Oprah Winfrey recalls being told to ‘lose 15 pounds’ by Joan Rivers on TV

Oprah Winfrey recalls being told to ‘lose 15 pounds’ by Joan Rivers on TV

Oprah Winfrey has recalled being body-shamed by Joan Rivers on TV.

The TV personality and mogul opened up about the hurtful comments from the late comedian during a recent appearance on The Jamie Kern Lima podcast.

Rivers, who was known for her cutting and controversial remarks, died aged 81 in 2014 after suffering cardiac arrest.

Winfrey, 70, spoke about Rivers as she recalled her first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1985. She had been invited onto the programme to discuss the huge popularity of her own show AM Chicago, which was beating then-ratings juggernaut Phil Donahue.

The star said, however, that it was not long before the topic of discussion turned to her body.

“Joan Rivers turns to me and she says ‘Tell me why are you so fat?’” Winfrey told Lima, the founder of IT Cosmetics and author of the 2024 self-help book Worthy.

“On national television,” Winfrey stressed, adding: “And I don’t know what do with that. I just did, like, ’Oh, I just love potato chips, Joan.’”

She went on to recall that Rivers had replied: “Shame on you.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

At the time, Winfrey said she “agreed with Joan Rivers” who told her: “I’ll let you come back if you lose 15 lbs [7kg]. You need to lose 15lbs.”

“She says to me on national television,” Winfrey continued. “And I accept it. I accept that I should be shamed, because how dare me, be sitting up here on The Tonight Show.”

Winfrey said that she and Rivers “agreed that I was gonna go away and lose 15lbs”.

Joan Rivers in ‘Iron Man 3' (Marvel Studios)
Joan Rivers in ‘Iron Man 3' (Marvel Studios)

“And of course, I didn’t lose the 15lbs,” Winfrey said. “I went and ate my way to another 10lbs.”

Winfrey told Lima that she went to a “health retreat” in order to lose weight, explaining that “at the time, they called them fat farms”.

While there, Winfrey said she received a phone call from The Colour Purple director Steven Spielberg who warned her against losing weight.

“I hear you’re at a fat farm,” Spielberg said, according to Winfrey. “You lose a pound. You could lose this part.”

Winfrey said she finally “let go” of the part when she got the call. “The instant I let it go was the greatest life lesson I have ever received, because I physically felt the release,” she said.

Winfrey did end up landing the role of Sofia in Spielberg’s film, which earned her an Academy Award nomination.

New episodes of The Jamie Kern Lima podcast are available on Tuesdays on YouTube.