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Left: Oprah Right: Joan Rivers in 1987

Oprah Winfrey reveals which star body shamed her on national television and her surprising reaction

Media Magnate Oprah Winfrey, 70, has long struggled with her body image and weight

Bryony Gooch
US Writer
July 2, 2024
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Oprah Winfrey has always kept it real when it comes to her health, particularly in terms of her weight - and now she's getting candid about a time where a fellow star made comments about her body on television that may surprise fans.

Reflecting on her first ever appearance on The Tonight Show, Oprah opened up about comments from the late Joan Rivers, who was guest hosting, about her weight.

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Pictured: (l-r) Talk show host Oprah Winfrey during an interview with guest host Joan Rivers on January 27, 1986 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)© NBC
Oprah with Joan Rivers in 1986

"Joan Rivers turns to be and she says: 'Tell me, why are you so fat?" Oprah said on The Jamie Kern Lima podcast, adding: "On national television, and I don't know what to do with that."

"I just said, like, 'Oh, I just love potato chips, Joan'", Oprah explained, while Joan told her: "shame on you." The comedian, who passed away in 2014, then said: "I'll let you come back if you lose 15 lbs. You need to lose 15 lbs.

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Pictured: (l-r) Talk show host Oprah Winfrey during an interview with guest host Joan Rivers on January 27, 1986 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)© NBC
Joan guest hosted the show for Johnny Carson

While many people may have been shocked by the personal comments from Joan, Oprah had a different perspective: "I agreed with Joan Rivers."

"She says to me on national television, and I accept it. I accept that I should be shamed, because how dare me, be sitting up here on The Tonight Show", Oprah continued.

Oprah Winfrey with a hat on walking through the corn fields in a scene from the film 'The Color Purple', 1985. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)© Archive Photos
Oprah in The Color Purple

While she agreed with Joan that she would "go away and lose 15 lbs", Oprah explained that wasn't what happened: "I didn't lose the 15 lbs. I went and age my way to another 10 lbs."

It wasn't long before her 1986 Tonight Show appearance that Oprah had gone to a "health retreat", which "at the time, they called them fat farms", in order to lose weight, as she believed it had cost her a role in The Color Purple - which she accepted.

Oprah said her weight loss journey has been filled with moments of despair
Oprah said her weight loss journey has been filled with moments of despair

But she received a phone call that changed everything from producer Steven Spielberg. He said: "I hear you're at a fat farm,", adding: "You lose a pound, you could lose this part."

Oprah went on to win an Academy Award for her role as Sofia in the 1985 film.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 16: Oprah Winfrey speaks onstage during the 55th Annual NAACP Awards at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on March 16, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)© Kevin Winter
Oprah Winfrey speaks onstage during the 55th Annual NAACP Awards at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on March 16, 2024 in Los Angeles, California

As a former board member for WeightWatchers, the 70-year-old has long spoken about her struggles with weight loss. But this year, she exited the board after trying a weight loss drug.

"I now use it as I feel I need it, as a tool to manage not yo-yoing", she said in an interview with People, adding: "The fact that there's a medically approved prescription for managing weight and staying healthier in my lifetime feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift, and not something to hide behind and once again be ridiculed for." 

"I’m absolutely done with the shaming from other people and particularly myself."

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