Oprah: A True Bulletproof Diva

May 31, 2005

Oprah Winfrey 

I have mixed feelings about Oprah– conflicting opinions, I should say. While I think that her show is uplifting, and does a lot of good for a lot of people, at the same time, I think that the show has become little more than a vehicle for perpetuating fluff, under the guise of trying to get people to improve themselves. I've watched her show off and on through the years, and there were a few good years. But now, the show seems to have a scattered focus. One day, we are watching people nominate worthy individuals in their community for recognition through Oprah's Angel Network; the next day, we are subject to hearing yet another boring story about how Oprah's best friend, Gayle, can't find a man. But we all lose focus and wander from time to time, so it's no big deal, and other shows have done worse.

My biggest complaint about the Oprah Show is the fact that she is constantly talking about weddings, marriage, marital relationships, and raising children, yet she has done none of these things herself. I often wonder, why are these women listening to her? Doesn't it occur to them that Oprah is not even married herself? Then I realize, that Oprah has never claimed to be an expert on any of these topics. She always invites a panel of experts, or people who have "been there" to relate their stories or to share their expertise with the audience. Oprah only acts as the faciliator.

My only other complaint about Oprah is about the show where she had Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger on, in the middle of the whole Gray Davis Recall embarrassment. Now, if she'd only had Maria on, I would have no complaints, because it's a well-known fact that Oprah and Maria are close friends. But to have Arnold on in the middle of all that seemed to set a political tone to the show, and it seemed (at least to me) that Oprah was, indirectly, endorsing Arnold's run for governor of California. Frankly, I think his visit to her show contributed a great deal to his victory. I find it interesting that few people commented on this.

It seems that people are content to continue bashing her Book Club, the books she chooses, her ending of the first book club, and her spat with Jonathan Franzen:

When Oprah petulantly cancelled her Book Club, she acted out TV's norm in the real world– the norm that consequence need not be considered.  There were consequences, of course: if Oprah really had the ability to make eight million people believe literature was important, she also had the ability to make them believe the world's writers couldn't collectively produce twelve good books a year.  This is damning, and damaging, and really pisses me off.  She has the right– is allowed– to discuss books; she has no right to casually dismiss contemporary writers en masse, especially when her dismissal has real consequences in the real world of literature.  So, yes, the lit crowd is suspicious of Oprah, and with good reason.  Is this suspicion based, in part, in snobbery?  You bet.

This is an excerpt of a debate on the matter (link via Bookslut).

Some people seem to think that just because Oprah has a large amount of influence over her audience, or rather, that her audience likes to emulate her in a big way, that Oprah is maliciously trying to control the publishing industry (and a laundry list of other industries). Someone once said to me, "Oprah has just gone too far! Someone needs to stop her." When I first heard it, I laughed, thinking that it was odd that someone would actually say that in a serious tone of voice. Just how has she gone too far? Just who is it that is going to stop her?

The cattlemen in Texas tried that, and failed miserably. Oprah is indeed bulletproof; even as her show gets schmaltzier, she gains more fans. Who wouldn't be a fan of someone who threw money out like she grew it on trees on her ranch? So, some of us joke that her fans are just mindless bots who can't think for themselves. I'm guilty of harboring these thoughts, especially of the people who hang on her every word. And describing some of the guests on her show as being clueless would definitely be an understatement. I often wonder just how some of these people manage to read the books that Oprah picks for her club. Yes, the books are mostly depressing or schmaltzy, but quite a few of them are very challenging to read. Reading Toni Morrison is no easy feat, even for the educated.

So, I refuse to complain about Oprah's book club; she's getting people to read. Isn't that always a good thing? It is not Oprah's fault the the publishing industry is losing sales to other media; it's not Oprah's fault that publishers have decided to focus on a few top selling and famous authors, to the detriment of new, or lesser known writers. It's not Oprah's fault that literature is to reading as jazz is to music: a little understood, little appreciated art form. It's not Oprah's fault that publishers, like most other businesses, are content to go after the fast buck and instant profits, instead of investing in a diverse array of literary works.

This debate is similar to the one about the lack of quality or "high brow" films being produced today. People wonder why studios pour money into cheesy/tasteless films. Which films make the most money week after week? As was widely reported after this year's Oscars ceremony, "high brow" films may be the darlings of the critics, but fluff is what people are most willing to pay to see. It would be so refreshing to see people stop trying to blame Oprah for the downfall of whatever entity they can think of, but I know that it will continue unchecked (people are blaming Bill Clinton for things that happened after his presidency, so I know that the Oprah bashing is here to stay).

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Poor Man’s Guide to Celebrity

May 19, 2005

Dennis Haysbert 

If you're looking to put together some sort of entertainment production (music, film, photo shoot, whatever), and you find the need to keep costs down (or you can't really afford your first choice), there are marketable options.

The entertainment industry has been doing this for years. Similar to the fashion industry, where you have your high-priced designer items, and then the mass-market knock-offs (affordable to the common people), celebrities come in different gradations as well.

If you really wanted Denzel to be a part of your production, but can't find the financial backing to afford him, then you have the option of looking up Dennis Haysbert. If you are finding yourself frustrated, because you just can't get that project realized because of financial constraints, don't fret! There are always viable options:

  • If you can't get Maxwell, just go for Eric Benet.
  • If P. Diddy is really who you want, but his people won't even talk to you, call up Damon Dash.
  • Want Ashanti to do a few guest vocals, but strapped for cash? Look up Christina Milian.
  • Actually, now that Christina's lightened her look, she could sub for Beyonce as well.
  • Can't afford Destiny's Child for your bar mitzvah? Call up 3LW.
  • Can't get Usher? Go for Mario, Omarion, or Marques Houston.
  • R. Kelly just too expensive? Try for Avant, Jaheim, or, if you're really strapped, Case.
  • Is 112 just too high profile for your budget? Get B2K.
  • A few years back, when NSync wasn't an affordable option, 98 Degrees did the job just fine.
  • Can't afford Alannis Morrissette? Get Pink, or Kelly Clarkson, or Avril Lavigne.
  • If Avril is still not in your budget, go for Ashlee Simpson.
  • Can't afford the rights to add that Luther Vandross song to your production, but you just have to have that "Luther vibe"? Try Ruben Studdard.
  • Really wanted a Barry Manilow feel? Clay Aiken is the way to go.
  • Faith Evans too expensive? Blu Cantrell's probably free (well, maybe not exactly free, but less expensive, definitely).
  • Can you only think of Jim Carrey in your wildest dreams? Will Ferrell is the perfect stand-in.
  • Viveca Fox's people just won't return your calls? Try Lisa Raye.
  • Want Jodie Foster, but can't afford her? Julia Stiles will do.
  • Can't afford Freddie Prinze, Jr.? Call Wilmer Valderrama.
  • We all know how expensive Katie Couric is… just give in and call Kelly Ripa.
  • Back in the day, when Jodeci's price was a little too "upscale" for a production, Dru Hill filled in nicely.
  • And if you only needed KC Hailey, but he was just too pricey for you, Sisqo was the perfect replacement.
  • Missy Elliott too big for your budget? You could probably get JD to loan out Da Brat for a few days with no problems.
  • Can't get Sheryl Crow? Call up Michelle Branch.
  • Salma Hayek too expensive? Eva Mendes is another option.
  • You really wanted a Boris Kodjoe type? Shemar Moore is probably available.
  • Antonio Banderas too expensive for your film? Get Marc Anthony. Marc will also do if you wanted Enrique Iglesias to sing, but you couldn't get him, either.
  • Gotta have that Erykah Badu vibe, but you don't have an Erykah budget? Try India.Arie.
  • Can't afford Nicole Ari Parker? Call Leila Arcieri.
  • Mariah Carey just too expensive? Get Christina Aguilera.
  • A few years back, if you couldn't afford Naomi Campbell (or couldn't afford to pay for the damages that would normally result from working with her), you could get Beverly Peel instead.
  • And if you want Tyson Beckford, but find yourself priced out, Tyrese is just as good.
  • Years ago, if you couldn't afford Britney Spears, you could substitute with Mandy Moore or Jessica Simpson, but obviously, the tables have turned now…

Thanks a million, Walkofju!


Fun with Craigslist: G-Unit Edition

May 19, 2005

Craigslist 

Craigslist ad looking for models for a G-Unit promo swimsuit calendar [via Tale of Two Cities]:

We are currently putting together a G-Unit 2005/2006 promo swimsuit calendar and we are holding invite-only castings this week ONLY, in our NYC offices.  We are seeking models nine 18-24, any ethnicty, attractive, with a very sexual, music video appearance.  Models must also be very professional and posess good attitudes.  This is a great photo oppourtunity for models and a chance to introduce yourself to the rest of the nation. 

Models who are selected will have a month and a group spread with 2 other models and a G-Unit artist.  This is a swimsuit calender, so besides pretty faces, we are seeking outsandingly fit and proportioned bodies.  Again, this is a promo calender, and like a lot of other urban publications and projects, there is no pay, but it is VERY good exposure. 

Translation: (If Craigslist doesn't have a spell check option, they seriously need to think about adding one)

We are currently puting together a promotional "skank" calendar and we are holding invite-only castings this week ONLY, in a loft or warehouse (location to be disclosed at a later time).  Don't even think about showing up if you were not specifically invited.  (Unless you are willing to perform certain favors or fulfill certain requests of executive members of the crew; and even if you are willing to do that, it is still not a guarantee that you will be chosen to be photographed for the calendar).  We know this is short notice, but since we only came up with this idea at the spur of the moment (actually, somebody thought of it while we were all getting high last weekend), this couldn't be helped.

We are seeking "models" (strippers, aspiring actresses, dancers, and video girls are encouraged to respond) ages 15-27 (those over 23 need not apply if you can't pass for a younger age), any ethnicity (long hair/weave is preferred); the "video ho" look is what we're looking for.  Models must be respectful to the artists and photographers, and crew, and give in to all demands and requests without giving attitude or back talk. 

This will give you the chance to be seen.  If you are pretty enough and obedient enough, you might get the chance to be picked by a talent scout to do more photo shoots, which might leasd to bigger and beer things (for example, music videos, straight-to-video movies, and maybe even porn, if you're willing to go there).  And if you're really lucky, one of the artists might decide to enlist you as an additional member of his prestigious entourage. 

Selected models will have a designated month and a group spread and groping-fest with 2 other models and one of our prestigious artist (or maybe more, if any of the other artists decide that htey want to join in on the fun).  This is a swimsuit calendar, so if all you have to offer is a pretty face, you need not apply.  This means that if you cannot fit into a swimuit of our choosing, or if you have an aversion to posing provocatively or sexually with other women, this is not the job for you.  If you are overweight, or if your breast size is not at least a C-cup, don't even think about answering this ad. 

Again, this is a promotional calendar, and like a lot of urban publications and projects (i.e. magazines, films, and music videos), there is no pay.  Don't even think about complaining, because we are footing all the expenses for this project, besides offering your unknown ass the chance for some major exposure. 

If you are interested in contributing to this project, please send a prompt response.


One Thing I’d Never Bet Money On

May 17, 2005

Tyra Banks 

While most reality shows are dull and pretty much predictable, one show that you can never guess the ending to is America's Next Top Model. While other shows have set rules, routine activities, and challenges that make you think that maybe you could guess from week to week what will happen next, ANTM is nothing like that.

On this show, even though they explain everything that is going to take place, and all of the girls are told that all they need to do is give their best effort — they are even given personal coaching on specific flaws and performance issues– guessing what is going to happen at the end of the episode is an exercise in futility. Every week, we get to see Tyra and her "panel of experts" (you could call it that if you're into stretching euphemism to the limit) poke, prod, pick at and pick on the girls, most of whom profess to be almost desperate to win this chance to gain fame and fortune (well, not really a fortune; a modeling contract with some B-List agency will have to do for now). When you think that you've figured out which girl has ruined her chances by not trying hard enough, or by giving too much attitude, or by not giving enough attitude, Tyra comes on at the end and selects the one girl that you never thought she'd get rid of.

She goes through the season with one or two seemingly obvious favorites, but by the last 4 episodes, we're usually left with the most lackluster girls of the group, the ones who Tyra would often claim were not vocal/vibrant/"fashion model" enough. The only consistent thing about the show is the fact that Tyra and and some members of the panel give the girls conflicting advice.

One week, a girl is told that she needs to tone down her attitude, and told not to act too ambitious; two weeks later, the same girl is told that she needs to speak up for herself, and that she shouldn't let anyone walk over her. The finale of this season, as with the others, will most likely be a total surprise, not because this show is so deep, or that the rules and challenges are so complex, but all because the rules of the game seem to be subject to Tyra's whim, at any given moment.