News hit the net a few days ago that one of Lady O’s students at the Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa gave birth to a baby that was subsequently found dead in a plastic bag. It is not yet confirmed whether this baby was born dead or whether it died and the death was concealed. A very sad story indeed. Even sadder is the fact that this is not the first tragic story involving the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy — a school matron was accused of molesting students in 2009.
Now I know there are a ton of Oprah fans out there. In fact, I am close friends with some of them. I know plenty of the “I love Oprah, she is so amazing” and the “I want to be like Oprah when I grow up” and of course the “I would give my left arm to be in Oprah’s presence” types. So forgive me for confessing: I am not a fan. Don’t get me wrong, she has accomplished great things, her contribution to daytime television is unparalleled and she has given a great deal of cash to worthy organizations. Bravo Ms. Winfrey. But to be completely honest, I am not one of those people who live by the O-bible. I don’t really jive with the “Live your best life” or the “Learn from the Masters” mantras she pushes. The fact of the matter is, it is very easy for Oprah to claim this enriched life experience because she is rich and the greater fact is none of us regular-folk are likely to even come close to the life she leads.
But the real reason why I just can’t love Oprah the way her followers do is because, let’s face it, the woman has made a shit ton of money on the pain, failings, heartaches, injuries, and misfortunes of others. This is compounded by a superhero image she has created for herself. Having grown up in a poor family, with stories of misfortune that you wouldn’t believe, maybe I feel especially averse to her.
What is especially sad about the stories that have come from the Leadership Academy is these young women are there because of a promise of a better life, a brighter future. Given the stories that have come out of the Leadership Academy thus far, this future will be tarnished with some of the same evils they would have faced outside the doors of the Leadership Academy, maybe even worse.
While opening a school in Africa truly appeals to the liberal in all of us, it doesn’t come without an ego stroke, or two. And while the superhero receives the admiration and kudos, young women at the Leadership Academy are not having the positive experiences they’ve been promised.