Oprah Winfrey held her first press conference today in Pasadena, CA. to help launch OWN, her fledgling cable network that her executives say is already ranked No. 17 in prime time and No. 24 overall among women 25-54. Unfortunately for the critics who packed the hotel ballroom, Winfrey took only five questions, because she spent most of the time talking about her childhood, what inspires her, and whether she’s in love with herself (more on that later).
Her most compelling quote came at the end of the press conference, when someone asked her to comment on Anderson Cooper’s planned syndicated talk show for the fall and whether he has the potential to become the next Oprah.
“No,” Winfrey said unequivocally. “Will he be the next Anderson Cooper? Yes. This whole idea… it was like me [being asked], ‘Are you going to be the next Phil Donahue?’ I created my own way. I’m a fan of [Cooper’s]. Obviously, he’s very talented. It would be interesting to see who does watch him, and what [he’ll] do that’s different. And I will be rooting for him. He will not, definitively, will not – what I know for sure – he will not be the next Oprah.”
Beyond that, the woman introduced as the “curator, chairman and inspiration who puts the OW in OWN” appeared to filibuster the press conference with tales of her upbringing and fears about starting a network. Though she did make a quip about being “thrown to the wolves,” those wolves, i.e. critics, barely got a chance to get in a word in edgewise. And when they did, Winfrey asked that they stand. (Though she made a joke of it, the journalists did oblige.)
“This has been a revelatory week for me,” Winfrey said. “It was not actually until we were on the air that we fully started to grasp what it means to have a network where you are the OW of OWN.”
Here are a few more quotes from her appearance:
• “Gayle [King] called me from Vegas after we went on air and said ‘Oh my God, OWN has commercials! You have commercials like a real network.’ I didn’t know I loved Febreze so much.”
• ”I fully understand this platform I’ve been given is a gift.”
• ”I was afraid at first. I had much trepidation doing this.”
• ”I believe in the end it’s gonna work. I believed that even if it didn’t work, it was worth the risk. My fear is that people will tire of the repetitions [of programming]. I just said that to the OWN team today, we need to say that before they tell us.”
• ”I’m grateful we weren’t embarrassed. I’m grateful people came.”
• ”I think we will be more than all right. That’s a different way at looking at the business. You serve them and they will come. They will start to feel the difference.”
Someone did get the chance to ask Winfrey whether she was in love with herself – something the Queen of Daytime addressed oh-so-carefully. “I can just see it in print, Oprah fell in love with herself at the age of 49! I am not in love with myself at all,” she said, laughing. “I am loving that I understand who I really am. I am not enamored or dazzled by this fame.”