The Word: Oprah’s brush with racism in Switzerland

Oprah Winfrey acknowledges the cheers from students and audience as she receives an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during Harvard University's 362nd Commencement Exercises in Cambridge, Massachusetts May 30, 2013.  Credit: Reuters
Oprah Winfrey acknowledges the cheers from students and audience as she receives an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University in May. Credit: Reuters

Oprah Winfrey doesn’t face racism the way other people do. No one says the N-word to her face, because who would dare? But what about those rare occasions when she meets someone who doesn’t know they’re talking to one of the most powerful people in show business? Then even Oprah has to deal with some truly terrible nonsense.

“I was in Zurich the other day, in a store whose name I will not mention. I didn’t have my eyelashes on, but I was in full Oprah Winfrey gear. I had my little Donna Karan skirt and my little sandals. But obviously ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ is not shown in Zurich,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “I go into a store and I say to the woman, ‘Excuse me, could I see the bag right above your head?’ and she says to me, ‘No. It’s too expensive.’”

Oprah says she politely asked several more times to see her chosen bag, but the saleswoman flat out refused, instead offering her some cheaper ones. In the end, Oprah quietly bowed out — which was the best revenge, really. “Gayle said, ‘I would have gone back in there and made a ‘Pretty Woman’ moment and said ‘Big mistake,’ but then I thought, ‘No, she gets commission.’”

She’s also presumably getting a tongue-lashing from her boss, once they realize the big fish they let slip.



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