Let me see; we’ve got ABC,
CBS, NBC and … Oprah? OK, she’s not quite there yet with the big shots,
but she is getting closer. Oprah Winfrey now owns her own television network. Yep, she owns OWN. Hot damn. How
about that! Pretty amazing for any one person, but especially amazing
for an African American, a woman, and one with Winfrey’s early childhood
story and experiences.
And her new television
network is going to be classic Oprah. The programming
will focus on relationship issues, raising children,
exposing people to healthier life choices, weight issues and financial
issues — basically, her network will deal with subjects that everyday
people living everyday lives have been tuning in to her talk show to
see for years. Now the subjects will get expanded coverage in a range
of shows and programs. Oddly enough, Oprah herself won’t be seen all
that much on the network because her talk show (including reruns) is under a very exclusive
contract until 2011. So Oprah won’t be on Oprah — I mean, on OWN. In
a way, that’s probably better. She will continue to be on much more
highly profiled stations, and it’s through that visibility that she’s gained the exposure to now have her own network.
Friends and I often joke that
Oprah is taking over the world. Winfrey is the queen of media with her show, her website, her production
company, her magazine, her satellite radio station and now the network.
Of course, world domination by a single individual is usually cause
for great alarm, but for some reason, rather than recoil in horror at
Oprah’s media acquisitions and increasing influence, I tend to greet
it all with applause.
Now, I have never met Oprah
and have no idea if she’s great dinner company or a great person to
work for or to work with or to be around. Maybe she’s a perfectionist
and a mini-tyrant. I’m sure that she is not all peaches and cream 24
hours a day. Frankly, it’s my belief that it’s impossible to become
as influential as she has become without focusing on your own self-interests and insisting that things be done your way. But Oprah is one of those people
who actually express their sincere compassion in real actions, not just in
lip service. Regardless of the actual sum, whether a lot or a little,
many of us give money rather than time because money is easier. Winfrey
gives both, but it is the time that she devotes to her causes of interest
that most impresses me.
For many, Oprah transcends the
color of the skin she is packaged in. There are pros and cons to this
type of thinking, but Oprah’s status is a
pretty powerful reminder to, as Dr. King said, judge people not by the color of their skin but by the content
of their character. It is Oprah’s character that has allowed her to
play on the big boys’ playing field and win. It’s amazing that a woman
born in 1954 in a racially segregated Mississippi where black folks
really needed to know their place or risk fatal consequences — a woman
who by her own admission was not thought of as a "pretty"
child; a woman who suffered abuse in the care of those she was supposed
to trust — never gave up hope and never doubted her potential.
She is truly inspiring.
There is a delicate balance,
however, that Winfrey and other African-American celebrities and
leaders must maintain on those pedestals that adoration built. Although she transcends race
in the eyes of many, she is in fact the ethnic reality of her ancestors
and her life experience. To view her with color-blind eyes actually lessens
her achievements, and for me, less of Oprah is not a good thing.
Of course, the more an individual
expresses her opinions and takes risks,
the bigger target she becomes for criticism and judgment. But
if anyone can handle it, it’s Oprah. I do find it amusing that so far
her website has not censored many of the negative responses to her involvement
in American political discourse. Besides, now that she owns the Oprah
Winfrey Network, we might see her green-light a payback movie of the
week, using the email statements of her critics as imbecilic dialogue.
Yep, I’m sure there are great advantages of owning one’s own network!
But considering how Oprah has dealt with criticism in the past,
she’ll probably take the high road yet again. Ah, there’s that “content
of one’s character” in action again.