Because I read perezhilton.com, I know about this supposedly “shocking” biography about Oprah coming out soon. In the biography, the writer alleges that Oprah didn’t actually grow up poor, that she was quite spoiled and well-off. Supposedly when Oprah’s aunt asked her why she made up the “impoverished childhood” story Oprah said that it’s what people want to hear. American’s love the whole rags-to-riches story; it’s a lot more endearing and hopeful than the riches-to-richer story.
Anyway, I don’t really blame Oprah or think less of her because of this. Anyone can shape their own life narrative however they want, just look at the different realities and decide which one seems more marketable. My reality #1: I grew up upper-middle class in one of the wealthiest suburbs in the country in a nice 4-bedroom house on a safe and quiet cul-de-sac in a stable, loving two-parent family. Because of a mysterious Belgiun great-grandfather no one actually met, my siblings and I passed as white, meaning we never had to deal with racism or even standing out in predominantly white school. We got an embarrising number of presents every Christmas, had traveled the world by the age of 20, took every kind of lesson we ever wanted, never knew what it was like to really want something but not be able to buy it, graduated from one of the best school districts in the country and basically never doubted we could do/have whatever we wanted.
Or, I can tell reality #2: Grew-up in a humble house in an immigrant household where my parents worked two jobs for as long as I can remember, meaning we were independent from a very young age; childhood vacations consisted of in-state camping trips. My siblings and I started working from the time we were 15 or 16 and had to apply for scholarships and loans to go to college. Our elementary school was 98% American white; my brother, sister and I made up 25% of the school’s minorities — we always felt different, like we didn’t fit in, et cetera.
So if I ever became famous, the second story is a lot more romantic. Both are completely true, at least on the surface. But the second story would make my accomplishments seem all the more impressive, and I suppose that impressing people is at least part of why we do everything we do.