In all my years of blogging, I've stayed away from the topic of Oprah, largely because I think the woman does a lot of great work in the world. I've grown up seeing her as the woman who gives away cars to her audience, has a magazine I can't help but love, and who uses her platform--and money--to help people around the world.
Oprah is considered one of the world's most powerful women, and the products she endorses soar. This year, she used her money to buy into Weight Watchers, with a roller coaster of a commercial that you can watch on YouTube airing over the pond and set soon I'm sure to debut on our North American airwaves.
Now, I won't talk about the merits or any criticisms of Weight Watchers itself. Programs "work" for people for different reasons, and I've encountered plenty of people who swear by it.
But if you watch the ad, you'll see montages of Oprah talking about her lifelong struggle to fix her body with images of her looking exasperated running. She does what she does best and finds a way to resonate with women around the world. Time Magazine says she has created an emotional outpouring online, with people feeling inspired by the ad and relating to her in a deep way.
But it's sad to me that this marketing works. It's sad to me that this 60 year old powerhouse of a woman is considered so damn fabulous, but it comes with this condition--in spite of her weight. Maybe there's someone smarter than me telling Oprah to keep her weight foregrounded as her issue that makes her relatable--would we love her so much if she dare be rich, powerful, giving, AND physically match our perfect ideal?
Conspiracy theory aside, I grew up watching the Oprah show and seeing her body change with the years through ups and downs of yo yo dieting. I have watched the clips of her talking about the fat she said she'd never gain back.
And here we are.
Maybe the lesson we can take from Oprah is one of caution. Her life isn't less because she was "overweight" for some of it. Her contributions didn't mean more when her BMI was where it is "supposed" to be. We often think that magically we will feel better when we "fix" our bodies. We do the same with money, or love--thinking a big salary or a relationship will be all that we need to complete us.
But if we make ourselves a problem, if we keep thinking of ourselves as a series of problems to be addressed before we can truly be enough, we miss the point. My biggest struggles--my eating disorder, my relationship woes, missed opportunities--come from feeling "not good enough." I am afraid that what happens when someone who is clearly living a big life like Oprah says that she too is not enough, based solely on the shape of her body, is that we all get a message that we aren't good enough 'til we are perfect. This "not enough" message applies to the most successful female I can think of . Imagine if we discounted all of Donald Trump's work now that he's in the spotlight with something about his weight or receding hairline. There's more going on here than a problem with Oprah's body--and it has to do with successful women.
Our lives as women are enough whether we live them at a BMI of 30 or 21. Our health ought to matter, but at some point we have to remember that weight is a byproduct of health--and stop making ourselves sick by obsessing over the numbers. What would happen if Oprah were to focus on her health and use her personal chefs and private trainers and access to anything else she needs to take care of herself to prioritize her health instead of attacking the fat she deems so problematic? I'm not sure, but I am sure that she couldn't buy a 10% share in it. Please remember that if you're feeling tears eyed over her ad...