Media mogul Oprah Winfrey is the cover star for The Hollywood Reporter‘s latest issue and for the cover story, she talks her deal with Apple, leaving “60 minutes,” the “Leaving Neverland” backlash, and her thoughts on the U.S presidency in 2020.
On Being Sometimes, the Only Woman and Black Person in Powerful Rooms
Oh, for so many years, there wasn’t a brown person or another female in a 50-mile radius. I just sort of got used to it.
It’s hard to be heard when there’s only one. I remember my friends would say — actually, people in college who were not my friends — would say, “Oh, you’re a token,” and I’d say, “Yes, but I’m a paid token and I’m going to use it.” It actually strengthened my resolve. Any time I’ve been in a situation where I felt marginalized or someone else was marginalized, I’ve used that information as what not to do. For example, when the Oprah show first went national, I went to the management at WLS-TV [the ABC-owned station in Chicago] — I won’t name names — and I said, “Everybody needs more money in this national show.” They said, direct quote, “Why do they need more money? They’re a bunch of girls.” I said, “Well, it’s a bunch of girls who are now doing a national show.” And they said, “They’re in the same room, with the same desks, and the same office, on the same street. They don’t need any more money.” So that first year I gave everybody bonuses. I had a big dinner and my idea of being creative was to have $10,000 rolled up in toilet paper rolls at the dinner as gifts because I couldn’t get management to pay them. Then I went to management and said, “If you don’t pay them, I’m not going to work.” By the next year, it was like, “I’m not going to keep paying them. I shouldn’t have to pay everybody out of my salary.” That informed me that if I ever get my own business, I’m going to pay people well.
On why she recently left 60 Minutes
“I’ve removed myself from that. It was not the best format for me … How should I say this? Never a good thing when I have to practice saying my name and have to be told that I have too much emotion in my name…. I think I did seven takes on just my name because it was ‘too emotional.’ I go, ‘Is the too much emotion in the Oprah part or the Winfrey part?’ I was working on pulling myself down and flattening out my personality — which, for me, is actually not such a good thing.”
On whether she wants to return to acting
“No, it doesn’t feed me anymore … I think to be really, really good at it, you’ve got to do it a lot. You’ve got to work at it. And it’s got to be something that you have true passion about. I don’t think it’s something you can dabble in. It was fun to be Mrs. Which, and I did that because I wanted to go to New Zealand and wear the costumes. But no, it doesn’t feed my soul anymore.”
On the 2020 U.S Presidential Election
“Right now, I’m studying the field. I’m reading Shortest Way Home by [Pete Buttigieg], I call him Buttabeep, Buttaboop. (Laughs.) The name’s either going to really hurt or [really help] — I think it’s going to help, actually. Just the other day, I was at Apple with Spielberg and we were in the hallway talking about, (employing a dramatic voice) “What are we going to do?” And I said, “Have you heard of this Butta guy?” He goes, “No, Butta-who?” I go, “Buttabeep, Buttaboop. Look him up.
I like saying “Butta.” (Laughs.) So I’m reading about him. I have Kamala’s book. I just got the Vanity Fair piece on Beto [O’Rourke]. I’d done some research background stuff on him before. I already know Cory [Booker]. So I’m quietly figuring out where I’m going to use my voice in support.
On her Apple Deal
“Apple exposes you to a whole lot more people. The thing that I’m really, really excited about — as I said that day — is creating the world’s largest book club. And if I want to do a film or a doc series … The best place for [my docuseries on mental health] is not on OWN. Because you don’t have the bandwidth and you have to create a completely different audience and then you have to have marketing.”
On the “Leaving Neverland” Backlash & her “After Neverland” Special
“I didn’t even have to be in it. I didn’t have to take on all that. I said to myself the other day, “Why did I do that?”
I don’t regret it. It wasn’t really regret, it was just … actually, I was having dinner with friends and they were saying, “We saw you were in that.” Like, “Why did you do that?” This is what happened. I saw it, and I was shaken by it. I wasn’t even shaken by the fact that it was Michael Jackson, I was shaken by the fact that [filmmaker] Dan Reed had done a really good job of showing the pattern, and for years, I had been trying to show people the pattern. I’d been trying to say it’s not about the moment, it’s about the seduction. The first thing I said to Gayle [King] when we watched it was, “Gayle, you’ve got to get those guys [on CBS This Morning].” She Instagrammed about it, and I go, “No, you shouldn’t Instagram, you should just get those guys.”
Read more and see more photos on The Hollywood Reporter