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Life lessons from Oprah

Meredith L. Cohen

Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever received have come from Oprah. (The rest of what I know has largely been gleaned from the “Age Doesn’t Matter Unless You’re A Cheese” page-a-day box calendar and a six-year-old who explained that it’s just stupid to say there’s a man on the moon, that what appears to be a smiley face is actually a collection of dark plains on the Earth-facing side of the moon where magma from its mantle once flowed out onto the surface and flooded lunar craters. Or something like that.) First and foremost, watching Oprah for so many years has taught me that my master life plan should include a strategy for embracing my spirit, fulfilling my dreams and living truly so that I am the best me I can be.As such, my central and immediate objective is to become friends with Oprah.Being a Friend of Oprah (FOO) comes with more privileges than a black American Express card and those which will be bestowed on fractional owners at the forthcoming Residences at The Little Nell. Take, for instance, Oprah’s best friend, Gayle King. Rumors have circulated for years that when Oprah made her first million, she gave Gayle half. And so on. And so on. Gayle is also a frequent lifestyle-type contributor to Oprah’s daily TV show; she holds the ambiguous title of editor-at-large at Oprah’s wildly successful O Magazine; and when Oprah’s XM Radio channel, “Oprah & Friends,” debuts this fall, Gayle and Oprah will co-host a weekly chat fest. (The rest of the channel’s programming will be filled with other pals and experts who regularly appear on Oprah’s TV show and in her magazines). With all of Gayle’s success, it’s tempting to wallow in self pity or beat myself up for having so many friends with no clout due to their work in the unglamorous and low-paying non-profit sector. But, I am instead determined to hold my head up high, take a page out of her book and find myself a sugar sister who can be the meal ticket to my very own wholly evolved soul. Dr. Phil knows what I’m talking about.After years of disappointing results from countless fad diets, much to my relief, Oprah has also taught me that it’s finally all right to blame personal weight gain on the continent of Africa. On a recent show, she explained that her latest setback in the weight loss/gain/loss/gain/loss/gain/loss/gain arena was through no fault of her own – the treadmill at the hotel at which she was staying in Africa was on the fritz and she was served too many refined sugars. No matter the private chefs and personal trainers who have been on her payroll 24/7 for the past few decades, Oprah has, at long last, made it okay to pack on the pounds if the Dark Continent is to blame. I smell a boycott (FOO Against Africa Unite!).Speaking of boycotts, I’ve learned from Oprah that with blacklisting come lots of ass-kissing. David Letterman made a stupid joke about Oprah’s name when he hosted the 1995 Oscars. He felt the icy sting of being ignored by Oprah for years afterwards, despite his frequent public attempts to woo her as a guest. But his persistency was rewarded with his highest ratings in 11 years in December, when she finally ended the deep freeze and made an appearance on his show to promote the premiere of “The Color Purple” on Broadway (of which she is a producer). And, last spring, luxury goods retailer Hermès made the grave mistake of closing their Paris store for a private event fifteen minutes before Oprah appeared unscheduled and unannounced, traveler’s checks in hand, ready to spend. She cried racism when her entry was refused. The company initially scoffed at the charge. But, a week later, someone must have translated into French her name and the scope of her influence because Hermès finally issued a statement denying any wrongdoing. However, the half-cocked apology didn’t warm the cockles of Oprah’s heart, so Hermès’ CEO was see n on her show’s season premiere in September to say he was really, really, really, really, really sorry. The groveling worked, as Oprah rescinded her ban on all things French and in turn, a universal sigh of relief could be heard when it was reported that sales of Hermès $25,000 Birkin Bag 35-cm. in Crocodile with Palladium Hardware did not suffer.The lessons are practically endless: Chick lit is chic. No company can taste true success unless its name cleverly spells something cool forwards and backwards (e.g. Harpo Productions). There’s no shame in putting your picture on the cover of your magazine every month (just as long as you also pose with golden retriever puppies every once in a while). The rich and famous can expect that Nate guy to decorate their homes for free. Drinking water from a large mug through a straw is the epitome of sophistication (who else besides a redneck would actually touch lips to glass?). After you win a boatload of Emmy awards, say you’re no longer submitting your name for consideration for the sole charitable purpose of giving other people a chance at winning (wink, wink). And so on. And so on.While achieving billionaire TV idol status might seem impossible to the laywoman, like supermodels who wear their anorexia with seemingly little effort, years of watching Oprah has taught me that anything is possible with hard work, a bit of luck, product placement and a pithy catch phrase or two. You go, girl.Always remember: if Oprah builds it, they will come (with the unfortunate exception of the Oxygen network, which has barely made a blip on Nielsen’s radar screen despite Oprah’s marginal involvement. Meredith Cohen once worked there. And had stock options. Thanks for nothing.). Questions or comments may be e-mailed to meredith_cohen@hotmail.com


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