Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Live as TV’s Most Influential Guru Advises by Robyn Okrant. I read this memoir at the end of August/beginning of September 2015 and wrote the review shortly after finishing the book.
I bought this book for $1 at the Dollar Tree. Score!
I don’t remember hearing about Robyn Okrant’s life experiment in 2008 when she was actually living Oprah. In fact, I don’t recall having ever heard about Okrant’s experiment or the book she wrote about it. So I came to this memoir with no preconceived notions. (That happens so seldom, but I love it when it does.)
So for any other latecomers to this book, the premise is that for an entire calendar year, whatever Oprah said her audience needed to do (via her television show, O magazine, or the official Oprah website), Okrant did. When Oprah said every woman needs a crisp white shirt, dark jeans, and leopard print shoes, Okrant bought those articles of clothing and wore them (as shown on the photo on the book jacket). Okrant turned to Oprah resources for makeup tips and recipes. Okrant decluttered and decorated her home according to the word of Oprah. When Oprah said, “Watch this movie” or “Read this book,” Okrant did it.
Okrant kept meticulous records of the time and money she spent living Oprah. (Her monthly spread sheet information is included in the book.) All told, Okrant spent just shy of 1,203 hours and $4,782 living Oprah in 2008.
(When Okrant started her project, she was blogging about it. The book deal came later.)
Overall, liked this book very much. I found the whole “walk[ing] the walk of the Queen of Talk” premise fascinating. I’ve never been a huge Oprah fan, although of course, I am aware of the phenomenon that is Oprah. If I ever sat down and watched an entire episode of her show, it was in the last century. I have read a few (thrift store purchased) issues of O magazine (but Oprah’s favorite things are all out of my price range). I was really interested to find out what sorts of things Oprah might tell people (women, mostly) they should do.
The part of Okrant’s writing here I liked the least was her super corny joking and the way she usually felt the need to point out she had just made a corny joke, which came across to me as a written version of her elbow jabbing me in the ribs, letting me know I should be laughing. Thankfully, as the book progressed, there was less of this sort of joking and less of Okrant’s (written) elbow in my ribs. By the end of the book, I had laughed spontaneously and out loud at several truly funny cracks Okrant made (one of which was referring to Oprah as her own personal Chicken Little).
I first started liking Okrant (as a writer and a person) when she got real about her scoliosis. In my eyes, this personal sharing (in a highly personal book) made Okrant seem like not some whiny, busy, “broke” grad student I couldn’t relate to, but a like a real person.
The parts of this book I liked the best were the times Okrant critiqued the dissonance between the messages Oprah gave her audience. Why does Oprah sign the Best Life Challenge contract, then let herself be shown on TV a few days later eating a decadent ice cream treat? Why does Oprah tell her audience it’s what’s inside that counts, then tells them they need to buy specific clothes and have those clothes tailored to fit perfectly? Yes, I loved the critiques and analysis, and Okrant was up for the task.
I am envious of Okrant for picking a topic that was certainly hot at the time, figuring out a project she could carry out related to the topic, writing herself a blog on the topic, then getting a book deal out of the experiment. Good for her! I wish I could pull of something like that.
I would like to read more books by Robyn Okrant. Another memoir (maybe about her life with scoliosis) would be fine, but I’d dig some nonfiction. More analysis, more critique, please Ms. Okrant.