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Living Oprah: Book Review

Living Oprah by Robyn Okrant

Reviewed by's Steph Zajkowski

It takes a certain amount of gumption to 'take on' Oprah Winfrey, which is exactly what Chicago yoga teacher Robyn Okrant decided to do in 2008.

For reasons known only to her, she devoted herself to a year of Living Oprah - and blogged about it.

From January 1st to December 31st 2008, she watched every Oprah TV episode, read every 'O' mag from cover to cover, logged onto the Oprah website and followed every piece of advice given.

Not surprisingly, her blog drew Oprah's attention and came the day when the great woman finally made personal contact.

What did Oprah say/do? Was she flattered? Did she admire Okrant's Oprah-sanctioned footwear? Or was she brassed off that Okrant was cashing in on the mighty Oprah brand?

You'll have to read the book to find out.

Essentially Okrant's year of Living Oprah is full body emersion.

Okrant's premise was this - could Oprah's guidance truly lead a woman to her 'best life' or would it fail miserably?

Is it even possible to follow someone else's advice to discover one's authentic self? Because when it comes to suggestions for better living, Oprah leaves no stones unturned.

It's an intriguing journey to follow - a bit like watching a normal (ish) person getting sucked into a cult - a cult of what to eat/wear/act/what movies to watch/what music to like...Oprah's influence is all pervasive.

Okrant takes it to the extreme. Where others might have given up halfway through, she sticks to her guns, totally committed to her year of Living Oprah.

Naively, Okrant thinks she'll be able to limit the big O's authority to just her own world, but soon finds every aspect of her life, her beliefs, her marriage, her friendships and her politics swayed by what's 'Oprahpriate'.

As Okrant observes, "Oprah never professes to be an expert in any one area but she has amassed an army of experts who allow her to be a guru and who bestow upon her the aura of authority."

Right from the start, Okrant battles with Oprah's contradictory advice and messages.

On de-cluttering: "I do see a certain irony in the fact that when I have finished cleaning out my closet according to the advice given, I have to fill it back up with the 12 things we 'need' to have in our closets."

On practising what you preach:  "Re Oprah's private jet: I wish she'd be more transparent about her own excesses while she challenges her audience to live more simply."

To live Oprah's 'best life' she sacrifices her own identity, living a decreasingly vibrant version of her old life.

By October: "I'm really just living as a faded version of myself."

Towards December, so entrenched is she in Oprah-land, the question becomes, will she be able to shake her Oprah dependency come January 1st? 

We down to earth Kiwis might wonder why anyone would put themselves through such a wack social experiment. It's such an "American' thing to do, isn't it?

But the upshot for Okrant is that it turned her into a quasi-celebrity. Plus she got a presumably lucrative book deal and a new career. Hey, thanks Oprah!

All that said, I thought it an original and provoking topic. Book clubbers - it'll inspire stimulated debate.

Living Oprah comes recommended - the book that is, not the lifestlye. 


Title: Living Oprah
Author: Robyn Okrant
RRP: $34.99
Publisher: Harper Collins NZ
Available: Now