Hula Hoop Performer Pens Open Letter To Oprah: “I Want A Life In Which People Are Not Asked To Work For Free”

November 18, 2014  |  


Oprah’s “Live The Life You Want” tour became a universal church where people of all faiths came together to receive life advice from Oprah, Elizabeth Gilbert, Deepak Chopra and Iyanla Vanzant, to name a few. The tour inspired many think pieces by attendees musing over and sharing what they learned, but there was one woman who was not completely sold on Winfrey’s hit-selling tour. Revolva, a hula hoop performer in California Bay area was contacted by one of Oprah’s producers to perform at the “Live The Life You Want” San Jose event. Unfortunately, the producer told Revolva she would be performing on a stage outside of the event’s main arena. Most importantly, she would not meet Oprah or be paid. Because of the latter, Revolva decided to pen an open letter to the media maven about asking performers to work for free despite the revenue accumulated from the tour.

In highlights from her open letter, Revolva writes:

Dear Oprah:
No effing way. I could not believe it when a producer from Harpo Studios got in touch last week, asking if I could perform at your “The Life You Want” San Jose tour stop. I mean, OPRAH WINFREY! I’ve always wanted to hear, “Welcome Revollllllvaaaaa,” as I cartwheeled onstage, to tell you my life story—the profundity of all my lingering student loan debt causing you to weep and then declare to America that I am your new BFF. (Sorry,Gayle!) Your producer was totally calling to add me to your list of “trailblazers,” including Deepak Chopra and Elizabeth Gilbert, right?!? I should have known that, in the phone call with your producer, there was a deep spiritual lesson in store for me.

Here is our paraphrased conversation:
Producer: “Your stuff sounds great. Are you interested?”
Me: “Hell yes! Oprah! Oprah!”
Producer: “Okay, so just to be clear, you’d be on a stage outside the event. And, you know, just to be clear, Oprah will not be on that stage. Oh, and just to be clear, this gig isn’t paid.” 

To that end, Oprah, my call with your producer resulted in me saying I didn’t feel great about making a two-hour round trip commute, paying for gas and parking, and taking hours out of my day to do a free act, when the event is charging up to $999 per ticket. Could she see if there was some kind of budget so my outgoing costs wouldn’t result in me losing money to perform? Back to that spiritual lesson you had in store for me, Oprah. Maybe it’s because my car broke down, and I’m struggling. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing this for 12 years, and after all the requests for free or discount work, the one by a billionaire’s tour was the straw that broke my back. But I thought it through, and achieving “the life you want” is not always easy. The risks we have to take, to transform this culture into something more nurturing, involve looking at the way things are and saying, “Hey, wait. That’s not cool!” Even if we have to say that to Oprah Winfrey.But, in the spirit of your own event: The life I WANT does not involve mega tours netting unfathomable amounts of real, tangible money, while local artists are coached to accept all or most of their payment in the least stable form of currency: exposure. If the “trailblazing” I do today is being an upstream voice, then I’ll at least make a bold statement about the life I DO want: I want a life in which people are not asked to work for free—by people who can totally afford to pay.

Jezebel says Revolva has been forced to upgrade her website twice since writing the letter to Oprah due to the high traffic her post received.

Read Revolva’s entire letter, here.

Would you follow in Revolva’s footsteps if the Oprah Winfrey asked you to work for exposure and not a check?

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  • Blackgryphon

    Christ the woman is a billionaire and she can not pay this girl. Now you know how this person became a billionaire. Just being her cheap old useless self selling her snake oil.

  • Angelie

    What’s wrong with Oprah’s camp reimbursing this woman for her travel costs at least, especially if she is making up to $999 per ticket?

    • ALM247

      You need to go to the link to Revolva’s blog post on this, and actually
      read the post. Oprah’s producer DID offer her a travel stipend. The producer also offered Revolva a free ticket to that leg of the tour.

      • Cherry

        She offered her a travel stipend after she turned it the gig down. It was their way of ‘offering’ her something after the fact. It was NOT in the initial offer. Basically, they asked her to spend her own time and money to perform for them.

        The whole point of ‘exposure’ is so that when a billionaire contacts you to perform, you get a fat paycheck. Revolva has been performing for over 12 years and is well beyond ‘needing exposure’. NO artist should still be asked to work for exposure after performing professionally for that long. It’s insulting. In fact, I don’t think anyone should be asked to work for free at an event that charges as much as hers did. I bet if Oprah told her gardener she wanted them to mow her lawn for free, they’d quit. Why is it any different for an artist. It’s not like Revolva contacted Oprah’s team. They contacted *her*.

        Did you also notice that they wanted her to perform outside… in November? Eff that!

  • HonestHeather

    Oprah could at minimum cover travel expenses. Come on… Let’s be realistic. Nothing is free. Nothing. Standing out there swiveling your hips for God knows how long for free?!? For a BILLIONAIRE?

    • ALM247

      You need to go to the link to Revolva’s blog post on this, and actually read the post. Oprah’s producer DID offer her a travel stipend and a free ticket to that leg of the tour.

  • Clark Toni

    Wow you guys just don’t get it Oprah producer call her not Oprah. How do people get mad at Oprah? Oprah didn’t asked this lady to do a thing. We all have issues joined the crowd in owing back Student Loans. I feel for Oprah because there will always be folks that dragged her name thru the mud. Oprah worked for her money if the woman didn’t want to do it she should have said no to the Producer!!!!

    • Guest
  • Ret2Go

    I appalled Revolva…although Bless her momma heart for that name! LOL!! I’ll probably be attacked for this, but I am no fan of Oprah. I do not feel she’s genuine. Why? Because nothing she does is truly for other people, it is for notoriety and acclaim. I remember old school messy Oprah and the transformation that occurred to dress her up to appear like this philanthropist. She’s made her money off the experiences of other people and she keeps on doing it. Don’t give a damb, but as long as she can stamp her name on it and be in front of a camera…here she comes. If you truly look at her on a grand scale, she ain’t here for us. She can sit with Jay-z and drink quarter waters all she wants or smile at Obama like he’s God although prior to him moving up in the candidacy..she was nowhere to be found, but she ain’t here for us at all, especially black men. This event with it’s high price tag was to showboat at the expense of people who are just excited to do what it is that they do, but at the end of the day…who is paying for it? My time away from my job, travel expenses, etc etc? It’s not like after the event people would have been knocking on her door for appearances or throwing money at her. She was just a performer in an act and once it’s over, back to her life she goes. Bravo Revolva! Sorry guys but she had a right to call Oprah on the fooleywang. I’m sorry, but you will not be charging a grand a person and I’m up here working for peanuts! That offer was an insult! I’m glad someone finally stood up to Oprah ole greedy butt.

    • Yvette

      Well I am a fan of Oprah’s but I do not agree with or support everything she says or does and this is one of those times. Oprah should have offered some kind of payment. Point. Blank. Period.

    • LesAnn620

      Her name is actually Kari. 🙂 Revolva is a stage name.

  • ari_jai_elle

    Just another privileged white girl

  • Melissa Lowe

    I agree with Revolva…having to flip my own bill for exposure for a billionaire I can pass on when other known talented people are being paid but since I’m struggling I shouldn’t be paid but still offering my service just as they are….I am losing respect for Oprah if she supports this and I feel she should contact her and offer her a decent pay for using her service.

  • Buhle

    good on her. Good on her. You did well. We celebrate people so much so that its a handicap. We become so blinded to the oppression their power impresses upon one. At which time do you think you are that powerful to make ridiculous requests of people? Yes its her staff, but they are doing things under her guidance. Having power comes with great responsibility.

  • eestoomuch

    i cant get past the 999.00 tix price…the mighty O is trying to make back the money she donated to the Obama campaigns…she do not fool me, uhn uhn, not the kid…

  • missdragontat

    “For far too long the presumption has been, if you’re a woman, a person of color or from a lower socioeconomic status, that folks can get you, your talent, your expertise and your energy for free.” — Danielle N. Lee, Ph.D

    I support the artist for taking a stand.

  • mikki21

    Did anybody point out to her that the half time performers at the super bowl aren’t paid either……

    • blogdiz

      Did anyone ever point out to you that Performers at the Super Bowl are already well established millionaires who can afford to perform for free

    • breathe

      You get dumber with every comment. This performance was not broadcast. It was for people walking by. No promotional materials. No nothing. It wasn’t about promoting the artists. It was about putting on a great show of how Oprah has created this magical life AND YOU CAN TOO! If you take advantage of others.

    • Ol’ Skool

      The NFL doesn’t PAY the artists themselves but DOES cover all logistical costs, including but not limited to travel expenses for the artist, musicians, crew, family members etc, and covers all lodging costs for all of the aforementioned. In fact, the only think they DON’T pay is the actual “artist fee.” Everything else is covered.

  • honeybee808

    Perfect example of not seeing the forest for the trees. Oprah has built careers off of artists taking advantage of the exposure. I’m not sure who’s in the market for a hula hoop performer, but this may have been a valuable investment in her career. Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can take a step forward.

    I understand she may be struggling, but in exchange for some gas money or a train or bus ticket, she foolishly passed up the opportunity of a lifetime. How much of a financial loss would it have been? Really? Look at the attention she’s getting just for mentioning Oprah’s name!

    • breathe

      Baloney. Doing free gigs only brings in more offers of free gigs. Do you think people donate all those cars Oprah used to give away? Hell no. She negotiated a low price for them and got great publicity for giving them away. Oprah has the ability to pay but instead props up a system that takes advantage of artists. If she was really a good person, she would pay the artist AND PROMOTE THEM. Doesn’t she want them to have the life of their dreams?

  • KM

    This wasn’t a “free performance” as much as it was a marketing opportunity.
    If she is spending any money AT ALL on marketing & promotion (which ALSO is not given away for free) this was a missed opportunity.
    The word “exploit” is being thrown around a lot with regard to this story. “Exploit” by definition means “make full use of and derive benefit from (a resource).” Revolva had a chance to EXPLOIT one donated performance, and let a zillion people in town for that event know where they could PAY to see her while they were there.
    So I say NEVER perform for free – unless its at an event for a brand with proven marketing success for anything even ADJACENT to it, ie OPRAH. Exhibit A: a think piece about NOT being hired by Oprah going viral, and shutting down your website due to high traffic. Try writing that article without referencing Oprah Winfrey and see how many clicks it would generate.

    People aren’t asking to be paid for having their commercial shown during Super Bowl, or their name dropped by Oprah. Folks are coming out of pocket for that type of publicity and attention.

    • breathe

      A MARKETING OPPORTUNITY FOR OPRAH! Not for this performer! Shame on you making excuses for a billionaire taking advantage of starving artists. Oprah is exploiting artists when she has the ability to pay. She tells people, “Recognize your worth” and “Build the life you want”. Do you think people really want to build a life of working for free and living in debt? Does Oprah work for free? Hell no.

      You clearly have a lot of issues. Praise the rich, berate the poor. Tell the poor to give give give and encourage the rich to take take take. You’re what’s wrong with this country. Ignorance and greed are all your comment conveys.

      • omar

        i like you breathe

  • KM

    She was made the offer. She refused it. So now what? Yaaaay her.
    AND she is still using her experience with Oprah’s people to drive viewers to her site.

    They asked her to perform for free, she said no. Now I bet due to this “exposure” she will book gigs from people based on the perceived shaft she got from Oprah’s people.

  • mmmdot

    Good for her. There is this ethos in American culture of not properly compensating people for the work they do through the methods of free, cheap, and exploitative labor and straight up wage theft. We do need to take a stand because Americans are the ones who are working some of the longest hours out of all the industrialized countries for lower wages that are not rising with the cost of inflation.



  • musiiq

    I was always told If you’re good at something, don’t do it for free.
    Exposure, while great, isn’t going to pay your rent nor is it a guarantee that the people you’ve been exposed to will hire you or even be willing to pay you either because the offer of payment in the form of exposure seems to be a thing with people in search of bloggers, artists and other non-traditional career paths

  • Dee

    This is the epitome of “1st world problems”.

    The exposure she could have gotten could have greatly outweighed the maybe $200 she would have earned. smh

    • KM

      THANK YOU! Do you know I have spent more time than I am willing to admit arguing this point with people trolling Oprah’s Life You Want Facebook page?

      This isn’t some sheister trying to shave $100 off your fee. This is Oprah handing you her goodwill on a platter, and a once in a life time chance to align yourself with the Oprah affect. She is using the Oprah Bounce to her benefit by posting this content on her site!

      • Dee

        Right now she just looks greedy and is hurting her chances of being hired by ANYBODY, let alone Oprah Winfrey

        • blogdiz

          How does someone look ” greedy ” for not wanting to work for free and not even recover their expenses to perform??? . This is not a philanthropic venture almost $1000 admission ???
          it may be worth it to some performers but if its not to her that doesn’t make her greedy
          Enough with the deification of Oprah already

          • Kelly J

            Amen! And why isn’t anyone wondering what Oprah’s doing with the ridiculous amounts of money she’s collected so that people can learn how to “live the life they want.” Talk about selling snake oil…

          • Dee

            Just for the record, I’m not an Oprah fan, I have never really been into her.

            I say it comes off greedy because she chose to miss out on an opportunity for monetary gain. She doesn’t know who may have seen her and offered her the job of her dreams.

            • breathe

              So you believe in paying people in “hope”? I “hope” someone will see me and give me a paying gig? In reality, non-paying gigs only bring in MORE non-paying gigs. And Oprah is a billionaire who preaches recognizing your self worth! A billionaire who has the ability to create a paying job for an artist. Shame on you making excuses for her not doing so.

            • The Duchess of Milton

              You mean, the job of her dreams on a stage outside the main event, working for free? That sort of “job of her dreams?” I bet Oprah isn’t working for free.

        • tami

          How is wanting to get paid for your services look greedy are you serious

        • breathe

          Again, that is NONSENSE! Oprah is the one who looks greedy. You are clearly completely brainwashed. Pretending like the artist with the broken car, and student loan debt is the greedy one instead of the billionaire who wants people to work for her for free is what’s wrong with this country. Shame on you. Oprah is the greedy one.

      • breathe

        This is NOT Oprah. This is some producer trying to score points with Oprah. “Oprah Bounce” does not pay the bills. Neither does performing for free. I get that you worship at the church of Oprah. You’re just completely wrong and selfish to say a billionaire somehow deserves the work for a starving artist for free. Your way of thinking is what is wrong with this country. Maybe you think you’ll somehow be part of the 1% one day and everyone will be clamoring to work for your for free. You’re living in a dream world. Meanwhile, back in reality world, artists have bills to pay.

    • KEEKZ

      I disagree. Outweighed, how? And if the Oprah brand was serious about having performers, they ought to comply with the prices these performers charge.

    • breathe

      That’s nonsense. That’s what people who don’t know the first thing about living a life as an artist always say.

    • guest

      I completely disagree. It’s easy to tell someone they can live their dreams when you’re worth a billion dollar. How exactly was this dancer to get exposure and how can she guarantee that the exposure will result in paying jobs??? Free doesn’t pay the bills. Was Oprah and the speakers at the event going to speak for free??? I think it’s only right to expect people to do what you would do.

    • Mrs O.

      Really? How many hours have you donated for “exposure” and how did that increase your desirability in your field?

    • carmatogo

      Are you joking?? The same argument could be made for the “exposure” video girls received in Nelly’s “Tip Drill”. People always want women to exploit women and their talents for nothing. Oprah should do better. I agree with the writer. Yes. They found someone else, but now this woman received exposure for calling out Oprah and her producers.

    • The Duchess of Milton

      Dee, you’re an idiot, and very likely one who has never had to work by your own wits, on your own. Shame on you.