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Oprah Winfrey’s Candid Confession About ‘Not Making Enough’ to Afford Fancy Flatware Likely Explains Why She Trashed Toni Braxton for Buying Gucci Silverware

Before she was a billionaire, Oprah Winfrey didn’t spend more than she had in her pockets.

Today she has an estimated net worth of $2.8 billion from her businesses, investments and property portfolio. While celebrating People’s 50th-anniversary special issue, she confessed that even after receiving her first check from the entertainment industry, she was not comfortable spending money on luxury items like designer dinnerware.

Over a decade before she blasted Toni Braxton for spending thousands on Gucci flatware, the “OWN” founder operated from a principle of fiscal prudence, by never spending more than she had, and refraining from indulging in what seemed to her at the time lavish purchases.

Oprah Winfrey reflects on the time when she didn't make enough money as fans revisit her 2012 remarks about Gucci silverware to Toni Braxton.
Oprah Winfrey reflects on the time when she didn’t make enough money as fans revisit her 2012 remarks about Gucci silverware to Toni Braxton. (Photo by MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

“I was going to furnish my first apartment in Chicago, and I walked into Crate & Barrel,” she explained to journalist Elizabeth Leonard as she reflected on the time when she first started her talk show in the late 80s.

Adding, “There was a flatware set for $49.95. I did not get it because I still didn’t think I was making enough money to afford a six-piece set.”

One fan noted a few years back that Oprah frequented the store, possibly even when she could not afford things from there.

“Oprah! Many years ago, worked part-time at Crate & Barrel across from Water Tower (That’s how long ago) – she’d stop by once a month or so,” one person wrote on the platform now known as X in 2020 in response to someone who asked about the most famous person they had met.

Shopping (or not shopping) at Crate & Barrel is just the tip of it her frugality. Even before she became the richest woman in entertainment, Oprah’s thrifty habits were at one time ingrained in her daily life.

Back in the early days of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” she disclosed a money-saving hack. She would extend the life of her pantyhose by cutting off one leg when the other one had a run and later pairing it up with another single-legged hose to wear.

Oprah also confessed that she reuses her $3.99 eyelashes, explaining that by doing so she not only saved money but benefitted from the worn contour of the old ones that fit the shape of her eyes better over time. She said she saved “$1.25 by reusing this lash.”

This might be the reason why she was so flabbergasted during her 1998 interview with Ms. Braxton over her Gucci silverware, claiming her expensive purchases were irresponsible.

“I read that you were upset about stories that your overspending caused this [her bankruptcy],” Oprah said, before asking her about the Italian eating utensils, “First of all, I didn’t know Gucci made silverware.”

Braxton would later talk about the experience on her 2012 episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music,” where she appeared to get emotional at one point.

“She was so frickin’ mean to me. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it because I loved her so much and she pretty much reprimanded me,” the “Unbreak My Heart” singer said.

The Baltimore native stated, “You ain’t got Gucci flatware ’cause you didn’t want to buy it not ’cause you couldn’t afford it. She made me feel this big,” while holding her up her thumb and index finger.

“That moment completely changed my career and made people look down on me.”

While Braxton’s feelings were hurt, she would later make nice with Oprah and was invited back to give advice to other rising stars about the pitfalls of the industry and success in pop music.

While talking to People magazine, Oprah never addressed the Braxton interview but did talk about how lessons from those early days have impacted her life, shaping her life practice, “I sound like a broken record, but gratitude really is my religion,” she added.

It is gratefulness that also allows her to pay it forward. That’s exactly what the Mississippi native did with another person who wanted something for their kitchen or dining area that they could not afford.

“I was in a store and somebody was debating whether to get the flatware,” the “Beloved” producer said. “And I went to the counter and paid for it because I remember that feeling of not being able to afford it.”

Continuing Winfrey said, “I love doing that.”

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