10 Questions for Oprah Winfrey

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Her book club is back, her ratings are up, and she has just returned from a trip to South Africa, where she visited hospitals and orphanages and met with officials at a school she is building in Johannesburg. Can anything stop Oprah Winfrey? TIME's Richard Zoglin inquired.

Your show is up in the ratings this season. Why? I keep growing into myself, and the show just keeps evolving. I think the shows have veered away from doing so many topics that were of the same nature. I went through a phase where we did a lot of spiritual-related shows, and this year we just did more fun things, I think.

Why did you move away from spiritual topics? For several years I did Remembering Your Spirit, and then just one year I said, "O.K., well, everybody ought to know what their spirit is by now." We had evolved to shows reflecting the spirit of people triumphing in their lives or overcoming difficulties, and I thought these shows became so much more reflective of what we were trying to represent.

A lot of people think Arnold Schwarzenegger's appearance on your show gave his campaign a big boost. Do you agree? Oh, I heard that about George Bush too, and I totally disagree. I will not give myself that kind of credit. I think what we are able to do is allow people to see a side of a person that you wouldn't normally see, and you either relate to that or you don't.

Last year you went to South Africa and gave out gifts to 50,000 kids. how about this year? Last year it was a life-changing experience for me. I had a moment of ... a supreme moment of destiny is what I call it, where you realize, "Oh, so this is why I was born." When I was 12 and on welfare with my mother, I was told we weren't going to have a Christmas. Some nuns showed up at the last minute and brought food and presents. And I never forgot that. I wanted to create something like that for these children. Now I am working on building schools there. I understand what it means to be poor and not have your possibilities revealed to you. So I feel like if I can do that for as many young girls as I can reach, I would have served part of my purpose here. Why South Africa? I am drawn to South Africa because of Nelson Mandela, who has become a personal friend, and my love of the country. I think that for every act of generosity in the world, regardless of where it is given—in Mississippi, Montana or Mozambique—it's O.K., because it's spreading that kind of energy out into the world in a way that can make a difference.

Did you identify with Rosie O'Donnell in her lawsuit over her magazine? I didn't follow the case, if you really want to know the truth. (But) I couldn't believe that she didn't have ultimate editorial control. There are many times in my magazine when I have not agreed with the editor, and we just talk it out. Sometimes I let it go. And there are other times where I feel strongly enough about it, and I say that absolutely cannot happen. Because it's an O on the magazine.

What do you think of your boy Dr. Phil's diet book? I think it's solid. I mean, you've still got to do the work at the end of the day. But there is nothing in that book, if you followed it and went through the process that he asks you to, that you wouldn't be successful.

Do you think he ought to be endorsing a line of nutritional supplements? Well, it's not a choice that I would have made for myself.

David Letterman says you won't come on his show. Are you snubbing him? No, I'm not. I've done the show twice. Both times I was sort of like the butt of his jokes. I felt completely uncomfortable sitting in that chair, and I vowed I would not ever put myself in that position again. But I have a great deal of respect for his talent, and I sent him what I think is the best baby gift I ever gave. It was a tub of children's books.

Every couple of years you toy with the idea of walking away from your show, and then you don't. Are you teasing us? I really am not. I like having the ability to decide whether it's still working or not. But also, I just feel like this is the best forum to reach people, so that I don't have to run around and try to get a spot on the Larry King show to tell them how important I think aids is. To have been granted the opportunity to have a forum like this, it just seems stupid, really, to give it up.