Admittedly, I watched Oprah’s talk show when I lived in Singapore. Not often, but sometimes. The room with our TV was the only one with air-conditioning, so that had something to do with it. Still, there was a familiarity in all the advice.
Plus, since the shows were not aired in any particular order, some days Oprah would be thin, other days heavier, and along with her weight shifts were shifts in her hair style and clothing. Because Oprah was on every day, sometimes twice, I assumed it was because she was a big hit with the Singaporean audience.
In Saudi Arabia, women also watch Oprah, and with far more attention than I ever did. Oprah, according to this article in the New York Times, is a bit of a life-line for many Saudi females. The article starts by describing one woman who writes to Oprah Winfrey every month even though Oprah has yet to write back.
Nayla said that Oprah gives her hope and energy, and that Oprah is the only one who understands her. This feeling is echoed with Saudi women of all ages, but particularly with younger women. Part of what the women relate to is Oprah’s own struggles that she has overcome. As women in Saudi Arabia struggle to find their voice and use it, Oprah gives them a sense of how it is done.
The women also relate to Oprah because her style of dress fits Saudi Arabian women’s sensibility and taste. They would probably love Oprah’s closet, the store in Chicago where you can buy Oprah’s old clothes.
As I read the article, besides being interested in this particular Western influence on the Middle East, I wondered if Oprah has read the article yet and thought how terrific it would be if she would visit Nayla and Nayla’s friends–quietly and sincerely. It would not need to be a visit that showed up on TV, but one that would make a fairy tale ending to this story of a cultural mixing. I certainly hope Oprah has written Nayla back by now.
(About the photo: I couldn’t find a Creative Commons photo of a Saudi woman. This woman is from Iran. Yes, I know the difference. Please Don’t Smile, the photographer of this shot has several lovely photographs of women in Iran posted on Flickr.)