She is one of the world’s richest women and America’s best-loved television personality. Just last month she topped Forbes’ list of 100 most powerful celebrities. Shockingly, in the same month, a shop assistant refused to serve her in an upmarket Zurich handbag shop, having said the bags on offer were “too expensive” for her.
Speaking to US TV show Entertainment Tonight, Oprah Winfrey said: “I go into a store and I say to the woman, ‘Excuse me, may I see the bag right above your head?’ and she says to me, ‘No. It’s too expensive.’” When Winfrey insisted, the shop assistant allegedly replied: “No, no you don’t want to see that one, you want to see this one because that one will cost too much. You will not be able to afford that.” She continued “I could’ve had the whole blow-up thing and thrown down the black card but why do that but that clearly is you know … it (racism) still exists, of course it does.” Oprah declined to name the shop in question.
The incident occurred when Oprah was visiting Switzerland for Tina Turner’s wedding last month.
Sadly, the incident isn’t a one off occurrence. Both Alexander McQueen and Louis Vuitton are currently facing investigations following allegations of racist behavior by ex-employees of their stores. A former security guard at Alexander McQueen’s NYC flagship store has filed a lawsuit against staff at the store for racial abuse. Othman Ibela, a native of Gabon, claims the shop’s clerk, Kimberley Mahnke, “repeatedly made jokes about me running nude in Africa with a spear in my hand”. He also claims that she told him President Obama and his family would be kicked out of the White House and “sent back to Africa” after the 2012 elections.
It’s sad to think that as the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I Have a Dream speech” dawns, the fashion industry still has such a long way to go in addressing racism.
Image via Oprah.com