Do you know of Barbara Walters, the esteemed American newswoman?
She made history in 1974 when she was appointed the first female co-host of an American news program, the morning show, Today.
Two years later, she became the first woman to co-host a network evening news show, ABC Evening News.
Barbara Walters retired in 2016 after a career in television journalism spanning more than fifty years. She’s an exceptional interviewer, journalist and presenter.
She’s a household name.
Another household name – arguably more so than Barbara Walters – began her television career modelling herself on Barbara.
At just nineteen, Oprah Winfrey also chalked up a first in television when she became Nashville’s first African American female co-anchor of the evening news.
She had seen Barbara Walters on the morning news show and set her sights on becoming a journalist. She started out reading the news with a voice like Barbara’s. She thought that’s what she needed to do.
Oprah Winfrey thought she needed to sound like Barbara Walters to succeed on television.
I think that would classify as ironic.
You and I both know it didn’t work out, Oprah taking on Barbara’s voice.
‘I learned early on what I’m supposed to be doing is not sitting in front of a desk and reading copy and throwing to the sports guy. That’s not what I do well…. I know how to pretend that I am a newsperson but that’s not where my heart lies.’
But it took a while for Oprah’s voice to show itself.
First, she had to get the giggles on-air after mispronouncing ‘Canada’ in a news bulletin. You’d think it would have been a career killer – mangle an obvious word and then get lost in a fit of laughter?
But the viewers took notice.
They heard Oprah’s genuine voice for the first time and they liked it. And eventually, Oprah heard her own genuine voice and began following it to see where her heart did lie.
That’s not the full story – you can hear Oprah tell it herself in her excellent Master Class podcast.
But it’s enough of the story to remind us that our voice, our real true and genuine voice, won’t take being buried under somebody else’s voice.
Our voice matters.
To us and to our audience – the one we have or the one we are supposed to have so we can make a difference to their lives.
But how do we find our real true and genuine voice?