Oprah's New School for Girls in S. Africa

I'm posting this because I'm a little annoyed. In the recent story about Oprah's new school for girls in S. Africa, the journalist, writing what is a seemingly positive newsstory, throws in what I see as a dig about what Oprah. He states she wore a "ball gown" to the ribbon cutting, which I think is misleading. It may sound petty, but it is implied in the article that some of the amenities in the school are excessive and inappropriate. I was bothered by that characterization of her dress, as it implies that she was dressed rather inappropriately for a ceremony for a group of underpriveledged children. Doesn't this seem rather biased and completely unecessary (the comment, I mean)?

Here's the story and the link (with the pic of what she wore):

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070102/...people_winfrey

Oprah Winfrey opens school in S. Africa By CELEAN JACOBSON, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jan 2, 11:12 AM ET



JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Oprah Winfrey opened a school Tuesday for disadvantaged girls, fulfilling a promise she made to former President Nelson Mandela six years ago and giving more than 150 students a chance for a better future.

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"I wanted to give this opportunity to girls who had a light so bright that not even poverty could dim that light," Winfrey said at a news conference.

Mandela, 88, attended the opening ceremony of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in the small town of Henley-on-Klip, south of Johannesburg. He looked frail as he was helped on to the stage by his wife, Graca Machel, and Winfrey. But he beamed with joy and his speech resonated with pride.

"It is my hope that this school will become the dream of every South African girl and they will study hard and qualify for the school one day," he said in a firm voice.

Mandela thanked Winfrey for the "personal time and effort" she devoted to the school.

"This is not a distant donation but a project that clearly lies close to your heart," said the anti-apartheid leader who became multiracial South Africa's first democratically elected president in 1994.

Singers Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey, actors Sidney Poitier and Chris Tucker, and director Spike Lee also were in attendance. Each guest was asked to bring a personally inscribed book for the library.

Winfrey has said that she decided to build her own school because she wanted to feel closer to the people she was trying to help.

The $40 million academy aims to give 152 girls from deprived backgrounds a quality education in a country where schools are struggling to overcome the legacy of apartheid.

By educating girls, Winfrey said she hoped she could help "change the face of a nation."

"Girls who are educated are less likely to get HIV/ AIDS, and in this country which has such a pandemic, we have to begin to change the pandemic," she said.

Many of the girls come from families affected by the disease, which has infected 5.4 million of the 48 million population and hit women disproportionately hard.

Winfrey referred repeatedly to her own impoverished childhood and said she was grateful that she at least had a good education, declaring this to be "the most vital aspect of my life."

"I was a poor girl who grew up with my grandmother, like so many of these girls, with no water and electricity," said the talk show host, dressed in a pink ball gown and jacket.
She vowed to make the academy the "best school in the world" and promised that she would continue to support the girls so they could attend any university in the world.

The idea for the school was born in 2000 at a meeting between Winfrey and Mandela. She said she decided to build the academy in South Africa rather than the United States out of love and respect for Mandela and because of her own African roots.

She said she planned a second school for boys and girls in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Many state-funded schools, especially in the sprawling townships that sprang up under white racist rule, are hopelessly overcrowded and lack even basic necessities such as books. They also are plagued by gang violence, drugs and a high rate of pregnancy among school girls.

Top-class study and sports facilities are available but are largely confined to private schools that are still dominated by the white minority, since they are too expensive for many black and mixed race South Africans.

Winfrey's academy received 3,500 applications from across the country. A total of 152 girls ages 11 and 12 were accepted.

To qualify, they had to show both academic and leadership potential and have a household income of no more than $787 a month. Eventually, the academy will accommodate 450 girls.

The 28-building campus boasts computer and science laboratories, a library and theater along with a wellness center.

Winfrey rejected suggestions the school was elitist and unnecessarily luxurious.

"If you are surrounded by beautiful things and wonderful teachers who inspire you, that beauty brings out the beauty in you," she said.

Lesego Tlhabanyane, 13, proudly wore her new green and white uniform at the ceremony to raise the South African flag.

"I would have had a completely different life is this hadn't happened to me. Now I get a life where I get to be treated like a movie star," she said.

Winfrey, who does not have children, said she was building a home for herself on the campus to spend time with the girls and be involved in their education.

"I love these girls with every part of my being. I didn't know you could feel this way about other people's children," she said.
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Remember that if it's Oprah, there are some people who will find absolutely nothing positive about it. I read that some people were critical because the school wasn't in the US. Oprah responded that in the US girls aren't told that their education stops at age 12.
Remember that if it's Oprah, there are some people who will find absolutely nothing positive about it. I read that some people were critical because the school wasn't in the US. Oprah responded that in the US girls aren't told that their education stops at age 12.
Originally Posted by Myradella3
Unfortunately, we could probably use some schools like this in the US too, but that doesn't negate what Oprah is doing at all.

I wish more wealthy people and people of influence would do half of what Oprah does.

To the OP, yes, I did get a negative vibe after reading the article. Maybe not about the pink dress, but the quote they chose from the little girl about being a treated like a movie star seems inappropriate. I am sure they had much better quotes they could have used.
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hmmm. Yeah, I kinda sensed a little subtle jab in that comment as well. What's wrong with dressing up? It probably made it that more exciting for the little girls. What is she supposed to do, show up in rags? All the people that knock Oprah need to just shut the hell up, put their money where their mouth is and help out someone in need. Oprah isn't my favorite person in the world, but she helps so many people.
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That's a ball gown?
Originally Posted by medussa
Exactly my thought - it looks very much like day wear to me. They made it sound like she was wearing diamonds and a tiara or something. Good for Oprah and great for those girls!!
3C, BSL Unstretched -
I totally agree with all the above. I think this is something that can and will make a monumental difference in so many young ladies' lives. I think it's a bit cowardly for the journalist to make subtle, almost passive-aggressive snide comments, including choosing the girl's comment that Katie pointed out, in addition to the quoted comments of Oprah. I don't know, it's like the journalist is slanting it to represent this as an egotistical gesture (changing the face of a nation, etc).
3C, fine corkscrew. Carlos at Devachan devotee. "I don't poo, do you?" No Pooing for a year and a half. Holy grail products include: Kenra Moisturizing Treatment, Nioxin Scalp Therapy,Devacurl No-Poo Ouidad Botanical Boost alternated with Bumble and Bumble Leave-In, Ouidad Deep Treatment, and Biolage Gellee Gel. I HAVE FOUND ALL MY HOLY GRAIL PRODUCTS FOR CONSISTENT, RELIABLE GOOD HAIR DAYS!!!

"Hon, can you make me a scotch on the rocks? And can you make the rocks be my Vicodin?"--Karen from Will and Grace

"You're tacky and I hate you."--Fancypants to Jack Black in "School of Rock"
I can't stand Oprah. Nevertheless, her dress doesn't look that elaborate to me. Maybe, seeing it fully (length, fabric, etc.) might make it look different. CNN said something about her digging in heels and a nice dress, but it didn't read as a dig -- more as "that's one stylish woman." It's a shame they focused on knocking down her great and kind achievement in building the school. MJB & Mariah Carey probably had on enough jewelry each to found another school.

I did, however, find it odd that the night before the opening, she threw an incredibly expensive party for celebrity friends in SA. I know it's her money, but that just strikes me as weird and the height of irony. Of course, every time I see Bono wearing his sunglasses and swanky watch when he's visiting an impoverished country or village all I can think is those two items alone could feed a whole bunch of folks. It does sort of irritate me when extremely wealthy people don't "tone it down" in terms of appearance/extravagance when they're amongst people with hardly anything. Then again, the press probably wouldn't bother to show up if they showed up in jeans, a t-shirt and a ball cap.
Remember that if it's Oprah, there are some people who will find absolutely nothing positive about it. I read that some people were critical because the school wasn't in the US. Oprah responded that in the US girls aren't told that their education stops at age 12.


She also said she wanted it somewhere where kids would appreciate it. Something about how if kids in the U.S. are asked what they want, they will say Ipods and things like that. While Kids in S. Africa will ask for clothes to go to school. I don't really care for Oprah, but have to respect what she's doing for all those little girls.




Maybe, seeing it fully (length, fabric, etc.) might make it look different.

Maybe the writer called it a ball gown because of it's length. It was a full length dress. Very pretty BTW.
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Eh. Maybe, Oprah was doing the walk of shame after her NYE party.
That's a ball gown?
Originally Posted by medussa
Exactly my thought - it looks very much like day wear to me. They made it sound like she was wearing diamonds and a tiara or something. Good for Oprah and great for those girls!!
Originally Posted by solange
Same here- my immediate thought upon reading "ball gown" was a prom-type dress with a huge poofy taffeta skirt, that whole deal. The outfit she had on looks completely normal to me.
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