Speaking Truth to Oprah’s Power

I wrote this letter nearly 4 years ago, and never received a response. It is my plea to Oprah to address the fact that a man she promoted, James Ray, turned out to be a dangerous conman.

I don’t blame Oprah personally for her lack of response, as I’m sure she has a pretty strong “filter” around her, curating what gets through to her and what doesn’t.

But I feel compelled to push this message again in the wake of Oprah’s stunning speech at the Golden Globes. I take no issue with her speech; it was beautiful and necessary. It’s the aftermath, the #Oprah2020 buzz, that makes me uneasy.

If Oprah wants to be president, the filter needs to go. Part of the mess we’re in now–the mess that makes a discussion like “Oprah 2020” a thing–is the fact that we’ve all set filters on our lives, shushing the stories and voices that make us uneasy or challenge our worldviews. From the sound of things, our current president has a very strong filter between him and reality, one that boosts his ego and causes him to act without regard for anyone but himself, it seems.

The President of the United States of America, however, must listen to everything, even the things he or she does not want to hear. (This is among many other required qualifications that Oprah lacks as well.)

And these are values Oprah does seem to hold. In her speech, she mentioned the importance of pushing against secrets and lies, and asserted that “speaking your truth is the most powerful tool you have.”

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YES! Yes, of course! I know this, because for over 8 years now I’ve been speaking out against a man whose lies killed people. I’ve been speaking truth to power, a man powerful enough that even after he gets out of prison, can continue conducting events and command the ear of the media.

James Ray Oprah

James Ray, deadly self-help author who was promoted by Oprah

I’m still waiting for the reckoning of James Ray, who is right now selling weekend events where he will lead customers through physical exercises and give them nutrition advice–areas in which he has no formal training to be leading others. I won’t be surprised when another James Ray customer becomes a victim.

In this original letter I wrote to Oprah, I asked her to help us share this story, expose this man and even more importantly, expose the wider dangers of the self-help/self-improvement industry in which she is an influential voice; to use her voice to help us be Kirby’s voice. I wrote this letter to Oprah because in many ways, Oprah is a part of “the power” that directs our conversations and influences our culture.

And according to Oprah, this story is the type of story she’s tried to share throughout her career–the stories of people who had the “…ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even in [their] darkest nights.”

Well, I don’t know anyone who embodies that sentiment more than my mother, Ginny Brown, who in the wake of one of the most horrible events a parent can experience–the death of a child–tirelessly works to protect others and improve an industry that should be a source of strength to its customers rather than a danger.

This is the story Oprah should be telling. But instead, there seems to be fear of repercussions and what the admissions she must make will say about her. Unless she’s prepared to let go of the filter that protects her and to start addressing even the uncomfortable truths that may expose a little piece of her, #Oprah2020 will not be the cure America needs. And even then, I’m really not so sure Oprah’s the answer.

Source: An Open Letter to Oprah, Regarding Your Silence on James Ray | the self-styled life




6 responses to “Speaking Truth to Oprah’s Power

  1. I’ve been thnking of Kirby and your family too, with all the Oprah hype. Way to stay strong and clear headed! Xo
    Em C

  2. Very well said, Jean. And this needs to be said again and again!!! Thank you for saying it then and saying it now and saying it so well. As amazing and awe-inspiring as your mother is, you’re pretty amazing too. Thank you for all you do — both of you.

    And keep up the good work! Keep speaking truth to power!!!

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