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Gayle King, left, and Oprah Winfrey attend The Museum of Modern Art's David Rockefeller Award Luncheon honoring Oprah Winfrey at the Ziegfeld Ballroom on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, in New York.
AP/Invision/Charles Sykes
King’s moment.
STILL LIFE

What Oprah thought about Gayle King’s interview with R. Kelly

By Lila MacLellan in Salt Lake City, Utah

At a conference in Salt Lake City, during a talk about personal breakthroughs, Oprah Winfrey took a detour to touch on one by her longtime friend, television journalist Gayle King.

Winfrey, appearing March 7 at the Qualtrics X4 Experience Management Summit, told a crowd of 10,000 conventioneers that she doesn’t normally watch TV, even though she has her own network. She’s been on screen for so long that she avoids it in her personal time. But, she said, she did catch King’s news-making interview this week with R&B singer R. Kelly, who was charged last month with multiple counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, including alleged and disturbing incidents involving underage girls. About the interview, which aired on CBS, Winfrey began, “I could not believe it.”

Media reviews of the interview praised King for asking tough questions of Kelly, in what was the musician’s first public discussion of the charges. But it was King’s demeanor during the most talked-about segment of the interview that’s attracting even greater kudos. At one point, Kelly jumped out of his chair and began yelling and swearing, both directly into the camera and at King. Although his eruption was chilling enough to shake viewers in the safety of their living rooms, King sat calmly the whole time.

Viewers were as impressed by King’s stunning composure as they were shocked by Kelly’s uninhibited display of emotions:

After the segment aired, a student at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, in South Africa, whose ambition is to become a journalist, texted Winfrey, referencing “Auntie Gayle” and “broadcast goals.” (Winfrey didn’t specify whether the girl attached the customary hashtag.)

Winfrey corrected the student. To be calm in the face of Kelly’s rage was, she said, “bigger than broadcast goals.” This wasn’t about a job skill, in other words, but a life skill.

“The fact that she was able to sit there and be still with all of that hysteria means that she can be still in any storm,” Winfrey told the student. “That’s not just about being a good journalist.”

Winfrey also spoke in Salt Lake City about her own ability to maintain a steadiness, calling stillness her “greatest partner.” Rather than be caught in her own thoughts, she spends time with her other self, the one that’s aware of her thoughts. She has learned how to observe and filter them, she explained. Stillness, she said, is where “true creativity lives.”

King, it seems, has a similar ability to access what Winfrey sees as “the power of a still place.”

“I’m so happy for her to have this moment,” Winfrey said, “because she has been in television for as long as I’ve been in television, and now people are seeing how great and strong and beautiful she is. I’m really excited for her.”