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Oprah on the Record

Apr 19, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Though she interviews many celebrities, Oprah Winfrey actually gives very few interviews herself. She prefers to keep the focus on her guests. However, as this year’s recipient of the National Association of Broadcasters’ Distinguished Service Award, Ms. Winfrey is the newsmaker. She agreed to talk about her life and career and spoke by phone from her home in Santa Barbara, Calif., with TelevisonWeek Editor Alex Ben Block. An edited version follows. For a longer version of the interview, go to TVWeek.com.
TelevisionWeek: In reading the background material on you, you don’t really seem to want to call yourself a journalist. But to me, you are a journalist as well as a talk show host. Would you mind sharing with me how you would identify yourself in that sense?
Oprah Winfrey: That’s such a profound, thoughtful question on your part. Do you know that whenever I go overseas and there is this space to fill out what you do, who you are, I’m standing there for five minutes. Like, what do I say? Do I say journalist, like maybe they’re going to follow me around. Am I talk show host, chat show queen? [That’s what somebody said in London.] I think journalist is good. I don’t call myself a journalist because in the years when I did consider myself to be a journalist, in my TV years, I was often too involved and emotional and connected and engaged in the stories to really be called a journalist. I wasn’t a good journalist and don’t see myself as one because to me it means you have to define some really clear lines that you’re not allowed to step over. Journalists don’t cry with their guests. You know what I mean? So that’s why I don’t define myself as one. Because I think that I don’t maintain that hard line. Sometimes I try to and other times I just go, `Forget it.’
TVWeek: Although you’ve become a world-class celebrity yourself, I get the sense that the fan is still alive inside you somewhere.
Ms. Winfrey: Yeah, especially if it’s like John Travolta. I mean John was on [the show] for my birthday recently. He did some toast to me. I swear I had to go back and look at the tape and see what he said. I’m like, `Try not to go into the ugly cry.’ And that thing where you’re like, `This is John Travolta and he’s talking to me and I think he just said I was gorgeous.’ So yeah, I think you need the fan in you to be alive. Otherwise, what is it? Otherwise you’d just be sitting there thinking it.
TVWeek: What do you think about celebrity culture–the way we in our society elevate celebrities?
Ms. Winfrey: I think I’m embarrassed by it. I think it is a step back in our own evolutionary process, because I think, first of all, adoration is unhealthy for anybody.
TVWeek: For the person being adored it’s unhealthy?
Ms. Winfrey: Yeah, it’s unhealthy for the person who is adoring and it’s unhealthy for the person who is being adored. Because what it says is that there is something about you that is different or better than me. So for all the people who are fans, fans, fans, you know, `Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.’ It’s hard to have a relationship. All fans want to be a friend. It’s hard to really be a friend with somebody who already thinks you’re not like them.
TVWeek: Doesn’t it also make it hard to know who to trust?

Ms. Winfrey: Yeah, it doesn’t make it hard to know who to trust for me because I basically have the same friends that I started with, and I have `bullshit radar.’ I really do. I just can smell it, I can sense it, I can feel it. I guess it comes from talking to people all these years. It’s a vibe; it’s an energy thing that you get when people are trying to use you or want to be in your presence for whatever it is they think it’s going to do to them to validate themselves. So, no, I don’t have an issue of who to trust. Never have had that.
TVWeek: When you first entered broadcasting there still were relatively few African Americans [in TV], certainly not in the position you are in today, either behind the scenes or in front of the camera. And yet you also came along at a time that I would guess you benefited so much from the Civil Rights Movement and what happened in the ’60s and ’70s. Did you benefit from that? How did it affect your career? Do you feel that timing was important?
Ms. Winfrey: Timing wasn’t just important, timing played a major role. Timing was everything. I wouldn’t be here without timing. First of all, had there not been a Civil Rights Movement, I would never have been able to be in broadcasting. I got my first job in broadcasting, unquestionably, with no doubt, because I was black and I was female. I was 19 years old in Nashville, Tenn. And there was in 1973 a concerted effort to look for minorities. I think there were five of us all hired at the same time. There was a photographer hired, and another reporter hired. … There were five black people, and at the end I was the only one left standing.
You can have the door opened to you, but you have to be able to walk through it. You have to be able to withstand the work. Unquestionably it was the Civil Rights Movement that allowed that door to be opened to me.
The talk show door, we will never know, but I don’t think that what I’ve been able to achieve in the business could have been accomplished had not Phil Donahue first walked through that door–because it was Donahue, and because he was white and male and saw women in a way that the networks had never allowed themselves to see women before then. Women were smart. The mothers at home want to do more than bake Toll House cookies. That’s what Phil Donahue did. And he opened that door to the thinking, stay-at-home mom. And created opportunities and laid the groundwork that later became a bridge for me. So I’m very much aware that I wouldn’t be here if No. 1, the Civil Rights Movement, and others like Phil, had not come before me. You know, Phil, Dinah Shore, all those people. If I had been the first jumping out of the box from where I came from, it probably wouldn’t have happened.
I also believe that I wish to use television, not be used by television. In the beginning you have to be used by TV, because it’s a game of numbers, viewership. We’re trying to connect to as many people as possible. And you have to win the public trust in order to do that. And so I think now I’m in a position [to do that].
TVWeek: An African American friend said, `Please ask Oprah why she doesn’t do more specifically for other African Americans.
Ms. Winfrey: Well I’m always pained, pained would be the word, pained when I hear that question.
TVWeek: Why?
Ms. Winfrey: Because, just the fact that I am. I am. And I am on television speaking to millions of people around the world on a daily basis attempting to say something that is meaningful, that transcends race, creed, background, poverty, situation. To me it is one of the greatest testaments to the Civil Rights Movement and to doing something for African Americans, because what a lot of people don’t understand, and perhaps maybe this person doesn’t get that either, is that in order to succeed in the world, what Martin Luther King and everybody else who fought in the Civil Rights Movement was trying to do was, as he said in his `I have a dream’ speech, was that we would one day be known by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. So to be seen as a human being first, that’s the goal. That is the goal. That is doing more.
And I say the reason I’m pained by it is because I’ve had a lot of African Americans say, `You should have more black people on your show,’ because they want me to walk out with a banner announcing, `This is the black show for black people.’ And, to me, it is far more powerful to show a black family or African American family on with other families, and the black American family is there in the suburbs and they’re driving their car and putting their kids to bed and you see the mother talking about her everyday stresses along with all of the other mothers talking about their everyday stresses. And you see the mother hugging her children and the father reading to the children at night without saying
, `Oh, they’re the black family and they also read to their children.’ Far more powerful to be seen within the context of what is perceived as normal, what is perceived as good.
So this `Why don’t you do more for black people?’ thing, that question just pains me. First of all, all the things that I do, including putting 200 black men through school at Morehouse University, including building schools in Africa and working with African children, and the millions of dollars I’ve given away to battered women shelters, domestic violence, helping kids get through school, most of them minorities, $10 million here and a million there. I don’t go around telling people about that. I’m for transcending whatever barriers or restrictions and perceptions that the world might have had about what I could be or do as a woman and certainly as an African American woman.
TVWeek: How important is it to you to be able to own your show, and own your studio? What has it really meant to you as a person? As a creative person?
Ms. Winfrey: What has it meant to me?
TVWeek: Yes.
Ms. Winfrey: Beyond finance. The financial part of it is literally just some icing on the cake. It’s not the cake. The cake is having the freedom to stand inside yourself and make decisions for yourself based on just, `What do I want to do?’ There is a most magnificent line in the book `Beloved,’ which was also in the movie `Beloved,’ where the former slave Sethe is asked what did it mean those 28 days when she was free before the slave master comes back to get her? And she says this: `I could wake up in the morning and decide for myself what to do with the day.’ That’s what freedom is.
So for me the most powerful aspect of owning my own show has been I could wake up in the morning and decide for myself what to do with any given show. I don’t have a board, I don’t have a network, I don’t have a committee, I don’t have anybody saying you can’t do that, you should do that, or we think it’s too much of this. When I decided to change the format of my show, I didn’t go to anybody but myself. And then when I decided I wanted to call it something, I was going to call it `Change Your Life,’ I didn’t go to anybody but myself. I didn’t have anybody to have to answer to other than myself. To me that was the ultimate in freedom.
TVWeek: You’re associated with really wonderful TV and film projects but you seem to be more into crafting one at a time rather than building a big company that does a lot of stuff. Could you share with me your philosophy on producing and what you want to accomplish?
Ms. Winfrey: I want to do good work that speaks to people in a way that lifts them up and entertains them. Sometimes that’s not possible to find for three or four years. Sometimes you may find one good project that you want to really devote yourself to, or two, and it may take a while to develop those. And because I’m not trying to build a company, I’m not trying to make a name for myself or have lots of product, I just want to do movies that I want people to see. I want to tell the story.
Everybody asks me, will I act again? Probably not. Not unless something comes along that just so stimulates me that I feel like I’ve really got to do this. Because it’s not about acting for me, it’s about telling a story. `The Color Purple’ was about telling a story that I wanted to be heard, and so was `Beloved.’ `Women of Brewster Place’ was about telling a story that I wanted to be heard. It wasn’t about how do I make money, or how do I build a name for myself in this business and what does my company say. It just really is about the process of the work for me. And that is why I’m probably happier than a lot of people are in the business, because I don’t have the frustrations of trying to prove anything. The happiness is in the very moment of doing the work for me. It’s in the very process of doing the work.
You know, I had a great conversation with my mentor, my love, Sidney Poitier, and he said to me, `You know, whenever I was going to read for a role I never read for the role in anticipation of getting the role. I went into every reading with just a goal of doing a great read.’ He said, `Nobody could decide whether it was a great read but me. It wasn’t up to the director to decide for me because I would know inside myself whether or not that was a great read. I would leave either satisfied or dissatisfied that I was able to reach down inside myself and pull up whatever was necessary to bring to the character, in that moment, what the character needed, and if I left the place and thought, “That was good.”’ And I said, `I bet more often than not you got the callback.’ He said, `Yeah, because that’s the way it works, but there were times when I didn’t get the callback. There were times I didn’t get the callback and I didn’t deserve the callback, because I knew I wasn’t as good as I could have been.’
So I feel that way too, and it resonated with me so strongly because that’s the way I feel. It’s about the show. Was it a good show? Did I really do a good job? Was I 100 percent present there? OK, then that was good. OK, it may not have reflected that in the numbers, but that was really, really good. It may not have reflected it in the numbers, but I know I could feel in that particular show that people were moved.
TVWeek: Do you watch TV?
Ms. Winfrey: I don’t watch TV.
TVWeek: You don’t at all?
Ms. Winfrey: No, I so don’t watch TV.
TVWeek: You’re just too busy? Or you’ve made a conscious decision?
Ms. Winfrey: You know what it is? I think it’s like the accomplished children have no shoes. You spend your life on TV, you walk in the studio every day. Your job is TV. To me, when I’m with myself, I’m with myself, I don’t want to be with whoever else is on the TV. So for the most part I will have to tell you I do TV, but I so don’t watch TV that a while back when the All-Star Game was on, we’re in a new house here in Santa Barbara and … we’ve been in the house since January and the TVs haven’t been put in yet, and I’m upstairs in my sitting room and there was one in the sitting room and Stedman had been going to visit friends to watch TV. He said, `God, I’ll be glad when you get a TV here.’ I said, `You know what? I think there is one in the house.’ He goes, `There’s one where?’ I go, `I think I saw one in the cabinet.’ And there was one. There was a TV in the cabinet that I had never turned on. He goes, `You mean there’s been a TV in this house? How long has it been here?’ I go, `You know when they were laying in the floor there was a guy here doing the sound thing and I think he put it in, but I forgot he put it in.’ So Stedman sat up in my sitting room and watched it. We still don’t have all the TVs in the house. I’m not a TV watcher.
TVWeek: What do you think of the TV industry as a business, its impact on our culture and on our world? Do you approve? Disapprove?
Ms. Winfrey: Well, I think this: It’s not for me to approve or disapprove. I think I’m not happy with the state of television. I think it’s so misused.
TVWeek: What do you mean by misused?
Ms. Winfrey: Oh, because I think it’s the most powerful medium we have for communication at this time. I think [we have] the ability to use it for a higher good, and I don’t mean for spiritual programming, I just mean [programming] with standards and with a sense of purpose. I think it lacks a sense of purpose. I think it’s just whatever can get people to watch for any length of time and I just think that that’s a misuse. How can it better be used to inform people’s lives? I mean, look at the news. Is that really informative?
TVWeek: What do they say about local TV news? `If it bleeds it leads.’
Ms. Winfrey: That’s right, that’s what I’m talking about. Is that informative or is that bombarding me with a bunch of violent facts for that particular day based upon whatever is that particular news agenda. No. I think that it’s misused.
TVWeek: For a network like Oxygen, which I believe you’re an investor in as well as someone who does a show for it, there are a number of shows that at least some of the time
seem to be used in the right way. Do you agree with that?
Ms. Winfrey: Yeah, I think not just Oxygen. … If I’m going to turn on the TV [I’m going] to use it for information that is going to stimulate me in a way that I wouldn’t have been. I think that Oxygen serves a purpose and I think that it hasn’t yet reached its potential. I think the idea behind it was good, but I really do believe in television as a service to the public. And that doesn’t mean it has to be public service television programming. If more programmers thought of it in terms of a service to the public you would also fulfill the ratings without having to have the pressure of fulfilling the ratings, because you’re offering people what they need. When you provide a service, people respond to the service. So yeah, there are some that do it. I’m not saying that it’s all bad. Certainly it’s not all bad, but I think it could be used for a higher purpose. I think for the most part programmers don’t think about purpose. They think about whatever is going to make the money this moment.
TVWeek: Do you feel there is an obligation among rich people to be a little more charitable?
Ms. Winfrey: Do they have an obligation? I don’t think that there is an obligation. I think that there is reciprocity and that life is reciprocal, and everything that goes around comes around, so I feel like I live by that principle. If you were to ask me what is my creed, my creed would be I am responsible for my life. You are responsible for your life.
I don’t think it is an obligation, because I think if I chose to just sit on the money, I could do that. There’s nothing that says my hard-earned money or anybody else’s hard-earned money has to go back into the public arena. No. 1, because Uncle Sam’s already taken half of it. That’s what people don’t realize. When you make the Uncle Sam contribution, that is a major contribution. That’s major and nobody gives you credit for it. I always say I don’t even get a thank-you. I want to go, `Did you get the check?’ But no.
Do you have an obligation? No. I think there are laws working in the universe that work to your benefit if you acknowledge your responsibility as a human being. And that responsibility may not be because I made a million dollars I’m now supposed to give you 20 percent. It may be other ways that I can extend myself that don’t have anything to do with money. That’s why I love your question about obligation because a lot of people think since I’ve got a million I’m supposed to give it to you. It doesn’t mean that.
For me, the whole celebrity trip doesn’t mean a thing unless you have something meaningful to say. What does it mean to be celebrated and have nothing that is worthy of celebration? What does it mean to be put in a position where everyone knows your name and is going gaga over what you have to say if you have nothing meaningful to say? That’s what is embarrassing about the celebrity society, because it just becomes lessons in egotism.
TVWeek: Are you a believer in psychiatry and in young people getting these anti-depression drugs and all this stuff? Do you think that’s the way to address these problems?
Ms. Winfrey: I don’t think that’s psychiatry. I think that’s drugs. I think I could talk forever about this because I have witnessed it from my little home base perch centered right there in the heart of America and watched the deterioration of families and children, and the reason is disconnection.
TVWeek: Explain.
Ms. Winfrey: I meant that everybody’s so busy trying to make a personal name for themselves–whether it’s in your personal community, a name with your car, a name with your square footage, a name with what your street address is, a name with what you are wearing, with your pocketbook, your Gucci bag. Everybody is so busy trying to make a name for themselves that they have lost sight of what is real and what is the truth. That’s just a fact. And so you have these kids that need to be on anti-depressants because they are over- and understimulated by a society that is demanding unrealistic expectations.
I’m not a regular viewer of television but several months ago when I was on vacation during Christmas break, I was flipping through the channels and trying to imagine what it would be like to have been myself, my younger self, growing up with television as it is today. What do you begin to think about yourself? Everywhere you look you’re told that whatever it is you look like, it’s not good enough. I mean you look at the channels with the girls in the music videos. The standard for what is normal is so exceedingly abnormal that of course all the kids are on drugs. How are you going to live up to that?
When I first started doing the magazine … I was just standing there and someone was doing my makeup and I just looked around and started counting the people. Twenty-seven people on the shoot. And at the end of the shoot the photograph comes out and I look fabulous, and I realized that this is what happens for every other woman that’s on the pages of these magazines. And all these years I’ve looked through magazines thinking, `I love that dress. I wish I had that. Oh, look at her complexion, I love that lipstick.’ Well you know what? You’d look good too if you had 27 people working on you. And so I wanted to say to people this is what it took to get this photograph. …
So how is the average woman thumbing through a magazine not to feel bad about herself because she doesn’t know they’ve got two fans, four lights, two makeup guys, all there to create this illusion that you too could be like this. So I understand that’s the reason why you have a generation of young kids [on anti-depressant drugs]. I’m for reconnecting and finding out what is the truth and real in your family in your life, [but] you can’t do that if you’re so obsessed with yourself, with `How do I make a name for myself in this celebrity-driven society?’ It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
TVWeek: I came to the conclusion a while back that the secret of being happy after studying much philosophy is when you accept what you have then you can be happy. But there are very few people in society who can accept what they have.
Ms. Winfrey: Well, I came to that conclusion too. … I would venture to say that I am certainly the happiest person I know. … This morning I went for a two-hour hike up in the mountains in Santa Barbara and I was beside myself with joy. … But I can get happy because I choose to and have always chosen to accept the moment, accept this moment for what it is and be grateful for this moment. On this hike this morning this woman was saying to me, `How do you stay in the now? There’s just so much going on.’ I said, `Well, you know, why do you choose to leave the now to go to wherever, to worry about the past or to fixate on the future, whatever. I feel that when I was a reporter for WJZ-TV in Nashville I was already a happy person. And my goal, just like Sidney Poitier said, is, `How do I do the best job today?’ And that has been my philosophy since I was in the third grade: How do I turn in the best book report today? And the way I can turn in the best book report is choosing a book that I really like because that’s going to make it easier to read.
TVWeek: How do you choose the books for the book club? Do you read them yourself first?
Ms. Winfrey: Yeah, I always read them.
TVWeek: Do you take suggestions from other people?
Ms. Winfrey: I’m always taking suggestions from other people. For the first three years it was only all the books that I had already read and liked and then after a while it got harder and harder and then I’d start taking suggestions from other people. But even if I take a suggestion I have to then read it and really like it myself enough to recommend it to other people.
TVWeek: One of the wonderful things about your book club is it’s almost a form of public education. It encourages people to read. How did your own education inspire you, and do you think your education is important?
Ms. Winfrey: I think education is everything. Education is fr
eedom, and education is the difference between a life that is lived and a life that is just existing.
TVWeek: And is education something that happens only in college?
Ms. Winfrey: No, I’m constantly being educated. I try to be in a constant state of taking in all experiences for what they have to teach me. That is my No. 1 question for all of my life experiences, especially those that are challenges. The moment a difficult situation comes to me I say, `What is it here to teach me?’ Because if you can get the lesson first you don’t have to be bogged down in the minutiae of `Why is this happening to me?’ See, I know nothing is happening to punish me or to make me feel bad or because life is unfair, nothing. Nothing is out of order. I know everything, every experience is here to teach me something about myself. That’s why it is in your life, because of what you need to know and what you need to learn from it. But in the broader sense of education, the reason I spend so much of my money on educating young black children–$10 million to Better Chance, which takes inner-city children out of the ghetto and puts them in private schools–is because I know that lives will then forever be changed.
Early on in my career, when I first came to Chicago, I had my own big sisters club where myself and the producers would go into the projects. Didn’t tell anybody about it, it wasn’t publicized, but I would take young girls out of the projects and try to work with them on a weekly basis. We’d take them to the library and we’d take them skiing and we’d take them on trips and we’d have pajama parties and whatever. And it was always so taxing for all of us to have to go back into the projects to take the girls back and they had to go back to their environment. You could never really change anybody as long as they are in a fixed environment that doesn’t speak to the change. We’d be telling them, `It’s very important to read and here are the books you read,’ and then you go home and someone says, `What the hell are you doing with those books?’
After a couple of years I gave up on that. I even tried taking people out of the projects. I had a program once where I was going to physically move people from the projects and give them new housing and try to support them. That didn’t work. Because you are who you are wherever you move them. And people say when you’re going to buy them a new house, they all cry and say: `Oh, my God, I can’t believe this is happening.’ But you bring your same self to that situation.
TVWeek: I have a quote here. You said, `The universe is always trying to get your attention.’ Could you explain what you meant by that?
Ms. Winfrey: I meant that there is nothing happening out of order. I don’t believe that there is anything that doesn’t happen for a reason, and the reason you see it, experience it, know it, is for the reason. You and I can be in the same accident and what that accident has to tell you might be completely different from what the accident says to me. And so the universe is always trying to get your attention before you have the major accident. It’s always whispering to you.
TVWeek: You mentioned that when you wanted to change the show and change the mission of the show that you did what you thought was right. And the mission has evolved. You went through a very spiritual period, and this past season has been a little more fun at times and the ratings have responded very nicely. I’m just wondering, is the mission to transform liars? Is it to make people better? Is it to be socially active? Or is it just to have fun?
Ms. Winfrey: The mission has evolved as I have evolved. I started out as a girl trying to keep a job on TV. So in the early years I did what I thought would work well on TV that would also allow me to maintain my own integrity. I wasn’t willing to lose myself or what I believed in the name of television, but I certainly was interested in doing a good job for the stations and doing good television.
That is still my ultimate mission: to do good television. Because I am in the business of television and it’s a business. I respect that it’s a business. For me, it is my life’s work and my mission. So I have the extraordinary blessing of having the walk that is the most natural for me. It’s as natural as standing up in front of a TV [audience] and being able to connect on a personal level, and I really do feel a personal connection to the people who come to my show every day. They say to me, `Gee, you look just like you do on TV.’ And I go, `Y’all look just like you do at home.’ It is a blessing to be able to have both.
I taught at the Kellogg School of Business [at Northwestern University] as an adjunct professor there and one of the things that I was teaching the class of MBAs is that real power comes when you can use your personality to serve your soul. Use your personality to serve what your soul came here to do. For me to be able to have a business that’s built around, really, what my soul came here to do–my soul, I think, came here to inspire. … So I’m in the business of doing good television. Good television that comes from a really pure place inside myself and because I’m now, in my own personal life, not searching for answers, because I think I found a lot of them.
During the years of `Remembering Your Spirit’ and `Change Your Life Television’ I was in the process of doing that for myself and I feel like I found a lot of the answers–the answers I realized lie within myself as they do with every other person. And so I’m more interested in taking the answers that I know now to be true: You are responsible for your own life, nothing’s gonna change unless you choose for it to change, you have the power to change. It all comes through your own decision. Nothing happens unless you decide. You want to lose weight? It’s a decision. You want to get out of a bad marriage? It’s just a decision away. You want your children to grow up and be more connected and not watching television every minute and not responsive? That’s a decision that you have to make and be willing to follow through on it. So because I am at a different place in my own life, and the show has been over the years a reflection of where I was in my life and where I was headed … the show is just a reflection of where I am.
TVWeek: And you’re being honored. Will you share with me why you’ve chosen to accept the NAB honor and what it means to you?
Ms. Winfrey: I get the opportunity to get a lot of awards, and sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes not. Sometimes I’m like, `Why do you want to give me this award?’ I do feel that what the `Oprah’ show has been able to exemplify and actually give to its audience for the past 18 years is remarkable. It’s worthy of attention. It’s worthy of a broadcasting diploma.
There have been times when they’ve asked me before that I’ve thought, `I don’t know if we’re there yet. I could do more.’ I received the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award [from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences] and I knew that I was on my way to doing some pretty profound things in Africa. So I accepted the award because I knew what was coming. But just based on what I had done, I thought `Well, I don’t know. These people don’t even know what I intend to do.’
I feel that we are deserving of the award. … I agree with whoever the committee is, and should we decide not to do the show in years to come it will be missed. Because what it stands for in the television arena is really more powerful than any of us will ever know at this particular time. …
I’m working on building my foundation and having my foundation be a stronger force nationally and internationally, because my foundation is going to be my legacy, and Maya Angelou said, `The foundation will be a part of your legacy. But your legacy is every woman who’s ever watched the show who had been battered and decided, “I’m not gonna let that happen to me again.” Your legacy is the woman who is 100 pounds overweight but saw you lose weight or saw you say something about health or heard somebody else say something and decided, “I’m
gonna take care of myself and create better health for myself.” Your legacy is the father who saw the daughter who was abused and realized the abuse that he had caused had caused someone else to feel that way, and he went back and he made an apology. So your legacy will come in ways that people have been affected but you will never even know.’ Which is true. I thought, OK, then, I just will have a big legacy. I’ll have a foundation, and then I’ll have a legacy of a whole bunch of other people.
TVWeek: There’s been some talk that in 2006 you might walk away from the show. Would you share with me any current thinking on that direction?
Ms. Winfrey: We are now scheduled to go to 2008. And I haven’t thought a day beyond that, because I look at it as election terms. I’ve been elected for four more years and so it’s like high school. Let’s on any given day try to keep your finger on the pulse of happening, what’s current, what’s not overdone, what’s been said but not said so many times that people are sick of hearing it. How do you keep yourself vibrant and vital at the same time? That’s a constant. That’s a thing about this business, especially this daily strip business. You’re only as good as the last show. You can have a marvelous day and then there’s tomorrow.
TVWeek: Well, I have to disagree with you on that one. Whether you do one great show or not, I think the legacy or body of work that you’ve created is a very important one.
Ms. Winfrey: I would agree with you on that. This is the thing: I remember when Geraldo first came on the scene; I remember when everyone was talking about Ricki Lake, is she the new queen of talk? And every year would happen and every time another show would come out and we’re like, `We’ve got to work harder.’ The truth of the matter is we maintained our No. 1 status all these years with ourselves being our greatest competition. We raise the bar for ourselves because we are our own standards. So for me it’s, `We had a really great show. We had a really great season. How do we top that? Now what? What’s next?’
TVWeek: You are an excellent interview. Is there a question that you would’ve asked that I failed to ask you?
Ms. Winfrey: No. I thought this was a great interview. You know why? Because it evolved from an interview into a conversation.