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:
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?