1 In Women Now

the day Oprah called me

Are you catching some of the top stories of the decade on newscasts? One of the clips I saw last night was of Oprah making her announcement that there’d be no more show after next year.

I guess, if I think about it, Oprah plays a big role in one of my top personal stories of the decade. My first book was about to come out, 40 Over 40; 40 Things Every Woman Needs to Know About Getting Dressed. I was in a meeting with my publisher who had hired an independent PR person to create a book campaign. This PR person had told the publisher that 40 Over 40 would be a PR problem, not a PR opportunity. Why? Because, as she reported, “No one in the media is interested in women over 40. They don’t associate women over 40 with anything glamorous or sexy.” This was the spring of 2000.

I was flabbergasted. I could not believe that “the media” could be so willing to write off women over 40. We ARE fabulous! We ARE sexy! We DO matter in the world. How WRONG could they be?

Well, someone got it wrong. In August that year, 40 Over 40 was all over the front page of the Lifestyle section of the Chicago Tribune. It was all about the “M” word (matronly) and how not to look matronly (Chapter 2). I thought to myself, “Hmm. Chicago. Oprah is in Chicago. Maybe someone on her show will see this article.” Which is exactly what happened. Rita Thompson, a field producer, saw the article and pitched an idea for the show.

Two weeks later, I got the call. Well, I got the message. Here’s what happened. My youngest daughter, Caitlin, was a hip hop dancer, choreographer, and head of the hip hop troupe at her high school. She had worked super hard all week getting the troupe ready for that Friday’s performance at the pep rally. She’d been fretting about it all week–lots of pressure. I had changed my client’s appointment so I could be there to watch her and show her my support.

So when my business phone rang that Friday morning, I didn’t answer it. There was no way I was going to get hung up on a phone call and miss the performance. I let it go to voicemail and then listened to the message: “This is the Oprah Winfrey Show calling and we’d like to talk to you about being on the show.”

I saved the message and called my folks. “The Oprah Winfrey show just called!” I half screamed and half cried into the phone to my dad who answered. “What should I do?” I said. Dad said, “Call them back.” “I can’t,” I told him. “I’m going to Caitlin’s pep rally.”

On the way to the pep rally, I called my publisher. “The Oprah Winfrey Show called!” I said. “We know,” she answered. “We gave them your phone number. What did they say?” “Well, I don’t know. I haven’t talked to them,” I said. I explained to an astonished publisher that I couldn’t speak to them because I was going to my daughter’s pep rally. She wasn’t too pleased.

I got to the pep rally, watched the performance with great pride and gathered with Caitlin and her friends when the rally was over to talk about how terrific they’d been. Then I said to Caitlin, “Something really interested happened. The Oprah Winfrey Show called.” “What did they say?” Caitlin asked. “Well, nothing yet. I haven’t talked to them. I came to see you first.”

Caitlin’s friend’s mouth dropped. Christina turned from me to Caitlin, her eyes huge, and said, “Oh . . . my . . . God . . . Caitlin. You’re . . . more important . . . than . . . Oprah!”

She was right, of course. Caitlin was and is more important than Oprah. Being on the Oprah Winfrey Show is professionally probably the best PR gig an author could hope for and I’m thrilled that it happened to me. But having my daughter, through the eyes of her peers, know just how important she was to me . . . well, that’s as they say, priceless.

Caitlin shopping

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1 Comment

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    January 10, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    hi Brenda, I think that is so very well done of you to go to Caitlin’s dance before you called Oprah. you are a GREAT mom!

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