating experience of my life' -- seeming to make it all about her instead of the victims. Many reporters have had a hard time dealing with Oprah. Ray Richmond wished that Oprah could have "a conversation that isn't all about her and her uncompromising, sublime wonderfulness". Ouch.

The Oprah from the late 80's to early 1990's compared to the Oprah in 2008 and onwards is quite different. She somehow got on a huge kick to enlighten and better her audience ... whether they wanted it or not. How thoughtful and ... controlling of you Oprah! :) Personally, I stopped watching when every few shows she had some kind of person who could make me the better me. I just want to be me, Oprah! I agree with Renee A. James (writer for the Allentown Morning Call) when she stated "Somehow Oprah is starting to feel a bit too 'empowered', just a little too 'enlightened' for the rest of us. To me, this feels like the friend who got a little too impressed with herself and became just a little too good for the rest of us. Makes you sort of mad, but you still miss her." That about sums it up for me. While I do PVR Oprah's shows I delete about 95% of them because I don't like the content.

Also, it wasn't a shock to learn how much Oprah loves herself and how controlling she is. She has complete control over all of her endeavors and as a big lack of trust regarding her staff. I could not imagine working for her and having to sign the intense confidentiality agreements she requires! She has her on-air persona but when the cameras are off she becomes cold, distant and is known to ignore the audience (which, by the way, is exactly what happened to me in NYC when watching a Geraldo taping. Must be a talk show diva thing?).

Oprah is shown as a woman who holds HUGE grudges like in the instance with David Letterman as well as many other celebrities who dared to cross her. Many people refused to speak to Kelley because they were afraid of backlash from Oprah.

There is no question ... Oprah is a force and a huge world icon who has spent decades making her mark on the world and building her brand. While her TV show is no longer a favourite of mine I do respect all that Oprah has accomplished and done for others. From donating MILLIONS of dollars to charities, to starting up a Book Club that got so many people to love reading again, to her "O" magazine, her girls' school in South Africa .... The woman has the drive of 20 people!
I'm not surprised that she was ticked that Kelley had the audacity to write her biography. Who would want their diry laundry on display for all to see? I'm placing bets that this won't be an Oprah Book Club pick. ;)

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars


A Cop's Girl said...

I lost all respect for Oprah after she started a few of her favorite things in her magazine.She had a $2000 dollar throw, listed at a time things we were starting to go bad in America for most average Americans.With people loosing jobs,homes and unable to feed thier kids it showed how much she has lost touch with the everyday woman.I have not read the book no plans too because Kitty Kelly has written about Oprah would surprise me.

Laurie said...

The only thing about that article that you read is that it was most likely written 4 months or so before it's actually printed. I was in an article in a magazine and I was interviewed in January for the May issue. Just a thought. Still, $2000 for a throw? Too rich for my blood (as well as most people I know!). Ya, she's definitely changed over the years and I find it hard to relate to her. Lately her shows seem too sensational for me. Why do I want to see a show about people who kidnap and hurt others? Bring back Nate Berkus, Oprah! I hope Ellen gets Oprah's very lucrative time slot at 4pm! She's very positive and funny. :)

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