She is the diva of daytime discourse, so celebrated that after only two years on national TV, viewers are writing nearly as many letters to her about her new curly coiffure (“Dear Ofray, You look like a frizzy-headed chicken…”)and her ever-diminishing poundage as about The Oprah Winfrey Show itself. Oprah has won an Emmy, come close to an Oscar, foiled Phil Donahue, brought her annual income up to an estimated $8 million and stopped to think, “With all this fame and money, I have to do something more than buy shoes.”
This past year her attention turned to compelling social issues, and her earthy style made her this country’s most approachable activist. She took her show to Georgia to confront the Committee to Keep Forsyth County White and other residents of the ultimate no-blacks-allowed neighborhood. She brought Mark Mathabane, the author of Kaffir Boy, to her program and helped make his antiapartheid autobiography a best-seller.
This conscientious activity has hardly transformed her into another Dick Gregory; Oprah says she’s only losing weight so she can fit into a size 10 leather skirt. Still, in a year that has seen blacks in the forefront in politics (Jesse Jackson), movies (Eddie Murphy), music (Whitney Houston) and prime-time TV (Bill Cosby), Oprah is not only the dominant voice on daytime television, she has also become a more eloquent one.
Next year she wants to take her show to South Africa. She knows that racial problems remain profound in America—earlier this year she was refused entrance to a Manhattan boutique—but apartheid distresses her more. “It is a black holocaust to me,” she says. In past years, when anyone suggested that Oprah was expanding, she immediately ran to a mirror. In 1987 it was her presence that grew larger than life.