Oprah Winfrey is sticking by her story about a potentially racist encounter in a Swiss store, repeating the details in an interview to Switzerland's Blick newspaper and adding that the incident was the type of thing that "people with black or brown skin experience every day."
During an interview last week with Entertainment Tonight, Winfrey was asked if she had personally experienced racism. She responded with an anecdote about a clerk at a shop in Switzerland who had recently refused to show her an expensive bag, even though she repeated her request multiple times.
"That one will cost too much, you won't be able to afford that," Winfrey claimed the clerk told her.
That shop assistant, identified only as Ariadna N., spoke to Blick on Sunday, and denied Winfrey's version of events. Ariadna said she showed Winfrey the Jennifer Aniston range of bags, explained that they come in different sizes and materials and pointed out a less expensive alternative when Winfrey expressed interest in the 35,000 franc (more than $37,000) purse at the top of the display.
"It's absurd," Ariadna said of the allegations. "I would never say that kind of thing to a customer."
But Winfrey maintains that she was not exaggerating, though she regrets that the story was blown up into an indictment of Switzerland at large.
Blick reporter Dierk Sindermann asked the famed talk show host whether she might have been oversensitive in perceiving racist undertones in her interaction at the shop, since "in the U.S., black people have to deal with racism daily."
Winfrey said that she wasn't being oversensitive. "I don't know any black man who hasn't been stopped or followed by the police at some point because of his skin color, but for women, it's different," she said said. "What I experienced in Switzerland has only happened to me once before in life. I didn't want to attack Switzerland. It was an isolated incident. The kind of incident that people with black or brown skin have to experience every day."
Winfrey stressed that this kind of thing really doesn't happen to her very often, since she is so well known in the States.
"Believe me, normally people are excited when I come to their stores," Winfrey said. "It's very unusual when I'm not practically dragged into a boutique. Dozens of people will be pressing their noses against the windows to get a look at me shopping."
As she recounted the story, Winfrey mentioned that she even considered calling up the designer of the bag or the actress it was made for.
"The woman at the shop said that it was the Jennifer Aniston bag that Tom Ford had created especially for Jennifer," Winfrey told Blick. "It crossed my mind that maybe I should give Jennifer or Tom a call. I know both of them very well."
But Winfrey conceded that she can't know for sure whether or not the snub was motivated by racism.
"Maybe she actually just didn't want to reach for the bag because it was up too high," Winfrey said. "Who knows? Either way, I had a great time in Switzerland."
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