WHY OPRAH DESERVES AN APOLOGY FROM HERMES
* TALK SHOW QUEEN TURNED AWAY IN PARIS STORE, FANS PROTEST IN NEW YORK
by Laolu Akande
Members of the Oprah for Nobel Peace Prize Fan Club are protesting in front of the Hermes store on Madison Avenue over the refusal of Hermes store in Paris to allow the famous Talk show host Oprah Winfrey in to shop at the store late June while Oprah was visiting Paris, France. And I intend to join them.
Oprah wanted to make some purchase at the store for a friend, Tina Turner, with whom she was having dinner later in the day.
According to a report by Jane Ahlin of the Forum website ?Oprah Winfrey was scheduled to have dinner in Paris with her friend Tina Turner one evening in June. Oprah wanted to give Tina a Hermes watch she'd seen and, with some of her entourage in tow, she went to the store to buy it.?
Oprah was however prevented from entering the store because the store said it closed 15 minutes ago, although the lights were still on and people were still inside-may be customers and store officials, may be store officials only, we do not know at this point. The report said the store was still open in relation to a PR event and a staff member gave Oprah a card, asking her to return the next day. But disappointed, Oprah left convinced that this was ?a racially motivated insult.?
The Forum report went ahead to report that ?one of the women with Oprah was quoted as saying, ?If it had been Celine Dion or Britney Spears or Barbra Streisand, there is no way they would not be let in that store."
But when it comes to Oprah, it would seem that in that Hermes store in France, the customer was no longer King. Because if the customer were still the King, Oprah should at least be treated in a way that would clearly reassure her that this was not a racially motivated insult not just handed a card and openly rebuffed.
Think about it: what was the store to loose by allowing Oprah in, the way they would have gladly allowed others like the report quoted above? In fact, on the contrary they would gain a PR mileage.
Some people have suggested that Oprah got their late and expected to be treated specially because of her status. I am sorry that is diversionary. The crucial point here is that the store chose to expose itself to this PR mess by clearly treating Oprah in a way that made her feel less comfortable. The display of racism is not when it is so clear and evident: often times, and the victims are best to express this; racism is filtered in social behavior through very disguised forms which only the victim and the victimizer would be able to perceive.
By refusing to treat Oprah like any other decent store would treat a customer-as King-Hermes has opened itself to charges of racism and it should address it and not try to suggest that Oprah sought any thing unusual. The additional fact that the store was unwilling to even bend backwards for a rich customer, famous personality, could suggest its deep-seated discrimination. It is Oprah?s story that we have heard, do you know how many people are given such unwelcome attitude on a daily basis by people who are still color-coded in the 21st century?
Wake up and smell the coffee, Hermes, you guys owe Oprah and apology!
Meanwhile, Rocky Twyman, a Maryland based PR practitioner, is leading the Oprah Nobel Peace Prize Fan Club to canvass support at the Times Square. The club wants to mobilize 100,000 signatures behind a move to get Nobel peace prize for the Queen of talk.
Twyman plans to forward the signatures to a couple of past winners, Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter, so they could nominate Oprah for the peace prize. I think she deserves the prize considering how much impact she has been and continues to be. I agree with the club that Oprah has done a lot ?to raise the level of consciousness about hunger, poverty, homelessness, women's issues, and, of course, the issue of AIDS."