6 of Oprah's Famous Feuds

Rachel Luna / Stringer / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images
Rachel Luna / Stringer / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey has been called the most powerful woman in the world, and since her syndicated talk show is broadcast in over 130 countries, it's not a ludicrous claim. It's only natural then, that someone so powerful would find herself ensnared in her fair share of controversies. Whether you think Oprah's a power-hungry witch or simply an easy target for anyone desperately seeking a quick burst of exposure, it's hard to argue that no matter who starts the feud, talk TV's queen always handles herself with grace and civility. (Well, most of the time.) And she usually wins. Here are a few of our favorites:

Oprah vs. Jonathan Franzen

Forget Harold Bloom; Oprah might be the world's most influential literary critic. When she picks a book for the Oprah's Book Club segment on her show, what publishers call "the Oprah Effect" kicks in, and sales can spike by upwards of a million copies. For most writers, that sort of enlarged audience and the accompanying royalties would be a dream.

For most writers who aren't Jonathan Franzen, that is. When Oprah chose Franzen's sweeping 2001 family drama The Corrections as a club selection, the author bristled. Franzen apparently didn't feel that his tome belonged in the company of the other selections, lamenting, "The problem in this case is some of Oprah's picks. She's picked some good books, but she's picked enough schmaltzy, one dimensional ones that I cringe, myself, even though I think she's really smart and she's really fighting the good fight." He also expressed discomfort at having the Oprah's Book Club logo on the novel's cover.

Oprah countered by revoking Franzen's invitation to appear on her show, although the novel was discussed by the book club. Although Franzen later admitted he felt awful about the whole episode, it proved that no elitist writer can win a fight with Oprah; the top result for an Amazon search for The Corrections returns the The Corrections (Oprah Edition).

Oprah vs. James Frey

If Oprah triumphed over Franzen, she absolutely dropped the hammer on James Frey, the author of the partially fabricated memoir A Million Little Pieces. Oprah selected the memoir as her book club selection for September 2005, and the paperback version immediately shot to the top of the New York Times' bestseller list for 15 straight weeks. All of the publicity wasn't great for Frey, though. After he appeared on the show to discuss the book, The Smoking Gun started digging around for his mug shot from an anecdote in the memoir in which Frey gets arrested. As it turned out, they couldn't find one because the incident never happened. Soon, the veracity of the whole book was under suspicion.

This hullabaloo obviously embarrassed Oprah since she'd brought the book into the spotlight in the first place. Frey appeared on Oprah's show again in January 2006 to explain himself and contend that the same drug addiction the memoir recounted led him to lie in his writing. Oprah would have none of his equivocating, though, and sternly chided Frey, "I feel you betrayed millions of readers."

She wasn't done, though. Oprah then had Nan Talese, Frey's publisher, defend the decision to market the book as a memoir. Under intense questioning from Oprah, Talese finally admitted that she hadn't actually fact checked the book. Talese would later viciously decry Oprah's "fiercely bad manners," but the damage was done. Winfrey had deftly humiliated both in front of her enormous TV audience.

Oprah vs. David Letterman

When Letterman hosted the 1995 Academy Awards, he made the infamously bad "Oprah, Uma; Uma, Oprah" joke in which he ostensibly introduced Winfrey to Uma Thurman. For most viewers, it was just thirty seconds of excruciatingly unfunny television. According to rumors, Oprah didn't find it funny, either, and what had previously been a cordial relationship in which Oprah had appeared on the comedian's show turned frosty.

Letterman exacerbated things by starting a running bit on his show he called the "Oprah Log," in which he kept a daily diary of whether or not he'd been invited to appear on her show. Every entry had the same answer: nope. Oprah later told Time that she was "completely uncomfortable" as the target of Letterman's jokes, and the rift widened.

In 2005, though, the pair finally patched things up, as Oprah appeared on Letterman's show before the premiere of the Broadway version of The Color Purple. Even against renowned comedians, Oprah always gets the last laugh, though. She needled Letterman with an on-air gift: a signed, framed photo of herself with Uma Thurman.

Oprah vs. Ludacris

When rapper/actor Ludacris appeared on Oprah's show in 2006 with his castmates from the film Crash, he probably expected a fairly soft interview to help garner attention for the film. Instead, Oprah singled him out and chastised him for using the words "bitches" and "ho's" in his rhymes. Ludacris was understandably perplexed by this treatment, which he said continued even after the show went off the air. He later accused Oprah of editing out his rebuttals and comments and leaving her own untouched. He told GQ, "Of course, it's her show, but we were doing a show on racial discrimination, and she gave me a hard time as a rapper when I came on there as an actor"¦It was like being at someone's house who doesn't really want you there."

Although rappers 50 Cent, Ice Cube, and Killer Mike have also publicly criticized Oprah for not supporting hip-hop, Oprah later told MTV, "I'm not opposed to rap. I'm opposed to being marginalized as a woman." It's tough to doubt her quote given its context; she gave the interview while attending the birthday party of Def Jam CEO L.A. Reid.

Oprah vs. Hermes

Oprah hasn't just had beefs with people; she's also taken on luxury designers. This story is shrouded in controversy, but a few facts seem to have emerged. In 2005, Oprah showed up at a Hermes boutique in Paris to buy a purse. Unfortunately, though, the store had already closed and denied her request to slip in to quickly buy the handbag. Oprah was supposedly livid about what she considered to be rude treatment and suspected that the denial was based on racism, and a public war of words broke out. Oprah contacted the U.S. head of Hermes to relay her side of the story. The company maintained that she'd simply run into an overly rigid employee who didn't recognize her and failed to bend the rules as was common for celebrity customers. (Whatever the employee's actual motivation was, he certainly didn't display much business sense; the Birkin handbag Oprah wanted to sneak in to purchase retailed for over $6,000.)

As rumors raged that Oprah wanted viewers to boycott Hermes, she squashed the controversy with her usual flair by inviting Hermes' U.S. chief Robert Chavez on the show. She explained to Chavez that she was just upset over the rude treatment of a single employee. Chavez offered a sincere apology, and Oprah encouraged views to buy their own Birkin bags.

Oprah vs. Angelina Jolie

Oprah's legendary philanthropy nearly matches her fame, and one of her recent projects is the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. The boarding school is devoted to finding academically gifted low-income girls in South Africa and then nurturing their leadership abilities. Obviously, Oprah's pursuing a noble goal with the project, and she occasionally looks to other celebrities for help with promoting the school. Knowing that Angelina Jolie has a deep and abiding love for Africa, Oprah invited her to lend a hand in promoting the school. Jolie supposedly flatly refused. She was apparently still peeved that Oprah had sided with Jennifer Aniston in Aniston's breakup with Jolie's beau Brad Pitt. This one hasn't had any resolution yet, but you can be sure of one thing: when the dust clears, Oprah's going to come out on top.

Ethan Trex grew up idolizing Vince Coleman, and he kind of still does. Ethan co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The Surprising Characters on Friends Who Were Originally the Show's Main Couple

Everyone was enthralled by Ross and Rachel's romantic drama—but how would you feel about Monica and Joey's?
Everyone was enthralled by Ross and Rachel's romantic drama—but how would you feel about Monica and Joey's?
Getty Images

When you think of Friends, your mind probably goes to all the hilarious one-liners, such as Joey's "How you doin'?", or all the romantic relationships in the show, most importantly Ross and Rachel's. We watched the pair's love story blossom since their first kiss back in season two, and the couple is widely regarded as one of the best in TV history.

Well, there was another couple planned that didn't make the cut. Just as Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc wanted their characters Phoebe and Joey to get together, showrunners planned for Monica and Joey to be an item. And they weren't just going to be a fling—the two were originally the Ross and Rachel of the show.

Vulture reports that Friends creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman initially had Monica and Joey coupling up, explaining:

"It would’ve unfolded like this: Joey, a 'perpetual horndog,' would’ve eventually been lured and 'tamed' by Monica as he continued to climb up in the world of acting. Crane, however, found himself 'bored' by this version of Joey; he retooled Joey to be a funnier and warmer character within the friend group, and dropped the romance with Monica altogether."

Would've been weird, right? According to Entertainment Weekly, it wasn't just Crane who didn't like the idea. LeBlanc himself, who played Joey, wasn't into his character trying to pursue Monica, not wanting to play someone who was perceived as creepy and hit on everyone.

It seems Joey went through some serious revisions before Friends became what it is today, and it's probably for the best. He doesn't end up married in the end, but at least Monica gets her happily ever after moment with Chandler.

[h/t Vulture]