On Learning to Love Oprah's BFF, Gayle King
Oprah Winfrey was always a one-woman show, the center of attention on a program about single-handedly changing people's lives every day.
And yet, over the years the sight of Gayle King, Oprah's best friend, became more ubiquitous -- Gayle on the red carpet, Gayle in the audience, Gayle hosting Oprah's 50th birthday party, Gayle in the car on the road trip (granted, Oprah may have hated that episode, but every Oprah fan revels in it like a kid in a candy store). So much Gayle!
Then that kind of became OK.
Oprah and Gayle's Infamous Road Trip:
It was easy to write Gayle off as Oprah's best friend, a fake job that earned King the position of editor-at-large of O Magazine (and therefore a place at the top of Ms. Winfrey's enormous payroll) through nepotism. Sure, for me, it came from a place of jealousy, but how could one woman luck out so hard?
In doing my homework, however, I realized Gayle didn't start or end with Oprah. She was a Maryland-born local news anchor who was on WFSB in Connecticut for 18 years. That's a long time in television, so obviously the woman had paid her dues. Sure, to see her go from local news anchor to the occasional sidekick of America's most beloved talk show host (and then running said talk show host's magazine) seemed a little suspect, but who wouldn't take up those opportunities?
Granted, I was always an Oprah fan. Some call Ronald Reagan "The Great Communicator," but I think Oprah Winfrey deserves the honor. Who else could have such an impact in the '80s that she knocked Phil Donahue off his throne in the ratings almost immediately? With Oprah's ability to distinctly relate to her audience, she turned being a talk show host into more than a job -- it became an almighty position of power unlike any other. And no one could beat that, especially this Gayle lady.
But in conversations with my boyfriend (we watch a lot of OWN, duh), he pointed out to me that people love Gayle. "Why?" "She's funny!" And he was right! Gayle is not only funny, but she's smart, conversational and -- most importantly -- has her feet on the ground. She knows about what goes in the world, what news is important and what news isn't.
As such, Gayle developed a loyal following on terrestrial and satellite radio, which has translated into a live version on OWN, a lo-fi effort bested only by Howard Stern (and to her credit, there are no strippers farting). But Gayle saves what could be a potential disaster, given the bare set and cheesy music, with her winning charm.
Gayle and Cheryl Hines are overcome with Bieber Fever:
Gayle proves herself as anything but just "Oprah's best friend." As a matter of fact, Gayle may very well be the one person in Oprah's life who helps keep her feet on the ground, since Gayle herself is so connected to pop culture, real people and popular taste.
Meanwhile, Oprah has edged toward becoming a cartoon version of herself, exhibiting continually bizarre and outlandish behavior (the instant crying, the looooooooong yells and the almost magical, otherworldly sense of self) that is now, more than ever, almost farcical. Did you see that clip from 'Behind The Scenes' (the best show on TV, hands down) when Oprah gets a surprise visit from her teen idol, Jackie Jackson, and realizes amid the chaos that it was his secretly orchestrated entrance that kept her from having lunch? She literally asks: "Is that why I haven't been served today?" That's something that kings and queens do! This, of course, is followed by Oprah shouting an expletive and telling her producers she's going to "shoot" them. (Told you this was the best show on TV!)
In other words, that woman you used to imagine you could talk with forever on a coffee clutch? She's long gone. Despite whether Oprah realizes it, it's been made clear through the OWN series 'Behind The Scenes' that she is essentially on her own planet, one on which all that exists is Stedman Graham, her dogs, Scrabble on her iPad, Louboutins and "spiritual awareness" (i.e. everything Oprah says and does, no matter how silly it sounds, is the gospel).
On that note, Gayle -- who is much more connected to the zeitgeist, pop culture, and national conversation -- has seemingly picked up where Oprah left off. When Oprah became a pop-psychological Santa Claus who seems equally obsessed with John Travolta as she was with Dr. Maya Angelou (which is nothing short of insane, considering John Travolta's brilliant poetry), Gayle essentially became the new Oprah.
And unlike Oprah (who, on the side, is an excellent actress), Gayle is truly funny. She's engaging in a way that Oprah used to be and always so comfortable. Her recent interview with Lady Gaga was not only big news (Gaga announced the release date for the video of 'Born This Way'), but it cemented Gayle as a confident, easygoing interviewer who doesn't shy away from tough questions. In fact, her "favorite daughter, Kirby" (Gayle calls everyone in her life her "favorite," which is cute) unsuccessfully begged her mom not to geek out over Gaga. Watch as Gayle, thinking she's pushing the envelope, too, greets Lady Gaga in full-bodied Spanx, which -- amazingly -- we're only allowed to see from behind. Oprah would never even dare!
Gayle goes Gaga:
One might say Gayle embodies the Oprah that America fell in love with way back when: a girl next door with lofty ambitions, but none so big that they get in the way of her ability to just be herself.
Don't you want to talk to her about her necklace? You totally do!
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