Hear us out. We can see your fingers poised over the “comment” button already! Allow us to make a case for the argument that maybe it wasn’t such a thing for Anna Wintour to suggest Oprah lose weight before she ended up on the cover of Vogue:In 1998, before Oprah was scheduled to appear on the cover of Vogue, Wintour took a trip to Chicago to meet with the daytime star. But it wasn’t a mere friendly visit: Anna suggested Oprah lose 20 pounds before she posed for the cover.
“It was a very gentle suggestion,” Wintour recalled. “I went to Chicago to visit Oprah, and I suggested that it might be an idea that she lose a little bit of weight. I said simply that you might feel more comfortable. She was a trouper!” Anna added, “‘[Oprah] totally welcomed the idea, and she went on a very stringent diet. It was one of our most successful covers ever.”
The gossip blogs are spinning this in the most scandalous way possible: The Ice Queen tells a full-figured woman everybody loves that she has to slim down — outrage! But we don’t think that’s totally fair.
We’re all about embracing the size you’re at and loving your body. Oprah’s a curvy woman, and slimming down to look more “beautiful” and “fashion magazine”-worthy is offensive for lots of reasons.
But let’s not pretend Anna Wintour said something completely out-of-bounds. People tell other people all the time that they might want to lose or gain weight, and whether or not it’s for a magazine cover is beside the point. A lot of us have had conversations with our sisters, brothers, best friends, moms, and dads in which we’ve said to them or they’ve said to us, “Hey, maybe you’d have more energy if you didn’t drink two mocha Frappucinnos every day?” Or “You look pale and tired. When’s the last time you’ve eaten?” Truth be told, it’s no one else’s business, but we say it because we’re concerned about someone’s health or happiness.
In this case, these “gentle conversations” are Wintour’s job. We’d be downright pissed off, annoyed, and offended if Anna had said something to the effect of “Oprah, you’re not healthy at the weight you’re at!” or “You’ll be happier if you are skinnier!” Clearly, Wintour doesn’t know if those statements are true. But suggesting how a cover star poses and what the star poses in is part and parcel of being a magazine editor. It’s in Wintour’s best interest for the cover image to be the “best” image possible, whatever that means, so it will sell.
And let’s not forget Oprah. Winfrey is not a lady to be messed with. She had no problem calling out Hermès when they refused her service—although, in their defense, they claimed it was after store hours. Oprah is a formidable woman who has made a billionaire-dollar living speaking her mind. If she was not offended, why should we be? In fact, after seeing the first Polaroid from the shoot, Oprah said, “I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was having an I-used-to-weigh-237 pounds-and-now-I’m-shooting-the-cover-of-Vogue moment.”
Don’t misunderstand us. We think Wintour could do more to promote diverse and healthy body images in America. She uses rail-thin models and OK’s covers like the one with Gisele Bundchen and basketball player LeBron James that some people thought was racist. The lady is not beyond reproach.
But their conversation isn’t something to overreact to; in fact, it sounds like they were both happy with the results.
Maybe Kate Bosworth or the Olsen twins will pose for a Vogue cover and Wintour will suggest they gain 20 pounds? We can dream!