Oprah was visiting India for the first time to film a documentary and to attend Jaipur’s literary festival. She enjoyed her first traditional Indian meal, met the Brad and Angelina of Bollywood, interviewed local celebrities and visited simple people’s humble homes in Mumbai. Seems like Oprah Winfrey in India is a breath of fresh air experience for everyone. For almost everyone… Almost a breath of fresh air…
The queen of talk was greatly impressed by the amazing country calling it ‘the greatest show on Earth’. Wrapped up in traditional Indian clothes Winfrey hailed hundreds of people at the literary festival saying: ‘This is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, experience I have ever had’. Sari-clad Oprah was humorously shocked by the Indian chaotic traffic, surprised by huge differences in lifestyle, enamored with the country’s people’s kindness, hospitality, striving for knowledge and education.
Oprah’s India Visit: inspiration and… controversy
Oprah said that she would love to come back to this amazing country but it took one single controversial statement of hers to make some Indian people doubt that they actually want the talk show goddess back. The remark was made when Oprah sat down to have dinner with the family she visited in Mumbai, and the whole thing was being filmed for her ‘Next Chapter’. She asked one of the family members if Indian people still eat with their hands.
This comment caused confusion and even uproar among the locals. Most people are sure: Oprah is well-travelled enough to know these things. In her letter to Ms. Winfrey Indian journalist Rituparna Chatterjee wrote: ‘Using our hands to eat is a well-established tradition and a fact none of us are ashamed of. Our economic distinction has nothing to do with it.’ Oprah should have treated her homework more serious before visiting exotic India.
Can Oprah Winfrey afford a slip-up?
Unfortunately, Oprah’s India visit aired in the Asian subcontinent wasn’t as flawless as her team had expected. Yes, she was well-received by most people at first. But then people saw her documentary and their goodwill changed to criticism, displeasure or mere disappointment. Oprah Winfrey was slammed for episodes full of stereotypes like snake charmers, the scent of incense, slum dwellers, arranged marriages and elephants.
So the question is: can Oprah afford to slip up without her obvious controversy even being a slip of the tongue? She sure can afford it. However, as a famous woman who’s got the power to be exceptionally well-heard from every nook and cranny of the world she should have put all the stereotypes away in mothballs. On the other hand, who says controversy is bad publicity… What do you think?