Despite her resume as a news reporter, radio host and magazine editor, Gayle King has been and will forever be known as Oprah Winfrey’s best friend.
The upside of that affiliation is far greater than the persistent jokes about their relationship, which preceded Oprah’s rise to international acclaim.
“I’ve seen the Oprah phenomenon as it developed from the very beginning,” said King in an interview earlier this month after a visit to Atlanta to be on BET’s “The Mo’Nique Show.” “Who knew it was going to turn out like this? It’s just nice to know you have a friend who is so well developed and well respected. You meet her in person and she does not disappoint.”
King does not feel like she’s in Oprah’s shadow: “We’re very similar. We’ve been friends for so long we have a lot of the same mannerisms. We have the same life philosophies. We even sound alike. We finish each other’s sentences. I say she takes my best lines. ‘Hey, Gayle’s copying off Oprah!’ Oh, no!”
King’s profile in Atlanta has gone up significantly in recent months. News/talk 1380/WAOK-AM last summer added King’s radio show, which airs from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays. OWN, Oprah’s new cable network, last month began simulcasting the second hour of King’s radio show.
OWN built King a special studio to make it more TV friendly. And King herself now comes to the set much earlier each morning to get her hair and makeup ready. “It takes at least two hours to look this cute,” she said, tongue partly in cheek. “To have natural beauty takes time!”
She enjoys the art of the interview as much as Oprah does. She’s persistent with guests but not aggressive. ”I love talking to people,” she said. “You can ask any question. It’s just the way you ask it. I’m not trying to play the gotcha game. The beauty of it is most people like to talk about themselves. They really do!”
When she interviewed Brooke Shields, for instance, Shields’ publicist told her before hand not to talk about Michael Jackson. But Shields had done a beautiful tribute to him after his death so King asked a Jackson-related question anyway. Shields was fine with it.
One of her favorite recent guests: part-time Atlantan and pop superstar Justin Bieber. “I refused to get Bieber fever at first. But after I saw his documentary, I was smitten! His life story is amazing. He’s legimitately talented, not some manufactured teen idol. I didn’t know that before.”
After Oprah revealed she had a half sister last month, rumors popped up that King might be (gasp!) jealous. King laughed: “That’s hilarious. It was such a shocker to everybody. I’m actually very excited. I can’t wait to meet her myself.”
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