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10 Strict Rules Oprah Makes Her Staff Follow

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Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is a talk-show legend who hosted her successful self-named "The Oprah Winfrey Show" from 1986-2011. Her goal with the show was to address issues that affected people on a large scale. Since then,

Oprah has co-founded Oxygen, Harpo Productions, a film and video company, and launched OWN (The Oprah Winfrey Network).

With an amassed worth of over $3.5 billion, it must take a lot of organization and foresight to keep her ventures running smoothly.

Here are 10 strict rules Oprah’s staff must follow to be part of her team.

1. Sign an airtight non-disclosure agreement.

Oprah likes to keep her private life private. People who work for her are privy to details of the mega-mogul’s life that the general public would never know.

To keep her closest secrets confidential, Oprah has one of the best publicity and legal teams in the business. Not surprisingly, while most NDAs are for a limited time, her staff must sign lifetime agreements.

In 2000, Oprah defended the restrictive gag order for employees saying, “I have to function in an environment where I feel I could trust my employees.”  

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2. Security is a top priority. Only the best need apply. 

Oprah takes the security of her studio seriously. She is well aware that anyone can be the victim of a criminal with bad intentions. Her security needs to be the best of the best. 

For that reason, the media mogul keeps a highly qualified security team at her disposal. But you can’t just be any person off the streets. Oprah once hired Michael Jai White to her security team before he went on to become the first Black actor to play a superhero in the movie, "Spawn." 

White is trained in Taekwondo, Kyokushin, Jujutsu, and numerous other martial arts. He is well-qualified to beat the brakes off anyone that comes for Oprah. 

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3. Leave the gum at home.

In 2018, Reese Witherspoon revealed that she chewed gum in front of Oprah on the set of "A Wrinkle in Time," sending her into a rage. 

Oprah later confirmed during an interview with Steven Colbert that she can’t stand to be around people that chew gum. If you work for Oprah, make sure you never get caught with a mouthful of Double Mint. 

4. Don't misbehave or she will come for you.

Oprah is big on taking responsibility when things go wrong. When she found out about the alleged abuse at the girl’s school she had opened in Africa, she apologized and begged for forgiveness from the parents of the abused children.

Not only did Oprah take responsibility, the school matron, Tiny Virginia Makopo, was accused of trying to kiss and fondle girls at the school. Oprah supported the young ladies all the way through the trial of her former employee. 

Eventually, the woman was acquitted of the crimes and Oprah released a statement saying, “I will forever be proud of the nine girls who testified with the courage and conviction to be heard."

After the ex-employee was acquitted, the school's former headmistress, Nomvuyo Mzamane filed a defamation suit against Winfrey for claiming she had failed to take action against Makopo. That case was later settled out of court. 

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5. Be prepared to share.

Oprah is known for remembering her staff’s names and taking a genuine interest in their lives. Many have shared that when it comes to listening when people speak, she is top tier.

She likes to know what is going on in the lives of the people that work for her and do what she can to help in their personal lives.

6. You can’t accept gifts from Oprah fans.

As with any influential person, fans will show up to Oprah’s studios with gifts or cards in hand, hoping to give them to her. 

But Oprah has a strict policy against accepting gifts from the audience. In an internal list of rules for her show, she made it crystal clear that accepting anything on her behalf is out of the question.

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7. You have to be able to deal with controversy.

Oprah is no stranger to scandal. The MeToo movement unearthed several women that were victims of famed producer, Harvey Weinstein. Oprah was accused of "palling around" with the disgraced filmmaker, igniting a firestorm. 

Despite her decision not to give him a platform to defend himself against the indefensible, Oprah was unjustly accused of helping Weinstein abuse women. As an employee, you must be able to stomach a scandal here or there and remain loyal. 

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8. Be prepared to be part of a lawsuit.

When you are a public figure as large as Oprah, you can expect people to sue you for legitimate reasons or to get ahold of some of your mass fortune. 

Oprah is no stranger to lawsuits. From trademark infringements to battles over her infamous NDAs, there have been a ton of legal issues to deal with. As an employee, it is entirely possible you could be called to testify. 

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9. You need to think outside of the box.

No doubt we have talked a lot about Oprah’s philanthropic efforts, but her giving mindset doesn’t end there. Oprah requires her employees to develop a holistic view of the world, putting aside any biases they might have.

In 2013, Oprah was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama. Part of the reason was her dedication to diversity and inclusion. She encourages her employees to engage and interact with people from different backgrounds.

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10. You have to put your job before motherhood.

When Oprah launched the OWN Network, the first show she premiered was "Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes." In that episode, she asked women that worked for her to speak candidly about their experiences. 

A large portion of the women with children in the audience, made up of Oprah staff, talked about the sacrifices they had made for the success of the show. 

They talked about the challenges they faced as working moms and one of them was quoted as saying, “I had to be OK with making sacrifices for work.  I hope I inspire that passion in my children.”

Oprah thanked them for working long hours and sacrificing their personal lives, but made it clear that it was necessary and par for the course. If you have kids, you will likely need a strong support system if Oprah decides to hire you.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.

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