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My Creative Hero: Oprah Winfrey

Experiential Marketing
Boston, USA
Senior creative director at Jack Morton Worldwide Stacy Mann on why Oprah is her definition of success

Stacy Mann’s foray into the fast-paced world of advertising was marked by the hot sting of waxy goo. Stacy glued sesame seeds onto a fake hamburger bun for a Super Bowl commercial for Burger King. The glamour! The prestige! The Whopperettes!

After participating in such an event, Stacy, obviously, was smitten. It was love at first… hot glue-gun burn.

Since then, Stacy has transcended her humble hot-glue beginnings. A creative stalwart, Stacy has infused her brands’ work with passion and resonance. In recent years, Stacy’s been fortunate, with many opportunities to display her creativity and leadership. She’s been lucky enough to helm campaigns for such brands as Molson Coors, Samsung, SC Johnson, BMW, and 7-Eleven.  

It’s Stacy’s curiosity — about the world, about work, about life — that makes her, and being a creative leader, such a good fit. Her love of being outdoors, exploring, is unrivaled. After all, only a curious explorer would look down at her own gnarled flesh, singed by the burn of a hot glue gun, and think: Yup, this is my dream job.

Presently, Stacy Mann is a senior creative director at Jack Morton Worldwide. 

Who would you say is your creative hero? 

My creative hero, and for my money, the world's most powerful and influential woman, is none other than an Academy Award winner, 10-time Daytime Emmy Award winner, Golden Globe winner, 12-time NAACP Image Award winner, Peabody Award winner, four-time People’s Choice Award winner, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It’s Ms. Oprah (née Orpah) Winfrey.

How long has this person been important to you and what are your first memories of meeting them or coming across their work?

I first met Oprah in my home as a child. She was in my living room every day at 4pm, right after school and before homework. We were fast friends. She was always talking about something or someone I wanted to learn more about. She was always thoughtful in her commentary and relatable with her stories. I loved the sense of discovery I felt when watching her show. She was my first remote learning class. And to this day, I continue to learn from her and consider her one of my favorite teachers.

If it’s someone you personally know, how did you get to know them and how has your relationship evolved over the years? If you don’t know this person, how did you go about finding to learn more about them and their work?

I learned about Oprah because my mom had her on right before the nightly news. Eventually, I was the one who made sure she was on the television. 

Growing up in an insular community, I was always aware that I had a perspective that differed from those around me. Though we had differing viewpoints on the world, it was comforting to know that I did share something in common with others: the joy of Oprah. She was unifying. She helped me navigate a lot of relationships, and I know this sounds weird, but I feel like Oprah was always there for me. I never had to work hard to understand or be understood by her. 

I also saw a quarter of her face at the Texas State Fair in 2009, so we basically shared a Fletcher’s Corny Dog together.

Why is the person such an inspiration to you? 

Oprah is my definition of success. But not because of her financial fortune. It’s because of what she accomplished despite her circumstances. Oprah is a black woman born in the mid-50s to a single teenage mother in rural Mississippi. I won’t go into her whole biography, but she endured enormous hardship. For many people, that hardship, those circumstances, it eats them alive. The resilience it must take, the focus and drive it must take, to go from the segregated Deep South to The Oprah Winfrey Network is incalculable and awe-inspiring. 

Oprah forged her own path, never settling. She is successful in spite of the hand she was dealt, and an incredible person because of it. She is an advocate for young women, an advocate for education, an advocate for mental health, an advocate for living your truth. To me, living your truth, chasing your dream, climbing the mountaintop, and pulling everyone else up with you, so all of us can share in this beautiful vista together — that is success.

To the other women (and men) who inspire me, a special shout-out: RGB, AOC, Beyoncé, Barack, Cathy, Banksy, Malala, Greta, Tarana, Jemaine, Dwyane…Betty, Larry, Allen, Sara, Rick, Susan, Lauren, Lindsay, and, most of all, Mitch. 

How does this person influence you in your approach to your creative work? 

Oprah’s ability to find a universal human truth in everything she touches is one of the things that makes me admire her so much. It’s a talent that resonates with me when it comes to my work. Any good idea begins with truth. Something that is relatable. Something that gets people’s heads nodding. When I am presenting an idea to a client, I know that I’ve got something good when I see that first nod. If you look in the audience at Oprah’s shows, or around the room you’re in when you’re watching her, you will invariably see a room full of people nodding their heads. 

What piece or pieces of this person’s work do you keep coming back to and why?

Oprah’s resume is a long one. She was on the air for 25 seasons, plus you know… she has her own network. She is to this day still putting new, thought-provoking content into the world. Have you watched her most recent series, The Me You Can’t See? It’s in partnership with Prince Harry, and it aims to de-stigmatize mental health problems and promote emotional well-being. It’s just so inspiring to me that Oprah is still tackling issues like that after all these years, still pushing to make society more inclusive and compassionate. 

Also, her unforgettable show in 1992, the one that segregated the audience by eye color — it just shows Oprah has never shied away from hard truths, like exploring the nature of racism. She takes risks, and yet, she is widely beloved! Oprah is not polarizing. Almost everybody alive has read one of the 91 books she’s recommended through her book club, or bought an item off of the Oprah’s Favorite Things list. 

It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing of Oprah’s, but one thing that makes her so special is that, even though she has this incredible resume, I am still looking forward to the future and what Oprah will do next. 

 The Oprah Winfrey Show - Jane Elliott's "Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes" Anti-Racism Experiment (Aired on 07/14/1992):