Right, so we all remember how Oprah got Pretty Woman-ed in Switzerland earlier this month when she was repeatedly refused to see a purse she wanted to buy since the shop owner assumed she had no money, right? While the Swiss tourism board has gone so far as to offer a formal apology for the incident, the shop worker responsible for the behaviour denied it ever happened. Meanwhile, Oprah herself is just sorta mortified it’s all gone this far.
The anonymous shop worker’s statement to SonntagsBlick (because people who have done nothing wrong totally hide beyond anonymity):
“I wasn’t sure what I should present to her when she came in on the afternoon of Saturday, July 20, so I showed her some bags from the Jennifer Aniston collection.
“I explained to her the bags came in different sizes and materials, like I always do. She looked at a frame behind me. Far above there was the 35,000 Swiss franc crocodile leather bag.
“I simply told her that it was like the one I held in my hand, only much more expensive, and that I could show her similar bags. It is absolutely not true that I declined to show her the bag on racist grounds. I even asked her if she wanted to look at the bag.”
“This is not true. This is absurd. I would never say something like that to a customer. Really never. Good manners and politeness are the alpha and the omega in this business. I don’t know why she is making these accusations. She is so powerful, and I am just a shop girl. I didn’t hurt anyone. I don’t know why someone as great as her must cannibalise me on TV. If it had all taken place as she claimed, why hadn’t she complained to my boss the next day at Tina Turner’s wedding? She was there also at the Turner wedding as a guest.”
I dunno, I kinda don’t buy it. Maybe it was an innocent mistake, but the issue here is that when you’ve lived your whole life being discriminated against because of the colour of your skin, it doesn’t take much to provoke that defensive reaction, especially when you’ve been working your whole life to escape the limitations that come along with it.
Oprah’s statement to BBC News:
“I think that incident in Switzerland was just an incident in Switzerland. I’m really sorry that it got blown up. I purposely did not mention the name of the store. I’m sorry that I said it was Switzerland.
“I was just referencing it as an example of being in a place where people don’t expect that you would be able to be there. For me, racism doesn’t show up. Nobody’s going to come and call me the N-word to my face, unless they’re a thug on Twitter or Facebook. I was just saying it shows up for me differently. I’m in a store and the person doesn’t obviously know that I carry the black card, and so they make an assessment based upon the way I look and who I am.”
She then joked that she’ll go out of her way to avoid similar situations in the future, saying:
“I cleaned up! I washed my hair and put on my Donna Karan skirt, because I know these people in stores can be very snooty pooty. So I thought, ‘Let me dress so I don’t get turned away’, and it happened anyway. So I guess I didn’t dress up enough.And I didn’t have anything that said, ‘I have money’. I wasn’t wearing a diamond stud, I didn’t have a pocketbook, I didn’t wear a Louis Vuitton shoe. I didn’t have anything – I just had a Donna Karan skirt, a top, and some sandals. You should be able to go in a store looking whatever you look like, and say, ‘I want to see this’. That didn’t happen.”
I also feel like it’s kinda bullshit that Oprah has to apologise for being put out by racism – even if it only felt like racism to her and that wasn’t the woman’s intention. Sure, the shop girl doesn’t need to be vilified, but I just feel like now she has to backtrack and feel bad about the fact that she was the one who was treated wrongly, just because some white people are up in arms now. I don’t know, this all makes my brain hurt.