April 19, 2014

Oprah Winfrey Shares Her Wisdom

hollywoodnews.com: Oprah Winfrey has been on television for over 25 years, but made her first appearance at the Television Critics Association press tour as the creator of OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. Her mandate for programs is to encourage people, with the philosophy she’s brought to The Oprah Winfrey Show over the decades.

“After The Color Purple, I learned that God can dream a bigger dream for you than you can dream for yourself,” Winfrey said. “I try to live in that space that is the universe’s dream for me, the bigger dream. As you heard me say to Barbara Walters, my prayer is: use me. I see myself really as a messenger for a message that is greater than myself. The message is: You can. You can. You can. You can do and you can be and you can grow and it can get better and it doesn’t matter where you were born or who your mother was or how many doctorate degrees you did have or your family had or your father had. It doesn’t matter. You can. You can do.”

Your OWN Show has contestants competing to get their own show on OWN. Will it be the spiritual talk show or Zach Anner’s travel show for people in wheelchairs? Our America with Lisa Ling explores issues of transgenders, drug addicts and sex offender camps in the forest.

“My goal in my lifetime is to really help people to understand that we’re all as human beings to evolve,” Winfrey continued. “So the evolving of consciousness is really what I’m about but I’m not telling people that’s what it is. All of us are here to become more of who we are, of who you really were born to be. Every single one of us in this room has that. That is how we are all equal, because I was born to be who the creator intended, whether you believe in the creator or not. Whatever you believe put you here, you were born to perform the highest expression of that coming. That is my goal as my personal self and it is also my goal to help other people see that in themselves. I fully understand that this platform that I have been given is a gift.”

She’s not preaching about OWN though. Part of the philosophy is to just BE positive, not to force positivity on people. “The whole network is about encouraging people, for the most part, to live with an open heart. It’s about opening yourself to all that is possible for you and extending yourself in grace and gratitude for what you have. There is a spiritual thread to it. I don’t think it’s wise for us to go around announcing we’re the spiritual channel. There are many different ways to assert the nature of what is good without calling it good TV, without calling it spiritual, labeling it that.”

Winfrey has learned her lesson. There’s no doubt that she has changed people’s lives, both hands on and just through broadcasting issues on her show. She can’t take credit for that though.

“One of the things that makes me not anxious but accepting the challenge at this time is that I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes. Being on the air for the past 25 years, I’ve learned a lot about myself, like all of us and our jobs. You learn from what worked and what didn’t work. I made a big mistake about 10-12 years ago of calling what we were doing on television ‘Change Your Life TV.’ That came out of a natural organic process for me, meaning that whenever I would meet people, people would always say to me, ‘Oprah, you changed my life.’ I started to try to hear that and not just dismiss it. I said, ‘What actually changed in your life?’ People would tell me the various things. ‘I went back to school, got a degree. I stopped beating my kids because of you. I left a bad marriage. I was abused.’ I came back to my team and said maybe there’s something to this Change Your Life thing. We started a new season calling it that and felt immediately the pushback from some of you probably in this room.”

One of the television critics actually put it in perspective for Winfrey. “I appreciate good criticism. I don’t appreciate criticism that’s just done from somebody who hasn’t done their research and isn’t looking at it from an objective analytical point of view. My thing is if you’re going to tell the story, tell the whole story. I read one critic that did a really nice analysis of who was I to try to change somebody’s life. In reading that passage, I thought there’s some truth to that. Who am I to say that I’m actually changing your life? What I realized was that’s not for me to say. That’s for somebody else to say. That’s a big lesson I learned. Don’t go around telling people you’re going to change their lives. Let them tell you if that’s what their experience was. Having learned that lesson, [I’m] moving forward now and wanting to create television that we feel is meaningful and mindful.”

Winfrey won’t buy into the polarizing television of extreme news and reality TV debauchery. OWN could stand out in the cable listings. “All the divisions between the right and left and red and blue, most people are in the middle. Most people are really good. Most people are really, really good. When I started The Oprah Winfrey Show and we were going to be syndicated around the country, I felt pretty confident that show would be successful. Being in this space right now, I know that going forward, it’s really only going to get better and there are enough people, there’s a critical mass of people, we haven’t found them all, who want something better, who want better programming. I know that’s true. I see them every day.”

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About Fred Topel

Fred Topel has been an entertainment journalist in Los Angeles since 1999, for websites like Daily Radar, About.com, Crave Online and Sci Fi Wire. Follow his celebrity encounters on Twitter @FredTopel.

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