Oprah lends her weight to thin lobby

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The Independent Online
BIG GIRLS don't cry. But newly trim ones do, especially when their reward for losing 20lb is their photograph on the cover of the fashion bible American Vogue.

Oprah Winfrey burst into tears when she saw the new pictures of herself. Most women would not find that surprising. For not only has she become the first talk-show host to grace the cover in the magazine's 110-year history, it is also a fair bet to say she is the only Vogue cover star who has ever seen her weight climb as high as 16st 13lb.

Not that she weighs anything like that amount now. Still, Anna Wintour, the editor of American Vogue, asked her to lose nearly two stones for the shoot. "I was totally chicken. I did not approach her directly. I went through her agent," the editor later admitted.

The result, photographed by Steven Meisel, was a svelte and glamorous Ms Winfrey, dressed in a black Ralph Lauren dress and looking years younger. It is a far cry from when the 44-year-old weighed the same as Mike Tyson.

"This is a part of myself I didn't know existed. I am telling you I wept when I saw every one of the Polaroids," said Ms Winfrey, whose high profile coincides with the release of her new film, Beloved, from the book by Toni Morrison.

A Vogue spokesman said yesterday that it was a "natural step" for Oprah to be in Vogue, but that people had to have the "Vogue look" because it was a "successful aspirational magazine" and so the weight loss was necessary.

Oprah is perhaps the world's most famous dieter and has frequently shared her battle of the bulge with her audiences, at one point wheeling a barrow-load of fat on to the stage to show how much she had lost.

But the words Yo-Yo Diet Syndrome could have been invented for the talk- show queen. In 1990 she lost 67lb, but by 1992 was more than 16 stone again. In 1994 she once again lost a stunning amount - 72lb (or 5st 2lb) - with the help of a punishing exercise regime and a personal chef, Rosie Daley, who made very low fat meals. In The Kitchen with Rosie: Oprah's Favourite Recipes became one of the fastest-selling books in American publishing history.

However the weight piled back on again - particularlywhen she was involved in a battle earlier this year withTexan beef farmers, who sued her unsuccessfully for slander. (Such is her power that a comment on Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, "It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger," had caused prices on the cattle futures market to plummet.)

Oprah, who had approached Vogue herself about the possibility of a cover, enjoyed being photographed so much that she arranged for four viewers to have the same experience. She took them behind the scenes and to a Vogue party.

Ms Wintour said: "I don't think you see too many really hot pictures of Oprah and I think she's a really hot sexy woman. You work with so many people who get so jaded, but she was really overwhelmed. It really meant something to her."

Oprah's partner, Stedman Graham, went even further. "It's unbelievable!" he said on seeing the shots. "It's like the culmination of all she's worked for. From being overweight to this point is one of the greatest victories a person can have."

Zoe Souter, booking editor for British Vogue, said that putting Oprah on the cover had caught the zeitgeist. "We've used celebrities before, and it is a way that the trends are going. Would we use someone like Oprah Winfrey? I don't see why not."

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