Interviewing Oprah: Don't Get Caught Up in My Hype
There is a thin line between tooting your own horn and being the Kanye West of bragging so hard people want to punch you in the face.
In my “real” life (i.e. not here on the interwebs), I stay on the humble side of the line, regularly forgetting (or refusing?) to share my accomplishments with those around me because, for whatever reason, I get a tad bit embarrassed when people make a big deal out of things (even when they’re actually a big deal). But being a good citizen of the web — and someone who has built her career online — means sharing some of the awesome things that have happen in my life… and this sometimes leaves me feeling like a big ol’ fraud.
Let me explain.
Back in December 2013, I got a call from my (dope!) editor at Essence asking if I was interested and able to interview Oprah, Forest Whitiker, Michael B. Jordan, and Chiwetel Ejiofor for the mag’s digital property.
In my mind I was like, Would I be INTERESTED?! Seriously? I’d do it for free! But I played it cool and said yes (and sent the invoice later—I ain’t no fool!).
On December 11, 2013, I had five glorious minutes with Oprah, asking exactly two (pre-approved) questions about her role in The Butler. Then I sat in the room and listened while Essence EIC Vanessa Bush chatted with Ms. Winfrey for the magazine, luxuriating in the fact that I was just a few feet away from a living legend. And a billionaire! I was hoping that some of Oprah’s massive wealth would get transferred to me by osmosis, but alas, it did not.
After meeting Ms. Winfrey, I floated on cloud nine but I couldn’t tell anyone about it … until now.
Earlier this week I shared the picture of me and OPRRRRAAAAAAAH and the kudos came in unstoppable waves. People liked, commented, and even shared my picture, saying they knew someone who knew Oprah.
And I get it. I mean, it’s Oprah. Meeting someone who is not only a self-made billionaire, but a trailblazer in media, and who LIVED on our TV screens for over 25 years is a big damn deal.
But is it life-changing?
I suppose it can be. I suppose someone may see my photo and hire me as a writer (uh, seriously – email me) because I’ve interviewed Oprah.
But right now, at this moment, it’s a cool experience — and I will cherish it always — but that’s pretty much it.
Other than having the memory of my five-minute convo with Auntie O and a freelance check for my work, I’ve got nothing else to show for it. Zilch.
And this is the part where I start feeling like a bit of a fraud.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into the comments and likes, but seeing people’s reaction to my photo with Oprah makes me feel like they’re expecting me to be constantly doing something fabulous, like getting President Obama on the phone or counting my millions, because I have finally “arrived.” When in truth my life is pretty much the same as it was pre-Oprah.
I still juggle multiple freelance gigs to pay the bills; I’m still working on my next novel and get frustrated when the others aren’t flying off the shelves (seriously, buy one); I’m still arguing with Le Kid about whatever it is 8-year-olds aren’t supposed to do, but he’s obsessed with doing; I still write nights, weekends, and whenever I can; and my bank account is still waiting for its very own bailout.
See, “success” is a tricky thing, and people define it in various ways.
While many look at my bylines and five-minute-chat with Oprah as “success,” I don’t.
Although each of these things have been wonderful, if I can’t pay my student loan bills at the end of the month or take a trip whenever I want, am I really successful?
At times, social media makes me feel like a fraud. It probably makes us all feel like frauds.
I mean, it’s easy to share our vacation photos, promotions, and new shoes, but how many of us tell our “followers” we can’t pay the bills, hate our jobs, or have credit scores so low Suze Orman couldn’t even help us bounce back?
Most of us don’t share the ugly parts. Hell, most of us don’t even want to be reminded of them ourselves.
But if I can impart one thing to you while I’m on this crazy, frightening, amazing journey of living life on my own terms it's this:
Don’t measure yourself by the standards or expectations of others, and don’t ever, ever get caught up in the hype. Ever.