Friday, 21 September 2012

What Did I Learn from Oprah?

“A little change can make a world of difference …
like wearing your hair au natural as I am this month.
I love it”
Oprah Winfrey

The quotation stared out at me on the cover page of the latest Oprah magazine.  Despite the hair, of which mine needs a colour desperately, change is what my blog is all about!  More change on the cover and some topics I blog on:
Live your best life
How to transform your …. Home, Attitude, Health, Beauty regime, Exercise routine, Finances, Relationships
How to grab a second chance at happiness
So despite the fact that it came with a free little journal – I guess I picked the right magazine!

Glancing through the pages, there are a lot of colourful pictures, mostly adverts and fashion, on glossy paper. Scattered in between these are a few articles, book reviews, “how to” posts, an interview with Lady Gaga, home and furniture décor, food and recipes.  Thank goodness for the contents page or I would never have found what I wanted to read!
When I looked back at the cover I saw a small block with the words “The Makeover Issue”.  That explains all the fashion and beauty pages.  Would I buy the magazine again – probably yes if a great article caught my attention.  Would I subscribe to it – definitely no as the majority of the magazine is of no interest to me.  I do get emails from Oprah where I have chosen the topics that I would like to receive.  That is far easier to extract valuable information from then the printed magazine.
What did I learn from the magazine that could improve my blog?
·         An elevator pitch is so important so as not to mislead the reader.
·         Too many pictures fill gaps but do not provide information.
·         Sticking to a few topics in one niche will attract the right reader.
·         It is so important to label your articles and have a list of keywords on the blog.
·         Headlines will catch a readers’ attention if you use the correct words.
·         The layout or design of a blog is important so as not to clutter the pages.
·         Inviting other bloggers to do guest posts within the same niche enhances variety.

Forbes 400 magazine
While we are on the subject of Oprah Winfrey, there is an article in the current issue of Forbes online magazine:
As a South African, I had heard about the school but had no idea where it was situated and what real life lessons were learned by Oprah in the last five years.  To sum it up:
·         The school wasn’t exactly popular in Henley-on-Klip with 150 black girls in an all-white area.
·         Why was Winfrey spending $40 million on one school when she could build a bunch for that price?
·         Soon after it opened five years ago, Winfrey’s school was the subject of a sex abuse scandal that reached international scope - a group of girls had come forward alleging that a 27-year-old dorm parent had been molesting them.
·         In the ensuing months and years, seven girls were suspended for “inappropriate behavior” that included sexually harassing classmates, and the body of a dead baby boy was found in a 17-year-old student’s schoolbag.
·         Communication was an issue: The 152 12- and 13-year-old girls, hand-picked by Winfrey herself from an application pool of 3,500, came from all nine South African provinces, speaking all 11 of the country’s official mother tongues – English being the weakest.
·         Winfrey jumped on a plane, wracked with guilt and worry. “By the time a girl gets to my school, normally she’s suffered on average six major life traumas,” Winfrey says. “They’ve lost a parent or both parents. Multiple accidents, death in your family, AIDS, rape, sexual molestation, all of it. Unimaginable things have happened.” Every year a handful of incoming students are diagnosed by the school’s on-campus team of psychologists and social workers as having post-traumatic stress disorder simply from living their everyday lives. Now it appeared to be happening on her watch.
·         Winfrey quickly fired the alleged child abuser–who was later acquitted in a South African court – plus every other residential staffer and the school’s head.
·         To add insult to injury, the former head sued Winfrey for defamation in 2008 for implying she was, per legal filings: “untrustworthy, failed the students of the academy, did not care about the students at the academy, knew of alleged physical and sexual abuse at the academy and participated in a cover-up of the alleged abuse.” The case was resolved only in 2010, when they settled for an undisclosed amount.
·         But Winfrey, rather than chalk up her school as a costly life lesson, quietly redoubled her efforts to make it work.
·         That rebirth started in earnest in 2010 with the hiring of van Zyl, tall and no-nonsense, the descendant of an Anglican minister who immigrated to Malawi. Van Zyl had the pedigree and the guts: She led the integration of Pretoria High School for Girls, the first all-white school in the region to accept black students as the veil of apartheid lifted.
Oprah considers building the school, without community buy-in, another one of her early mistakes.  She has also built two public schools at a cost of just over $3 million each as a model for the South African government to show what is possible for well under a $40 million price tag. When the school day ends at one of those pilot schools, the campus hosts adult education classes.
For new students, achieving their benefactor’s expectations – she tells them all she expects them to go to college and will in fact pay for it – she starts by drumming out the cultural assumption that women don’t have to study since they’ll just get married and have kids anyway.
In July the school’s “magnificent seven” U.S.- bound girls spent two weeks on the Boston College campus. Winfrey organized an assimilation program for them.
“Being able to see in human form those girls blossom into who you knew they could be, there’s really nothing like that for me,” she says. “You can see over and over again the possibility of your own self being lived out in somebody else’s life.” Winfrey begins this next chapter armed with five years of tough lessons and the knowledge that, as she puts it, “If you can do it in South Africa, you can do it anywhere.”

“If you allow your past to define you,
you’ll never get to live the life you were meant to live”

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