How (sur) real is…this?
I don’t have a bucket list. I’ve never taken the time to think of things I wanted to do before I move into that deluxe apartment in the sky. But that didn’t stop me from recently adding an item to my bucket list, then checking it off because holy shit, that really happened.
And what happened? If you read the title then you’re probably ahead of me, but yes, it’s true, Oprah Winfrey, of Oprah Winfrey fame, personally called me, to tell me that she doesn’t know me, but she loves me, and then describe to me how something I wrote moved her to tears.
Buckest list outchea lookin’ like:
Get a call from Oprah Winfrey telling me that she loves me
I can hear you looking at me. You don’t believe me. That’s alright. I’ve got the receipts. See…
…actually, I wrote a song about it, like to hear it, here it go:
A few weeks back, I watched an episode of Queen Sugar and it hit me in the feels. I wrote a piece about it alluding to as much. As we do with some VSB pieces, I wrote it up, put my name on it, and sent it to The Root. Sometimes they take our pieces and publish them (sometimes they don’t), then we’ll publish them on VSB shortly after, which happened in this case.
Anyway, I wrote the piece, The Root rooted it, and then I got an email from our editor at The Root telling me that somebody at OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) read my piece, loved it, and wanted to get in touch with me. Because I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to do business with networks (I’ve actually done quite a bit more work than I realized with television networks), I fired off an email to the contact hoping to find a way to help push a show that I absolutely love.
I love Queen Sugar.
Anyway, a few back, back, forth and forth emails were exchanged and I shipped over my phone number expecting a phone call that afternoon to talk about ways that I, and VSB, might be able to work with OWN in support of Queen Sugar.
An hour later, my cell phone rings and its “Unknown”.
We don’t answer those.
So I let it bounce, rock, skate, and roll, and then a voicemail popped up. I ain’t know if it was Sallie Mae, one of her cousins, or one of your cousins who has one of those telemarketer jobs who keeps calling me about some survey that I refuse to take about that thing I don’t do. Your cousins need to cut it.
I paid it no mind and then I realized, hey, maybe that was the folks from OWN calling and maybe their switchboard sends out an “Unknown” ID talk or something. Yo no se. So I picked up my phone and checked the voicemail and heard this:
“Panama? It’s Oprah Winfrey. Calling to tell you: I don’t know you, but I love you. You know why?…”
For a minute and thirty-five seconds, Oprah Winfrey PERSONALLY told me why she loved an article I wrote. And not just like, “yo P, dope article.” No, she broke it down. She explained why what I wrote touched her, her feelings about the particular scene on a societal scale, and even told me that I must be a good person for having seen and felt what I did after watching that scene.
I put the phone down and said, “no fucking way.”
I listened to it again trying to make sure I wasn’t getting punked by some kind of Oprah dialer that calls everybody and tells them the same thing. But the voice. Like, who doesn’t know Oprah’s voice? I told my girl. Then I told Damon. Then I told everybody. I sent the voicemail to my family. I told all my close friends. I emailed it to myself and promised that I’d transcribe the words and put them on my wall.
I got messages from my boys that said things like, “This is one of the top 5 greatest things to happen in my life and it didn’t even happen to me.”
I feel you, bro. I feel you.
Bruh. Oprah Winfrey actually called me and left me a voicemail to tell me how much she loved something that I wrote.
Stick a fork in me. I’m done.
Here lies Panama. Except he’s telling the truth. Because receipts. Thank you, Mr. Voicemail function. I always knew you’d come in handy despite the fact that I rarely check you.
VSB. We won.
There are a few takeaways here:
1. No, I didn’t actually talk to her. It’s a double edged-sword really. I, now, have this voicemail forever and it is a receipt that Oprah, did, indeed call me and thought enough to leave such a long and thoughtful message. But I didn’t actually TALK to her. Had I answered the phone and had that convo with her, none of you would ever believe me. And I know this to be true because I’m not sure that I’d believe me. But now, I have proof. Forever. Thank you, Oprah. It would have been nice to actually talk to Oprah, though, and let her know that when I tell this story in public I will refer to her as Auntie Oprah. I feel like if Oprah calls you, you call her Auntie.
2. I wager that Oprah knows how important she is. She seems awfully down to Earth, but she can’t NOT know how significant she is. I wonder if the article was passed off to her and she said, “get me his number, I’d like to change his life today.” Like, if you’re Oprah, you can’t NOT know that calling somebody is going to have that effect, right? It’s not just a phone call when it comes from Oprah. Like, short of Barack and Michelle, who the hell else could cause the kind of commotion in ANY Black person’s life that ensued once I told folks (and shared the voicemail) that Oprah called? Folks in my family in Georgia shared it at Thanksgiving and I wasn’t even there. My friends sent it to other friends. Folks were listening multiple times pretending to be forensic vocalologists which I’m pretty sure isn’t a thing but is now because Oprah called me and I mean, anything is possible, now, right? For everybody that knows me, I pretty much don’t have to achieve shit else. If I got a tattoo that said, “Mama, I Made It” right now would anybody really dispute the veracity of said statement? I think not.
3. You really never know who is reading what you write, writer people. Let this be some motivation for you. And I mean this from the heart. I didn’t write that piece thinking Oprah, or anybody at OWN, would actually read it. I wrote it because the scene actually affected me. I decided that I was going to give it some country because I don’t think enough people are talking about Queen Sugar (or Insecure, honestly), and I wanted to do my part. Because I consume so much pop culture, when something worthy of note occurs, I like to comment on it. It’s a perk of running a site like this; I have an open platform to write about whatever I want.
Thing is, we never know who is reading. We’ve been fortunate to know that several famous people read VSB. Many have retweeted our articles. Some have threatened legal action. Folks even have written personal DMs. The world we live in makes that type of thing possible. So keep that in mind, all you writers out there: even somebody as perennially busy as Oprah Winfrey might be reading. If that isn’t motivation to hit the keys, I don’t know what is.
4. This will be a bit sobering, but this is part of life and I’d wager goes the same for many of us in the creative endeavors. Despite all of the accolades we’ve received here at VSB (awards, articles, features) my family really doesn’t seem to give a shit until something like this happens. That’s no shade to them; in many ways, I understand. Being a blogger/writer is like being a “rapper”. When we dropped a book, I’m not sure my family cared until I ended up on BET and they could see, “hey, this is legit, he’s on television because of something he did.” My family still dines out on that one. I’m not sure most folks in my immediate family read my articles or even know the URL. I mean that honestly.
But when something happens in a forum they’re familiar with (Oprah, television, newspaper, etc), then they’re super excited. And I live for those moments when I know my parents, especially, see that something I did garnered the type of attention in a forum they recognize as legit. I know my dad listened to that voicemail and smiled and felt proud. And that makes me happy. I remember going to Damon’s wedding and realizing how many folks in his family were up on VSB to the point that they knew who I was, like were a rock star duo. I thought that was the most awesome shit. Ever. I don’t get that in my family. Partially because I come from a family with a fairly disproportionate number of professional athletes and even some entertainers you know of, but also because this is creative endeavor space where the accolades really mount up when you hit it big. But to know that I got that smile because OPRAH though enough of something I did, means a lot to me. Thanks, Oprah.
5. Oprah has my number. Call me, Almond.