This afternoon I was complaining (whining, kvetching) to Jane at firedoglake that there wasn’t anything that was catching my eye to write about these past few days. It’s all so…wonkish. But then Jane yelled “thar she blows” and we had us an Oprah breaching and I once again had a purpose in life.
Now we all remember back in June when Oprah got her lacey delicates (which Steadman has to rinse by hand, by the way) in a snarl because she was denied entrance to an Hermes store because she was
Whether Oprah Winfrey was turned away from a bit of after-hours shopping in Paris because of a racist employee or a special event, news of the confrontation outside a luxury store has evoked empathy and anger from many American minorities.
The incident occurred when Winfrey stopped by Hermes on June 14 to buy a watch minutes after the boutique closed. Though she and three friends said they saw shoppers inside, neither a sales clerk nor manager would let them in.
Winfrey believes the store’s staff had identified her, according to a spokeswoman from Harpo Production Inc., her company. Winfrey’s friend, Gayle King, who was there, told Entertainment Tonight, “Oprah describes it as ‘one of the most humiliating moments of her life.'” Harpo says Winfrey plans to discuss the incident in the context of race relations on her show this fall.
And true to her word, Oprah had her thugs drag Robert Chavez, the chief executive officer of HermÃ¨s USA, down to her show by his balls to plead heresy. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t pretty:
Oprah Winfrey is not a diva. At all. No way. She is so adamant on that point that she brought the head of HermÃ¨s USA onto her talk show yesterday to admit it and apologize in front of a national audience.
“I would like to say we’re really sorry,” Robert Chavez, the chief executive officer of HermÃ¨s USA, said contritely. “You did meet up with one very, very rigid staff person.”
Ms. Winfrey corrected him. “Rigid or rude?” she asked with icy sweetness. He hastily assented. “Rigid and rude, I am sure.”
The HermÃ¨s incident was one of the more florid tabloid stories of the summer: Ms. Winfrey, one of the wealthiest and most famous women in the nation, was turned away from the HermÃ¨s flagship store on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-HonorÃ© at closing time. That kind of resounding “non” rang a bell with anyone who has tried to argue with a Parisian salesperson. But many people also interpreted the rebuff as racism, arguing that Ms. Winfrey would have been treated better had she been white. (Simpler souls merely relished the prospect that someone as famous as Ms. Winfrey would be denied anything, ever.)
But Ms. Winfrey seemed most bothered that people assumed she was irate because she had been denied a chance to shop. “Shame on anybody for thinking that I was upset for not being able to get into a clothes store and buy a purse,” she said. “Please.”
Okay. Let’s stop here and once again point out that the store was closed. C-L-O-S-E-D. And Oprah was with her friends and suddenly she wasn’t the most powerful woman in the world because she couldn’t get a common shopgirl to throw open the gates of paradise for her. So “please” my ass.
Instead, she explained that the rudeness of one saleswoman had stung deep. “Anybody who has been snubbed because you were not chic enough, or not thin enough, or not the right class, or the right color or whatever, I don’t know what it was, you know that it is totally humiliating.”
Leave it to someone being the denied the right to purchase expensive frou-frou tchotckes to play the frump/body image/class/race cards. But, since Oprah was humiliated, well, someones ass has got to pay! (Cue Steadman whimpering under the bed).
Most of all, she said, she was hurt again when the HermÃ¨s company apologized in private, then released a statement that she said implied that “I was some diva trying to get in when the store was closed.” Ms. Winfrey explained that some shoppers were still in the store, and that she argued with the sales personnel only because a few members of her entourage had their hearts set on going in.
Ms. Winfrey turned to Mr. Chavez and requested a public apology. “Tell the people what you told me.”
Say it! Say it, bitch!
Power is a wonderful thing, particularly when it can be used to punish a haughty French salesperson – or one of France’s most famous luxury goods companies. And it is not surprising that Mr. Chavez agreed to a televised walk of shame to make amends. After Ms. Winfrey discussed on a 1996 show whether mad cow disease could affect American beef, Texas cattlemen sued her, claiming that she had caused the price of beef futures to plummet. She won the case in 1998.
Ms. Winfrey was magnanimous in return, assuring Mr. Chavez that “you really did come correct.” And while she did not distribute HermÃ¨s scarves to her studio audience, she did lift the shopping fatwa, urging her fans to go ahead and buy a Birkin bag.
Would a diva do that? Certainly not.
So you see, the moral of our story is that it is wrong to deny anything to a black woman worth in excess of $1.1 billion, but it is a righteous act of “sticking it to the man” (especially a ‘frenchified’ man according to Alessandra Stanley) by forcing him to criticize and humiliate one of his employees on national TV while acting like a beaten dog.
Somewhere tonight Steadman Graham is smiling although he better not let Oprah catch him or she’s going to give him such a smack…