What were you doing on November 6? Crying? Eating spicy Cheez-its by the handful and screaming into a paper bag? Charting your own “path to 270" on the bathroom wall using shaving cream, conditioner, and the strands of hair you’ve stress-shed that were clogging the drain? Whatever your pleasure was on that day does not compare to that of Oprah Winfrey, benevolent queen with new-money taste, who quietly unleashed her annual list of Favorite Things and then, in my fantasy, closed the squillion open tabs on her computer, stood outside in the garden next to a patch of late-season tomatoes, and took a deep breath, content with the knowledge that she had released the best iteration of her very specific taste into the world.
Of all the celebrity gift guides that we wait for with bated breath, Oprah’s is by far the least offensive. Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP Gift Guide is an easy dunk that, this year, was too easy to actually do. Paltrow has been out of touch with anyone other than her coven of gentle reiki enthusiasts with expensive hair for some time now, so looking for things to be mad about within that guide is overdone. Oprah’s Favorite Things, though, are more worthy of consideration, because of what they actually say about who Oprah is—a very rich woman with new-money taste who isn’t afraid to show it.
This year, the list has what Oprah calls a “special twist”—most of her Favorite Things in 2020 are “from Black-owned or-led companies.” The list of Black-owned businesses who were lucky enough to get the Oprah seal of approval include big hitters like Telfar (of the bags) and Savage X Fenty, as well as smaller brands making the sort of artisanal, quietly expensive but slightly flashy basics that, to me, scream Oprah. There’s a $165 denim log-carrier by Mi Cocina, a bougie kitchen goods brand based out of San Francisco, and two bottles olive oil for $78 from Exau, an artisanal olive oil company based out of Austin.
The impulse to pick through the list and find the most ridiculous items in it is strong, but at this juncture, unnecessary. Her tech list consists of just two items: the Mirror, a terrifying surveillance tool that is purportedly for exercising, and the Terrace TV from Samsung, which costs $3,500 and is “designed to withstand rain, snow, and extreme heat and outfitted with antireflection technology, it ensures socially distant screenings with minimal glare.” I find it hard to believe that anyone reading this list will actually buy either one of these items, but their inclusion is purely aspirational. But unlike Gwyenth Paltrow’s aspirational gifts—which included a $38,000 bed—a big-ass TV that can sit out on a well-maintained porch near a hot tub is precisely the kind of beautifully tacky shit that would work well in the yard of a McMansion or in the backyard of one of Oprah’s guest villas on the grounds of one of her many estates. Gwyneth, bless her, would never. Even Ina Garten, another domesticity icon with the same champagne tastes as Oprah, would not deign to include anything as declassé as a giant TV for outside, were she to give the people what they really want, which is a gift guide of her very own.
But even if Ina were to drop the gift guide, what would be on the list would tell us nothing more than what our eyes can see about the woman behind it. Bespoke denim shirts, very good gardening shears, hydrangeas, repeat. This is information we can glean by just looking at Gardner, but Oprah? She’s done a great job her entire career of performing relatability so well that it transcends performance, and the personality that we see in public is maybe just who she really is—a literal billionaire with upper-middle class, suburban taste. She’s the fanciest woman in her cul de sac, and she’s not afraid to show it.