Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t shy away from speaking out or being herself; in fact, she has made a successful lifelong career of refusing to conform.
On Tuesday afternoon, the actress, activist, comedian and author entertained a crowd of about 200 students, selected by lottery, at a packed Master’s Tea in the Calhoun dining hall. Goldberg never stayed on one topic for very long, sharing advice and anecdotes on everything from the definition of “hot” to her experience of racism and her favorable opinions of the LGBT movement and the President’s relationship with his wife.
Goldberg and Calhoun Master Jonathan Holloway entered the room to applause from the students crowded around tables. Even in jeans, a white collared shirt and a black sweater, Goldberg stood out with her trademark round glasses and dreadlocks.
After sitting down, she immediately stood up again, brandishing a deflated Whoopee cushion — placed there in honor of her name — to uproarious laughter. Luckily for Goldberg, the Whoopee cushion had not made a noise.
“Guess that was an SBD – silent but deadly,” Goldberg quipped in her signature raspy voice.
Throughout the Tea, she kept the audience laughing and engaged with humorous asides.
“I have very little depth,” Goldberg said. “Some things I just don’t care about – like “Dancing with the Stars” I don’t care about. Tiger Woods and his mistresses — I don’t care what he does or who he does.”
Questions from students probed more serious matters, such as her experiences as a black woman in Hollywood. Goldberg said making movies helped people to understand who she was and to open up a conversation about diversity. The most frustrating part of the industry, she said, was its focus on appearance.
“I have never felt blacker than I did in Los Angeles because everyone reminded me of it,” she said, adding that she had difficulty conforming to the mold of beauty that Hollywood required. “I was never going to fit that.”
Her experience of being a misfit has helped her reach a life philosophy that revolves around mutual respect and kindness.
Goldberg said she believes in personal freedom to choose what you want to do with your own life, whether it be having a baby or getting married.
“If everyone just treated each other the way they would like to be treated, we’d be livin’ in heaven,” she said. “I respect everybody – I demand it, but I give it also.”
She addressed the issue of discrimination admitting that her experience with old people behind the wheels of cars have made her an ageist.
From health care (she said the health care package Congressmen provide themselves is the best in the country) to President Obama’s relationship with his wife (“I like to think my President is pinching his first lady’s backside!”) to high heels (“Keeping up is great, but bunions are ugly”), Goldberg was outspoken. Most importantly, however, she stressed that we have to be honest with ourselves.
“It’s OK to change your mind, it’s OK to make mistakes, it’s OK not to know,” she said. “None of us know it all, and some of us don’t know jack.”
Students responded to her talk positively as she stayed to snap pictures and sign autographs.
For Ashley Baldwin-Hunter ’11, Goldberg left an impression of depth despite her focus on humor.
“She’s not just understanding of politics but also interpersonal relations – she has a really cool life philosophy,” Baldwin-Hunter said.
Meredith Davis ’13 summed up many students’ reactions more concisely:
“She’s a funny lady,” Davis said.