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Whoopi Goldberg: My First Day at The View

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After her first morning on air Sept. 4, The View’s new moderator—a 51-year-old grandma—checked in with PEOPLE’s Mark Dagostino.

We haven’t seen much of you lately, until now. What have you been up to?

After the supposed remarks I made [mocking President Bush during a 2004 Democratic fund-raiser], it got very difficult to get work. It was scary. I’ve taken every President to task, but I started thinking, “Do I stop being political?” At that time no one was saying anything that wasn’t in step [with the Bush Administration]. It’s okay now to be an American again. It’s okay to get the dialogue going.

Barbara Walters seems to want to dialogue about your fashion sense.

Everybody wants to dress me up! But I’ve never been a glamour-puss. I like comfort. I love The Gap. And there’s a company out of Vermont that sells mismatched socks, so I started buying them.

How’s life as a grandma [to Amarah, 17, Jerzey, 11, and Mason, 9]?

My first granddaughter is turning 18 on my birthday—it’s great. My daughter [Alex] is a much better parent than she was raised around. I wanted her to be my friend. Now we realize [kids] need that structure!

Speaking of structure, you’ve lost some weight.

43 lbs. It’s amazing. The lady from L.A. Weight Loss said to me, “Your body is [like] a car. And you have to keep it in tune. [Eating the wrong foods] is like putting diesel into an engine that doesn’t use it.” That made sense.

What will set you apart from past View moderators?

I just know that no one else is me. And I’ll be bringing me, every day.