Some Oprah Winfrey fans just can’t seem to get enough of the Queen of Talk’s powerful prescriptions for living the good life. Exhibit A: A Chicago yoga instructor-actress devoted the last 10 months of her life to following Oprah’s live-well, shop-better mantra to the letter.
Robyn Okrant, 35, told TODAY co-anchor Matt Lauer on Friday that the project — many would call it a stunt — has both turned her life around and turned it upside down.
“Because she’s put so high up on a pedestal, I just wanted to put everything to the test,” Okrant told Lauer.
Shopping for Oprah’s must-haves has put a dent in her wallet — to the tune of $3,000. She bought a backyard fire pit, even though she doesn’t have a backyard. She purchased ergonomic garden tools. (You guessed it, she has no garden.)
For Okrant, who blogs daily about her Oprah life at http://www.livingoprah.com/, the most disciplinary of tasks in Livin’ La Vida Oprah is following Winfrey’s advice for actually making one’s way in the world.
“I have to savor every meal — it takes forever,” she told Lauer. “I’m usually a bit of a vacuum, so at least it slows me down a little bit.
“I have to be nice. I have to get a lift every time I come through the front door. So there’s a lot of emotional things I need to do,” she said.
Okrant, who lives with her husband Jim and the cat Oprah told her to rescue from a shelter on Chicago’s North Side, is quick to note she was no Oprah disciple coming into the project. And indeed, there is more than a bit of cheeky satire to her Oprah project, which she estimates has already consumed 600 hours over the last 10 months.
“I think I’m an example of how ridiculous it gets when women follow icons or follow celebrities completely, so I know there’s a shade of the absurd in here,” Okrant told Lauer. “I am not an Oprah fanatic. Oprah’s like the popular girl in high school, and she tells us what to do and how to dress and we do it and we're happy because of it.”
The animated Okrant showed off the spoils of her Oprah year. She came dressed in a Brooks Brothers shirt, black pants and a J. Crew cashmere sweater — all from Oprah’s must-buy list. A table was littered with her Oprah buys, including books from Oprah’s Book Club, vitamins, shoes, even a stuffed dolphin for comfort.
Lauer noted that Okrant still has two months left in her Year of Living Oprah — which includes her upcoming “My Favorite Things” show. “That’s going to cost you a fortune!” Lauer noted. But Okrant said she separates Oprah’s advice from her absolute decrees.
“I only do what she says we must do ... it doesn’t mean I have to buy it or try it unless she says, ‘Ladies, you’ve got to do it,’ ” she said.
Okrant originally planned to transform her 24/7 Oprah Year into a one-woman play, but now plans to write a book on the experience. She says she has learned to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to Oprah’s advice.
On her Good Oprah list: using eco-friendly products, donating money and time to others and de-cluttering her life.
On her Bad Oprah list: buying expensive clothes that aren’t “her,” a decorating tip calling for sea life in every room and tossing graphic T-shirts that Oprah deemed unbecoming.
While Okrant admits most of her adventures following Oprah’s advice have been a lark, she did find herself battling her conscience when it came to Oprah’s enthusiastic support for presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama. She voted for Obama in the Democratic primary and will cast her vote again for him next month.
“I do like Barack Obama a lot, but I was juggling Hillary and Barack,” she told Lauer, referring to the former first lady. “That was really huge for me, actually, that felt really heavy. That’s been the heaviest I’ve had yet.”
Don’t try this at home
When Lauer asked Okrant whether he would recommend other people try out her Better Living Through Oprah project, she exclaimed, “No, no, no, run the opposite way! I definitely think of it as a social experiment or a piece of performance art or just dissecting pop culture a little bit.”
In a statement from her Harpo Productions office, Winfrey seemed bemused by Okrant’s project.
“Her blog takes a novel approach to being a fan. She certainly takes brand dedication to a whole new level,” Winfrey said in a statement.
When Okrant parts ways with her Oprah life in January, she plans to auction off many of her Winfrey-mandated purchases and donate the proceeds to charity. Her husband Jim told NBC that he, for one, is looking forward to an Oprah detox for his wife.
“We had a lot more together time before Oprah, things were quite a bit calmer,” he said.