It's kind of rare that a day doesn't go by when there's not a headline that features Oprah, Gayle King or them both. But when I caught the one that I saw today on People's site, I immediately hit up my editor to see if I could expound on it a bit. The title? "Oprah Winfrey Says BFF Gayle King Has 'Always Felt Not a Shadow but the Light' from Her Success". I adore that because that is just what a friendship should be.
Since I wanted to hear more, first, I watched the feature interview with Gayle about how she and Oprah have been friends since 1976; how she was a production assistant at the time, Oprah was anchor and staying at Oprah's house during a bad storm one night solidified their friendship forever. How? Well, they basically had a "C.S. Lewis moment" based on when he once said, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" For them, their ethnicity, being close in age and sharing similar philosophies (oh and agreeing on who they liked and who they thought were assholes; that's a direct Gayle quote, by the way) are the very things that still keep them so close even now.
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Something else that stood out to me is the story Gayle shared about the nicest thing that Oprah has ever done for her. She said that on her first New Year's Eve following her divorce, Oprah and Stedman drove four hours to surprise her. Stedman made spaghetti and they stayed with Gayle so that she wouldn't have to be alone. (So, Sex & the City fans, when Carrie did that for Miranda in the first movie, that wasn't original or merely fictional; Oprah and Gayle did it first). And now, some forty-plus years later, here Oprah and Gaye still stand. Strong and secure Black women. Powerhouses in their own right (let's not forget that Gayle negotiated a pretty impressive deal with CBS earlier this year). And, what I really admire, complete and total fans of one another.
So much, in fact, that for the first time ever, Gayle is gracing the cover of O, The Oprah Magazine in September, alongside her bestie.
As I went to Oprah's actual website to check out the cover story, this part, in particular, stood out to me:
For years, people have marveled at our friendship—and sometimes misunderstood it. But anyone who has a soulful bond with a friend, a friend who would do anything for you, who revels in your happiness and is there to comfort you in your sadness, gets it exactly.
In our friendship, they see their own connections. It's why people often introduce their best friends to me as "She's my Gayle."
Amen. Your friends, your true friends, won't only do anything for you, they will revel in your happiness. That includes your success. (Bookmark that for a moment. I'll be coming back to it.)
As I continued to read on, it's pretty obvious that Oprah not only adores her BFF, but she highly respects her too. It's evident in her words that if anyone saw Gayle's current success coming a mile away, and is totally thrilled because of it, it is her. Plus, I appreciate that Oprah addressed something that I'm sure just about all of us have wondered at one time or another—did Gayle ever feel resentment, envy or that it was some sort of backhanded compliment to be referred to as "Oprah's best friend" all these years. According to Oprah, absolutely not.
Now that Gayle's a shining star on 'CBS This Morning', people often ask her how she felt being in the shadow of my success. The truth is, she always felt not a shadow, but the light. We couldn't have remained friends if she'd perceived it as a shadow. I would have sensed that, and I wouldn't have been able to be as open.
A true friend can't be jealous of you, or want to take advantage of you in any way.
Rinse and repeat— A true friend can't be jealous of you, or want to take advantage of you in any way.
As I finished up, what I consider to be, Oprah's letter of deep love and profound adoration for her friend, I thought about some of my own relationships. Although I didn't plan for it to play out the way that it has, I also have friends who are in the spotlight. Sometimes people ask me how I am able to make it all work. If I were to offer up a bullet point list, here would be my top five:
Know That You Each Have Your Own Purpose in Life
I'll be honest. Something that particularly impresses me about Oprah and Gayle's friendship is the fact that they are basically in the same line of work and there are no moments of competitiveness or jealousy; especially since the media world is naturally competitive on its own. For them to be able to navigate through all of that, it speaks to their own heightened level of self-awareness that they each have a purpose in this life. Oprah can't do what Gayle can in the way that she can do it, and vice versa.
And you know what? That point right there applies to all of us. One of my favorite quotes of all time is "If two people were exactly alike, one of them would be unnecessary." (A man named Larry Dixon said that.) By the mere fact that you are even on this site, I can only assume that you are a pretty ambitious individual. That probably means that some of your inner circle is pretty accomplished as well. No matter how popular, successful or rich one of you may be more than the other, that has nothing to do with the value of each purpose. God placed you both here to do something specific. Knowing this—and reminding one another of this too—can help to keep the green-eyed monster away. For good.
Be Intentional About Celebrating One Another
The Greek playwright Aeschylus once said, "Few men have the natural strength to honor a friend's success without envy." I can see how that would be the case. In my world, a lot of my friends who are in the spotlight are musicians. I'm a writer. So, for the most part, there is no "clashing" to be had. But I will say that when one of them calls me up to say they won an award or they've landed a television special, I celebrate it. And you know what? When I got my book deals or even when I landed this gig with xoNecole, they celebrated that with just as much enthusiasm.
True friends are able to get excited about one another's accomplishments because true friends want to see one another thrive. Because really, when you truly love someone, why wouldn't you want them to win?
Unless you're not "in it" for the friendship, just the opportunities or the "perks" that come with being associated with you. That's not only mad shady but brings me to another point.
Test Your Motives (and Theirs)
There's a Scripture in the Bible that serves as a pretty good character warning—"We justify our actions by appearances; God examines our motives." (Proverbs 21:2—Message) What I like about it is it's a reminder that no matter how good you may be (or think that you are) at hiding your true intentions about something, God always knows. And eventually, those intentions tend to come out. Although there have been times when I've used my media contacts to help out a friend, more times than not, they did not ask; I offered (because again, friends like to see their friends win). But the reason why I am confident that none of my inner circle has ulterior motives is because, unless we're trying to figure out a time to hang out or one of us needs some advice about something, our professional lives don't really come up all that much.
Just last night, I was hanging out with a friend who has an ever-growing platform. Do you know what we talked about more than anything? Past memories and our current relationships (which for me is nada). He wasn't looking to see how I could finesse him nor was I. He's my homie. His accomplishments are a part of him, not all of him. True friends embrace one another's totality. Do you? Do yours?
“Get Off of the Clock” Sometimes
I don't do social media, but I will set a Google alert for some of my friends. Why? Because if search engines didn't tell me about some of the things they've got going on, I wouldn't know any other way. Why? Because most of our relationship consists of day-to-day stuff. We look forward to being able to discuss the things that are probably only truly significant to us.
You can't convince me that Oprah and Gayle don't share moments when they don't do anything but binge-watch television, crack jokes or hang out just for the sake of it. I doubt any friendship could last if all both people did was "talk shop" all of the time; shoot, that's what co-workers are for. Without a doubt, a great way to nurture your friendship is to be off of the clock more than you're on it with each other.
Friendships are supposed to be a source of relaxation and fun. It can only do that when both people are safe places to chill out.
Be Honest About Your Feelings
A husband that I truly respect once said something about his wife that I will never forget—"My job is to present my wife in her best light at all times. She has flaws, but you won't ever hear about them from me." That said, there's no way that Oprah and Gayle—or any other set of friends—can be authentic and not have "moments"; it's just not our business to know about them.
At the same time, that's not to say that I don't have respect for "Kelly Rowland moments" either. Some of y'all might remember back in 2013 when the song "Dirty Laundry" came out and she admitted that she had times when she felt jealous of Beyonce's success. It's a reminder that another necessary component for a friendship's success and longevity is honesty.
And so, if you're feeling some type of way about a friend's accomplishments, don't tell someone else or be passive aggressive about it on social media—tell them directly. A true friend will love you through those feelings and support you in getting past them so that, you can stop feeling like you are in their shadow; so that, like Gayle with Oprah, you can beam in the light alongside them.
If you live on this earth long enough, you'll come to embrace that one of the best gifts it has to offer is a true friend. Oprah and Gayle just reminded us of that. So today, take out a moment to be intentional about shining some light on your besties—to be their fan as well as their friend. If they've been a true one, they deserve it. Right?
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