Over-the-Top Oprah Opulence

November 30, 2010

 On Friday, November 19, I stumbled upon the Oprah Show while I was making a pecan pie for dessert that evening.  It was Oprah’s famous “Giving Back” show.  All the people in the audience had made substantial contributions of their time, talents and treasure during the past year.  This was Oprah’s opportunity to give something back to them.  Boy!  Did she give back!

She came onstage in what appeared to be a black dress, welcomed the audience and then asked how many meditated on a regular basis.  Only a handful of people raised their hands.  Oprah commented somewhat disparagingly on how few were doing it.  Within a minute, and what seemed to me a non sequitur, she steps out of her black dress-turned apron and announces the purpose of her show that day—to give back to these particular audience members.  It was never revealed what these people did to deserve to be in this “special” audience. 

Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things

What followed left me spellbound.  She proceeded to share with all of us, both studio and television audiences, her ultimate favorite things.  In less than one hour each studio audience member was gifted more than $20,000.00 worth of goods and services.  When Oprah introduced each gift, she cited each sponsor—the real gift-givers.  A complete list is available on her website www.oprah.com

At first, the gifts seemed reasonableAndre Walker Hair Care products ($65); Baker’s Edge Lasagne Pan ($49.95); Decoded by Jay-Z ($35); and Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix ($4.50). 

Le Creuset Cookware

Then she stepped it up:  an iPad by Apple ($499); an Elfa Customizable Closet System from the Container Store (Value up to $1,000); Le Creuset Cookware ($599); Dana Rebecca Designs Jessica Leigh Diamond Earrings ($1,900); and a Nikon D3100 Digital SLR Camera ($699.95).

What took my breath away was the Sony BRAVIA LX900 HDTV with 3D ($3,600) with its 52-inch screen.  Had I watched the show more carefully, because, remember, I was busy making my pecan pie and may have stepped away at the critical moment, I would have witnessed her revealing a Volkswagen 2012 Beetle, whose price is not listed on her website.  It is the one item on her 2010 shopping list I did not see given.   Perhaps because it hasn’t been produced yet!  

Why Do I Need to Write About This?  

Eckhart and Oprah

Oprah claims to be spiritual.  She has had numerous spiritual gurus on her show—Eckert Tolle, Rhonda Byrne of The Secret, and New Age inspirational speakers like Michael Beckwith, Wayne Dyer, Jack Canfield, Joe Vitale and countless others.  Many of these gurus tout the Law of Attraction and its power to attract what you think and feel into your life.  All this seems good.  What I take issue with is the over-the-top opulence she displayed on this show and the gluttonous response of the audience. 

If you are an Oprah Show fan, you may recall that she has also had several segments on clutter and hoarding.  Peter Walsh, her clutter guru, and a de-cluttering expert I respect and admire, decries clutter and its influence on our daily life.  Oprah supports this philosophy, yet her show that day negated it. 

What bothers me most is that many of these 45 gifts will end up as clutter even though they are beautiful, trendy and coveted by hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans.  Where do we draw the line?  When is too much too much?  Or enough enough?  Why must we fill our figurative gullet to the brim? 

I was appalled at the audience’s almost hysterical reaction to each gift—screaming, crying, and jumping up and down at a fevered pitch.  We continue to grab for these material items to feel good.  Once the patina of newness has worn off they’re put into a drawer or closet to collect dust. 

Oprah appears conflicted to me.  She wants to be spiritual—a non-material way of being.  At the same time she wants to be popular with the majority of Americans, who languish for the material and see little need to be spiritual. 


It’s possible that she was pressured by her network and the sponsors to do this show.  More than likely, such a show reflects her ambivalence about being spiritual in this materialistic society.  After a while, her Philip Stein Limited Edition 25th Anniversary Oprah watch will sit in a drawer; her Coach Sophia patent satchel will be replaced by something else; and her five-year Netflix membership will expire.  What happens then?  Sooner or later she may discover that her true wealth is within and does not need anything outside herself to connect to it.

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