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CAROLINE OVERINGTON: What it's like to interview Oprah.

Well, I’m not going to lie… it’s pretty special.

Okay, no: let me actually start by saying that as a general rule, interviews with very famous people can be a bit weird and stagy. They usually take place in hotel rooms. You go into the room and they’ll already be there, maybe sitting in an armchair, looking very tired.

The lights will be dimmed, and there will be hotel-style flowers on the side tables, and soft music will be playing. You sit and talk for 20 minutes, which isn’t enough time, and they want to promote a film, a song, or a book so you don’t really have a heart-to-heart.

There are exceptions, and apparently Tom Cruise is one. I’ve never met him, but my colleague, Bryce Corbett, says that Tom Cruise wants to convert every single person on earth to the Church of … Tom Cruise! He’s 100 per cent present in the room. So bright is his light, he’s often all you can see.

what is oprah like
“Tom Cruise wants to convert every single person on earth to the Church of … Tom Cruise!” Image via Getty.

Bill Clinton is the same. He has just buckets of charm, which you need when you’re trying to get 40 million people out of bed to vote for you in a country where they don’t even have to do the getting out of bed bit.

Just for the record, Hillary hasn’t got that X-factor. She comes across as a tiny little bit cold. People say it’s because she hates the press. She can’t afford to hate the press.

Anyway, it’s frustrating, because when people ask you, ‘Who is the most impressive person you ever met?’ you just know they want you to say: Barack Obama, or Muhammad Ali, or some megawatt star like Angelina Jolie.

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But actually, the most impressive people aren’t from politics, or from movies or TV.

“The most impressive people aren’t from politics, or from movies or TV.” Caroline with Oprah. Image via Facebook.

The most impressive people on earth tend to be ordinary folk caught in extraordinary circumstances. I’m thinking now about people like Denise and Bruce Morcombe; I’m thinking of Turia Pitt and Rosie Batty and Walter Mikac (whose daughters died at Port Arthur); plus I’m thinking of the police officers and especially the nurses who have to deal with the trauma when something goes terribly wrong.

Meeting people like that makes you question yourself: could I be that strong? Could I hold it together like that? Would I be leaning in and helping others or would I be a crumpled mess on the floor?

Meeting people like that makes you want to be a better parent. A better neighbour. A better friend. They make you determined to be a better person.

Caroline Overington – already a pretty wonderful person. Image via Twitter/OveringtonC.

I can’t say a movie star ever made me feel like that.

But anyway back to Oprah. What’s she like?

Well, the interview took place at Oprah’s OWN headquarters in Hollywood. OWN stands for the Oprah Winfrey Network. It used to be based in Chicago but now she’s making big movies – including Selma, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture – it makes sense to be in Hollywood.

It was a hot day, and the Dr Seuss palms – the ones with the long skinny trunks and a tuft of hair on top – were swaying.

There was security but it wasn’t oppressive. Mostly: What’s your name? Who are you with? That kind of thing.

what is oprah like
“Well, the interview took place at Oprah’s OWN headquarters in Hollywood. OWN stands for the Oprah Winfrey Network.” Image via Getty.
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There were big fat sofas in the foyer, and coffee machines, and baskets overflowing with snacks, and a flat screen bigger than your car showing programs from the OWN network.

Oprah’s communications director Chelsea came down to say hello. We went up to the floor where Oprah keeps a corner office. She was running a touch late so I sank down into a soft sofa with Chelsea, and we talked about what we could see out the picture windows, which was Oprah’s own movie-making lot.

Ten minutes of chit-chat, and it was time to walk the corridor to Oprah’s office. The walls were lined with glossy photographs of Oprah. We stopped by the reception desk outside Oprah’s office. There was a gorgeous girl sitting there with one of those fancy head-set things on, and I expected to be ushered in, but what happened instead was: Oprah came out. And she had no shoes on. She was barefoot, but with a white pedicure. White is bang on trend for toes in Hollywood.

She made a big too-do about Australia. She loves Australia. LOVES Australians. LOVES.

what is oprah like
“She made a big too-do about Australia. She loves Australia. LOVES Australians. LOVES.” Image via Getty.
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We went into her office and it was enormous. ENORMOUS. Or, as Oprah might say, it’s E -N O R – M O U – S – enormous! Just enormous!

There was an L-shaped sofa that was longer than a train. I sat down at one end of it, and Oprah took an armchair. She was so far away, I had to get up and move several carriages along the sofa to get close enough to really see her.

She’s beautiful. Has she had work done? I don’t know. I can’t exactly see her denying it if she had but I didn’t want to waste a question asking because honestly who cares? But she’s beautiful. Luminous skin. Clear eyes. Thick, glossy hair. Casually dressed in blue jeans and a black jumper.

We talked for 40 minutes. She leans in when she talks. She concentrates. You get the feeling she’s paying attention. Really paying attention. She repeats your question back to you and pauses like she wants to be sure she’s giving you an honest answer.

Click through the gallery below for photos of Oprah. Post continues after gallery.

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What did we talk about? Love and life and loss; regrets and sorrows and power and pain and human beings, and how confounding and mysterious is the universe. What it means to be happy. What it means to be good. (You have to get The Weekly to read the whole interview; she’s on the cover.)

She seemed to really like my questions. A couple of times, she actually said: Wow, good question! So, when time came to leave, I was thinking: okay, I went in there maybe a bit anxious, but I think I did pretty well. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I think Oprah and me – we got on great, and that put me on a strange high, because hey, I sat down with Oprah and we talked and laughed and shared secrets and it was wonderful.

It took about an hour for the truth of the matter to dawn, which is that EVERYONE who meets Oprah ends up feeling like that. Because that’s her gift. Oprah has the gift of making you feel special. Like what you said mattered.

In days gone by – in a time before television – she would have been a guru of some kind, like a Bhagwan. Oprah is the kind of person that other people want to follow down the street. Whatever that thing – that magic thing – is that some people have that makes you like them, she has it. Bill Clinton has it, Nelson Mandela had it, Hugh Jackman has it, a handful of people across the globe have it, and she’s one of them, and when you see that power in action, it’s astounding.

So, there’s your answer. She’s OPRAHHHHH … and she’s mesmerizing.

Caroline Overington is an Australian writer and journalist. She has written nine books; she has also profiled many of the world’s most impressive women, including Hillary Clinton, Ellen de Generes, Helen Mirren, Australia’s first female prime minister Julia Gillard; the world’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart. Caroline has 15-year-old twins. She has worked in New York for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age; in Melbourne and Sydney for The Australian, and she is currently the Associate Editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly.