This is an extract from our cover story with Oprah Winfrey. For more stories like this, pick up the April issue of InStyle Australia, available March 15th.
Oprah Winfrey is sitting on a couch in an L.A. photo studio, wearing a very flattering gray jersey jumpsuit and eating some shrimp (“No Weight Watchers points!”) from the catering table. The outfit is doubly fortunate because, as she explains wryly, “I’ve been wearing it for a week.” Fires are currently raging around Winfrey’s home in Montecito, Calif., so she can’t get to the property, making do by staying in a hotel.
We were together three weeks before Winfrey received the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes and delivered an instantly seminal speech that married the blights of racism and sexism with her uncommon vision. “I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon!” she thundered. “And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women … and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”
The speech left many speechless, immediately rousing a call for Winfrey to run for president, with #Oprah2020 trending on Twitter for days. And a remark to The Los Angeles Times from her longtime partner, Stedman Graham (“It’s up to the people. She would absolutely do it”), only increased the fervor. But then, another thud back down to earth: The week after the Golden Globes brought a second blistering attack on Montecito by Mother Nature—flooding rains that resulted in the region drowning in mud (which Winfrey shared with the world on her Instagram) and, at press time, 20 fatalities.
But when we talked, it was clear that whatever may be happening in the universe, hers or ours, Winfrey has a very Oprah way of reconciling it.
Laura Brown: How are you feeling?
Oprah Winfrey: Well, it’s a little unnerving to have your property surrounded by fire. I ask everything that shows up in my life, “What are you here to teach me?” But I don’t need this lesson. I try to be the most grateful, the most appreciative, but this has given me great perspective. Thankfully, we’re through the process of “What do you take when you think the house is burning down?”
LB: What would you take?
OW: The first thing is the animals. Get all the dogs out. And then important art and things that actually mean something to me, like my collection of Pulitzer Prize books. My slave documents. Gayle [King, Winfrey’s best friend] said, “What about your journals?” I said, “Meh, let ’em burn.” Now I’m going to end the year on a high note of gratefulness. I’m going to certainly be thankful for every firefighter I ever see from now on. I think back to the time in 1985 when I was away shooting The Color Purple and my dream was to have a beautiful home and be surrounded by things that matter to me. So I’m really thrilled that I’ve been able to create that life, the one I was dreaming of in 1985. I get a lot of comfort from that.