The holidays are a-coming and you know what that means: Someone will be compiling a gift list. No, not Santa — Oprah! This is the 20th year of Oprah's Favorite Things, an annual list of must-have presents, partially curated by mega-celebrity Oprah Winfrey. This year's 102-item selection, includes clothing, kitchenware, food and beauty goods, with an emphasis on the comfortable and unique.
Winfrey's gift list was first publicized in a 1990s episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." It became instantly popular when she told stunned audience members that they would each be receiving all the items on that inaugural list. Soon, the episode became must-watch television every November.
Now "The Oprah Winfrey Show" is gone, but the list lives on. This year's gift assemblage is discussed in a recent episode of The Daily Zeitgeist, a podcast hosted by Jack O'Brien and Miles Gray. Guest co-host, show producer Anna Hossnieh, dissects the list with Jack and Miles.
The trio note a lot of the items are on the pricey side, running about $100. Not a big deal for a billionaire like Winfrey, but not necessarily doable for many people. Anna particularly likes the emu women's Mayberry slipper, a plush piece of footwear crafted from Australian sheepskin ($60). Jack is partial to the yellow leaf double hammock ($199) that can hold up to 400 pounds "or one American."
Other gifts include an easy-to-grow olive tree; a women's cowl-necked "snuggle lounger" and a $50 box of blueberries. (The latter, it must be noted, are organic wild berries harvested in Maine and then frozen within 24 hours of their harvest.) Prices for Oprah's Favorite Things range from $0 (free downloads of her Super Soul Conversations podcast) to a $2,000 television.
Many of the gifts, which are easily available on Amazon, are already selling out. That, the hosts say, is likely due to the "Oprah Effect." This phrase refers to the fact that people who appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," or whose products are endorsed by her, often find immediate success afterward.
"Toni Morrison ... said she got a bigger boost being on Oprah's book list than she did from winning a f***ing Nobel prize," says Miles.
The hosts also discuss whether people pay Oprah to get on her gift list. Says Anna, "I don't think so. I think [the items] are given to her for free. I think the whole concept of just getting on that list is enough."
Counters Jack, "There is no way a billionaire is promoting another's product without getting a cut ... She's not putting something on there [the list] she doesn't like, but there's no way anyone will convince me she's not getting money."
Actually, most of the items on the list are found by Gayle King, editor-at-large of O, the Oprah Magazine and Adam Glassman, the magazine's creative director, although Winfrey makes the final decisions. Glassman told the Associated Press that Oprah always challenges them "to find some new brands, some indie brands, mom-and-pop kind of brands."
While many gifts in the guide are useful, luxurious or intriguing, others are, well, weird. Do you really want a crock of fatwood fire-starter sticks? Tinware mugs? A battery-operated toothbrush? Those five pounds of organic blueberries?
It probably doesn't matter. Even if you don't want them, someone else likely will. It's the Oprah Effect, after all.