When asked what I was going to be when I grew up, I replied ‘Oprah’. That was kindergarden. I still hold the same admiration for the TV Host turned media mogul, and follow her network’s efforts in becoming a real player in the TV field. That means I follow Oprah on FB, Twitter, and watch as the network changes and evolves its line-up. Let’s be honest- starting a business doesn’t give me much time to stay up on latest, but her efforts to create this network (the ups and the downs) are more interesting to me than Miley chopping off her hair. So when I’m free and rested…I observe. Its actually one of the most interesting things to watch in the entertainment industry these days.
The thing that I find most interesting about watching her determination, is the social media feedback. Not the rude tweets sent out to hurt, frustrate, distract or discredit Oprah. But rather the utter frustration from her loyal fanbase who hate watching someone they once upheld, ‘struggle’. In a promotional Facebook post from the OWN camp, readers were told the time of the sit-down with the Bajan popstar Rihanna. I scrolled through the comments, reading support of the interview, disinterest, support for Rihanna, and psychological analysis of the popstar. And there it was, a comment that stated…Oprah was becoming the next Maury.
I knew that was coming.
To see Oprah sit down with celebs like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian is a hard watch. Yes, both are huge influencers of our nation’s zeitgeist, but we all remember when rappers like Ludacris, Jay-Z, and JaRule were HUGE social influencers and failed to get on her roster at the peak of their careers because she didn’t like what they stood for. At that time, I personally would have LOVED to see them on her couch for the social impact that would have had. But whether you liked what they stood for or not, you liked the fact that SHE stood for what SHE stood for. It makes you question if ‘staying relevant’ is at play when girls who would feel completely comfortable being called a ‘bitch’ (one of the words she didn’t like coming from rappers) are granted an interview, but the people who once referred to them that way were publicly banned. Let me just mention I don’t condone “bitch-calling” on either side of the equation. I’m just noting the huge change in stance.
And THAT is what people are responding negatively to- the change in her stance.
‘Staying relevant’ is an amazing concept in the entertainment industry, an industry that pulls inspiration from the past as it pushes forward. ‘Staying relevant’ is something that certain people never have to work for or lessen themselves to do. Michael Jackson’s music remained relevant because he remained at the forefront. When he changed his face, he confused us all. ‘Did he not know WHO he was?’ But we all bought the MUSIC. Oprah Winfrey’s light, her vision, and her point of view is what we all grew to love. Right now, she is changing her face. Did she forget who she was?- was the question being asked when she was likened to Maury. Ms. Winfrey never needs to ‘stay relevant’. As long as she stays in the forefront-she will always be relevant. Right now, she is looking around.
When she first announced her team, I quickly scrolled through it. The titles, the credentials were all great. A team only Oprah could get in a first year of a network. But all those titles and credentials were a recipe for disaster. You could see the scientific approach…an approach that tries to create miracles using formulas…it doesn’t work. My first words when she announced the launch before ending the show were…”noooo she doesn’t need to cross promote the launch.” “Let us miss you and then appear.” Ask anyone who knows me…I said it…repeatedly, “Does she not know she’s Oprah?” The lady who kept telling us to be ourselves was losing it. I remember turning to my mother and telling her the people she has around her are ALL out-of-touch (accomplished, access to money, and somehow forgetful of that “wishing my life would develop into this” stage). And because THEY are… they tell her she is. Thus, we are given these types of interviews and programs. And yes, those interviews get ratings…but at the cost of the network. People tune-in for a pop interview and they are off to the next.
So what is my muse to do?
If I had the opportunity to share…The first thing I would do is reference something she herself said. After watching her leave Barnard (on her show) she asked her producer/friend if there was a place were beautiful AND smart women could go? My heart smiled with the hope that she would be granted the opportunity to create the place. Or maybe the hope that one day I would. Either way, I knew THAT was the need. As much as it doesn’t look that way, there are girls who THINK and, although they love to be entertained, they are hoping to be INSPIRED and educated on HOW TO make their lives become the way they dreamed. Where are they to go?
One of Oprah’s most amazing shows was “Masterclass”. It showed the process…the process of being led, being shaped, and being able to emerge. It was a valuable series somewhat overshadowed by the transition between the network and the talk show. I would say, if OWN features Rihanna and Kardashian types…that would be a great place to put them to show young women the downsides of chasing fame. Because right now young women are being taught that sex tapes and beatings are the way to go.
I would transition the heavy-hitters (Maya Angelou’s, Sidney Poitier) to more in-depth interviews where she retraces their steps to accomplishment (with them…on the street) just like the show ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ traces ancestry. I would wipe-out all shows like Hoarders from the network completely. Bring back Masterclass. And if the concept of “Undercover Boss” is liked so much…why not create a new, more interesting show with a spin? And what happened to those two who won their own show? Can we bring in shows like Boss on Starz? Want a slightly younger audience?…bring in a slightly young host. What about one without the stereotypical im-a-journalist voice? Oprah, we loved you for your unpolished style…not because you were manufactured. Give us that in others. Girls with a bit a flare…not with perfect resumes. Basically, we want the real. Not the ratings chase.
What we learn is that if its important that we stay true to ourselves, even in points of change, it will greatly reward us!
P.S. Don’t count Ms. O out! She will win!