Actress Chronicles Year Following Oprah's Advice
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris. What would Oprah do? Fans of the talk show host sometimes ask themselves that question. One woman has not only asked herself the question, she's used the question to create a template for her life. She follows Oprah's every recommendation: what food to cook, what kind of bra to buy, relationship advice - everything. Between the Oprah Winfrey television show, the Oprah Web site and O Magazine, it turns out to be quite a task. She calls herself LO - that's L-O, as in living Oprah. Her real name is Robyn Okrant. She's an actress. She lives in Chicago, just like Oprah. And she runs a Web site - you guessed it - called LivingOprah.com. She joins us now from Chicago. And for the purposes of this conversation, may I call you Robyn?
Ms. ROBYN OKRANT (Actress; Founder, LivingOprah.com): Oy, yes. You can. I'm so used to hearing LO, but sure. Let's do it.
NORRIS: Okay. Well, from this point on, you'll be Robyn, at least to me.
Ms. OKRANT: All right. All right.
NORRIS: Tell me, what inspired you to do this, to live Oprah 24/7?
Ms. OKRANT: You know what? I was feeling really strongly about the fact that I think that women do not ask why enough. You know? We're told we have to dress a certain way. We're told we have to, you know, get flat abs two weeks. We're told we're not allowed to get old. And we follow these programs sort of blindly without asking why, or is it important to us. And I think Oprah is the most influential person in the media today. And I think that's where we're getting a lot of our information. You know, the tagline of her Web site is live your best life. And I think those are pretty strong words. So I wanted to see what would happen if I did everything Oprah said, and if, indeed, by the end of this year, I would be living my best life.
NORRIS: And you've been doing this for about how long?
Ms. OKRANT: Well, I've been doing it since January 1st.
NORRIS: Okay. So you're not quite at the one-year point.
Ms. OKRANT: No. Mm-mm. Mm-mm.
NORRIS: But how's it going so far?
Ms. OKRANT: Well, I was going to say, I'm not at the one-year, but I'm at the breaking point. No. I'm a little on the exhausted side, because things are taking far more time than I had really thought they would. So there are a lot of things I have to shop for. There are a lot of ways I have to dress. But there are also ways I have to behave. Like I have to savor every meal. I have to be content every time I walk in the front door. So, you know, there's a long list to complete on a daily basis. So it's tiring.
NORRIS: Now, you are looking for soap products, for white jeans, for leopard-print flats...
Ms. OKRANT: I'm wearing them today. Yeah.
NORRIS: The jeans or the flats?
Ms. OKRANT: The flats.
NORRIS: Oh, okay.
Ms. OKRANT: Yeah.
NORRIS: So, you know, all kinds of things for your home, for your garden. Who is bankrolling this?
Ms. OKRANT: I am, which is also the tough part. I'm not independently wealthy. And I've actually been offered sponsorship to do this, and I think it's really important to this sort of social experiment that everything come out of my pocket. You know, that I actually feel - I feel the pain.
NORRIS: How much money have you spent so far?
Ms. OKRANT: So far, just about $2,000. But I still have a decent-sized list of things that I have not purchased yet.
NORRIS: Now you have quite a long disclaimer on the site.
Ms. OKRANT: Right.
NORRIS: You say that you're in now way connected to the "Oprah Winfrey Show," Harpo, Oprah's Favorite Things, "Oprah & Friends." So you're not connected to Oprah, but are you at all aware that she's looking over your shoulder?
Ms. OKRANT: You know...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. OKRANT: Yeah. There's a slight paranoia there. But, you know, the disclaimer on the site was something that, you know, I just wanted to protect myself and make sure no one thought I was trying to steal from Oprah in any way whatsoever. So...
NORRIS: Well, what do you think she would think of this?
Ms. OKRANT: I think she would think that it was ridiculous that someone...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. OKRANT: ...someone would be doing everything. I get the sense that she'd think there's not enough time in the day to actually take care of what we need to do in our own lives, so why spend so much time doing every little word of advice that she says. But I would hope she would be a little curious, too. I hope.
NORRIS: Now I know this is a kind of Internet-based social activism on your part, but are you also in some way just making fun of Oprah?
Ms. OKRANT: No. No. I don't think so. That's not my intention at all, actually. Really, to spend a whole year making fun of someone is - I'd have to have, I don't know, a lot of bitterness, I think, inside me to want to do that. And, in fact, I want to be really, too, that I actually admire her quite a bit. And I think there's actually a lot to learn from her.
NORRIS: Robyn, I listened to the way you said no when I asked if you were making fun of Oprah, and I have in my mind that old television commercial, it's not nice to fool mother nature. You know, one doesn't poke fun at Oprah Winfrey.
Ms. OKRANT: Right, right, right, right, right. Yeah, no. I feel almost like as much as I'm critiquing her, I also feel like I'm challenging us as an audience, you know, because I do want us to look at the way that we, you know, we take celebrities and we put them on a pedestal and then we, you know, place really high expectations on them and them we look to them for answers. And, you know, I think we should reflect on, you know, how we're part of that sort of symbiotic relationship of creating these celebrity gurus. So, yeah. That's more important to me than the making fun of Oprah.
NORRIS: Well, lo and behold, we are out of time.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. OKRANT: Ba-dum-bum.
NORRIS: It's been good to talk to you, Robyn.
Ms. OKRANT: Good to talk to you, too. Thank you.
NORRIS: Robyn Okrant is a Chicago actress who's spending the year following the advice of Oprah Winfrey - all of the advice of Oprah Winfrey. And she's blogging about the experience at LivingOprah.com.
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