September 20, 2005
HELP OPRAH HELP OTHERS*“Not ev’rybody can give ten million, I do understand that,” cracked Oprah Winfrey during the 20th season premiere of her “Oprah Winfrey Show” Monday. At the end of the program featuring Jennifer Aniston, the host’s three new puppies and a segment clarifying the infamous Hermes snub in Paris, Winfrey announced that she has pledged $10 million of her own money to Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts.
“I plan to build homes and take on other worthy Katrina projects,” she said, before introducing the creation of a special registry as part of her Angel Network charity.
“On Oprah.com, you can literally go online and help me furnish homes for Katrina survivors,” she said. “It’s gonna be like a [real] registry. You can buy a toaster, or you can buy a whole house.”
A click on “Oprah’s Katrina Homes” at the Oprah.com web site will take you to the special registry to “go shopping and rebuild lives,” said Winfrey, who two weeks ago aired a pair of shows chronicling her recent visit to the devastation in New Orleans.
Option 1 of “Oprah’s Katrina Homes” allows users to purchase such household items as furniture, linens, towels, appliances, or even an entire kitchen. Option 2 allows donors to purchase an entire house for one family. Option 3 gives folks the chance to make a cash donation to the Angel Network Katrina Fund. There is also a link on the site for corporations and companies who would like to get involved.
“I want everybody to give at the level they can,” shouted Oprah. This is about our country, all of us as Americans, coming together, opening our hearts. I want you to put your money where your heart is and give.”
Earlier in the show, Oprah separated fact from fiction in the stories of her widely-reported snub at Hermes in Paris last summer.
“I just want to say shame on anybody for thinking that I was upset for not being able to get into a clothes store and buy a purse. Please!” she said. “I didn’t get to be this old to be that stupid.”
Winfrey continued: “One person, one person at the store was so rude. Not the whole company; this one woman, now. And everybody who’s ever been snubbed, because you were not chic enough, or thin enough, or the right class, or the right color, or whatever – I don’t know what it was – you know that that is very humiliating, and that is exactly what happened to me.”
Winfrey said the store “was in the process of being closed” when she was turned away, not already closed as had previously been reported.
“The store was very active, people were still shopping,” she said. “The doors were not locked. My friends and I were standing inside the doorway as there was much discussion amongst the staff about whether or not to let me in. That’s what was embarrassing. They wanted to take my name, then they have a discussion about it, then they come back and then they say, ‘no.’”
Winfrey also said she’s not the kind of person who would demand that a closed store allow her inside just because she’s a celebrity.
“I have played by the rules, I believe in playing by the rules, and when [the snub] happened, I was embarrassed,” she said. “It wasn’t the worst thing that had ever happened to me, but I did call the president of the company.”
Cut to Robert Chavez, the President and CEO of Hermes United States, sitting on a stool next to her. After apologizing to Winfrey on behalf of the Paris store, he went on to reiterate what was written in a statement released by Hermes in defense of their actions.
“The store was getting ready for a special event,” Chavez told Oprah. “I know you saw people in the store, but we were trying to finish them up and get them out of the store so we could get ready.”
He also said that previous reports of the offending saleswoman not recognizing that it was Oprah Winfrey standing before her were absolutely true. This was met with a groan from the audience.
“Even if she didn’t [know who I was], this wasn’t even about, ‘do you know who I am.’ I wasn’t trying to play that celebrity card,” said Oprah, who proudly announced that the store has since begun sensitivity training courses for its employees.
Chavez ended the segment by saying to Oprah: “I hope that you will sincerely think of it as you just said, it was one person. Because at Hermes, we really try to service all of our clients all over the world.”