Before Oprah Winfrey’s powerful speech at the Golden Globes, mounting speculation about her plans for a White House run, and the devastating California mudslides, the 64-year-old icon and star of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ shared with BAZAAR what matters most in her life and why there’s no place like home.
7.10AM Every day that I can wake up surrounded by nature in my own home [in Montecito, California] is a perfect one. I call it the “Promised Land” because it feels like a spiritual gift from all the forces of life. It makes me think of The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy is asked what she’s learned and she replies, “I won’t look any further than my own backyard.” This morning, when I hit the blackout shades just after seven, the light was casting its golden glow over the green lawn, with the clouds and ocean in the distance. I watched three geese fly over the backyard and land in the pond. I hadn’t even had a sip of coffee, but it was already a perfect day. [After her property was damaged by the mudslides in January, Winfrey expressed the kind of strength and leadership you would expect from a potential presidential candidate, telling Ellen DeGeneres on her show, “We’re going to come together and do what great Americans do all the time—we’re going to help each other out.”]
8AM First thing in the morning, I brush my teeth and take the dogs out. There are five of them and everybody’s ready to get out, but I make them wait while I brush my teeth. After I walk the dogs around the yard, I make my favourite espresso. I mix caffeinated and decaffeinated espresso with milk and a little hazelnut. As I wait for the brew to froth, I put out a card from my 365 Gathered Truths box. I read five of them each morning; it’s a beautiful way to start the day. Today I got this great one that said, “Wealth is not measured by dollars and cents, but by the love we make, the laughter we enjoy, the meals we share, the dreams we experience and the hopes we create.”
8.30AM I have a series of spiritual exercises that I do every day. After reading Gathered Truths, I check out Bowl of Saki on my phone; it’s delivered to my inbox every morning. It contains the teachings of the Sufis, a Middle Eastern sect that believes all paths lead to God and that all religions are one, pointing to the same north star. Then I meditate. This morning, I observed 20 minutes of silence sitting in my breakfast chair. If it were warmer, I would go outside. My house is surrounded by more than 3,000 trees; it feels like I live in a park. When I want to meditate, I can go to a special rock that’s carved into the shape of a seat. Or I can sit underneath the 12 live oak trees that I call “the Apostles”. It’s my absolute favourite place on earth.
9AM After my meditation, I work out for an hour. I do resistance flexibility, a low-impact strength-training programme that involves two, sometimes three, people pushing against you as you push against them. I have stretchers come to my house to help me do it. After that I go for a run. This morning, I did 30 minutes on the treadmill and then a giant loop around my home. I live on 65 acres, so I can jog for a solid two miles without leaving my property.
10.30AM today I had a little trunk show in my living room. Brunello Cucinelli came up from Los Angeles, and I chose everything that I wanted from their spring line. If it were Thursday, I’d be in the garden after my workout. That’s harvest day, when we cut the herbs, pick the fruit, dig up the potatoes. It usually takes 40 minutes to an hour.
12.30PM We [Winfrey and her longtime partner, Stedman Graham] always try to eat lunch in the garden. We have a rule: If we cannot find it in our garden, then we cannot eat it. Today was an exception; we had fabulous crab cakes flown in from Pappas in Baltimore. One of my daughters [a former student of her Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa], who’s going to school in Colorado now, was visiting. She’s the first one of my girls to land here for Thanksgiving week, and she had never had a crab cake in her life, so it was a big deal. I’ve put these crab cakes on my “Favourite Things” list many times. Each one is eight ounces; they’re big, lumpy, delicious things. When it comes to crab cakes, anything else is just pretending. I love lunch. It’s my favourite meal. If Stedman isn’t here, I will invite others over—all the people I’m interested in talking to or meeting. I had Jennifer Lawrence up for lunch, Chrissy Metz, Princess Ameerah of Saudi Arabia. I do cook, but not if it’s more than four people. I start to get confused about how much stuff to put in. Sometimes I’ll have a glass of rosé with lunch. My favourite is Promise “The Joy” Rosé. It’s from Napa Valley. I like my wine very chilled, so when it goes into the glass you see the humidity on the outside. Wine—if it’s too warm—is the only thing I ever send back at a restaurant.
1.30PM I try to take care of any business in the early afternoon so the rest of the day is mine. Wire transfers, checks. I personally sign all checks over 100 grand. Even on a perfect day, I want to do it. Having grown up poor, I can never completely turn over all my money matters to anyone else. It’s important for me to know what’s coming in, what’s going out. I never want to be one of those people who delegates that task to someone else and then one day is surprised to find out how much money they do or don’t have. During the week I also check in daily with Gayle about the magazine [King is editor at large of O, the Oprah Magazine], with my office in LA, and with Mindy Grossman [the president and CEO of Weight Watchers]. I go down the line of all the business stuff I need to take care of and usually get it done completely within two hours.
3.30PM In the late afternoon, I’ll do some form of exercise again. Today I met the girls for a run. Then I head to my teahouse just as the sun is setting. I never drink tea with caffeine in the afternoon; otherwise I’ll be up until four in the morning because it stays in my system for 12 hours. The teahouse is where I read. You know what I’ve been doing lately that brings me such exquisitejoy? Reading poetry.
I recently saw Bruce Springsteen on Broadway, and it touched my life in such a profound way. I have not been able to talk about it without crying. It is so deeply moving—it makes you see the poetry in your own life. The show inspired me to start reading poetry again, and so now that’s how I like to end my day. I’m currently making my way through The Way Under The Way, by my friend Mark Nep. I find it very calming.
6PM We eat dinner at six, and then it’s time for another dog walk. If Stedman or the girls are here, I’ll eat a proper meal, but if I’m alone I may just have a protein shake or a bowl of soup. My perfect evening involves sitting around the fire with family, reading a novel, and drinking herbal tea. I generally prefer reading a novel to watching a movie. I can go for weeks without turning on the TV. Which is not to say I don’t love a good movie; in fact, I’ve just worked my way through a stack of 20 DVDs for the Oscar nominations. A lot of my girls are from out of the country, so they’re not familiar with many of the classics. I want to make sure they see certain films because there are expressions they need to know. We’ll watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and they’ll ask “What does ‘cuckoo’s nest’ mean?” So we’ve been watching a lot of old movies like Midnight Cowboy and To Kill A Mockingbird. Everyone needs to see that!
I can’t wait for them to see A Wrinkle In Time. I had so much fun making that movie. I’d wake up in the morning and think, “Oh my God, I get to do that again!” We were all completely in sync, trying to figure out what it means to be a celestial being from another planet. It was an adventure of the best kind, discovering new things about yourself through this material. Reese [Witherspoon, Winfrey’s co-star] grew up reading the book, but for me it was like starting from scratch. And then there was living in Ava’s [DuVernay, the director] imagination, and the glory of those costumes. We were in hair and make-up for three hours every day. I would go in there and put myself in this meditative state and enjoy it. And then there was the experience of being in South Island, New Zealand, which should be on everyone’s bucket list. I was living in a cabin on a turquoise lake, surrounded by mountains and alpine trees with eagles flying overhead. And the people were so happy! Every day was amazing.
9.30PM In the evening, I have a bath before bed; it’s a ritual. I’m a bathing professional—I have different bubble baths, salts, beads, and oils. I was in Provence a couple of summers ago, and I got this pure lavender oil. I’ve spent a lot of time creating homes that feel like nurturing, spiritual shelters for me. I also have a ranch in Maui, but I don’t love any place as much as this one. The land, the tress, and the open sky fortify me. I feel very connected in a way that I never do when I’m in a city surrounded by buildings. I recently travelled to Milwaukee, where I grew up, and I kept saying to myself, “Was it always this grey?” Well, I never noticed because I was always going to work. I left before daybreak and then it was dark when I got home 14 hours later. I never paid attention to the sky. For me, a perfect day is not just one thing; it’s a series of small things. It’s the crisp air on your face when you open the door in the morning, the reflection of mountains and clouds in a crystal lake. It’s paying attention: What does the sky look like? Where’s the sun? When you’re walking down a path, how do your feet feel when they touch the grass?
I know that people will say, “Oprah, if I were you, I’d have a perfect day, too.” But I’ve earned it: I’ve earned the ability to pay attention to every aspect and detail of the day. I have a great appreciation for the little things that add up to that big meaningful life.