Exclusively for VIOLET GREY’s The Violet Files magazine, Oprah Winfrey talks to Selma star Carmen Ejogo about their Oscar-nominated film, the life-changing potential of a bubble bath, and the importance of beauty.
Shot at a private estate in Los Angeles, the story went live at VIOLETGREY.com this morning, Wednesday, February 11th.
O.W.: What was it like knowing there was a woman—a black woman—behind the camera, managing and directing the entire experience.
C.E.: I have been in this business long enough to know that Ava had to exhibit some very special qualities — not to mention stamina—to get to a place where she was taken seriously. I ultimately felt that what she had undertaken was quite incredible and trailblazing, not to mention that she was doing it with such grace, vision and leadership.
O.W.: That’s what I admire, her ability to lead that group really. Okay, so let’s do some fun ones. What’s the best night of your life and why?
C.E.: Yikes! That’s really hard. What would yours be?
O.W.: Well, the best night of my life was actually recently. It was pouring rain. I had a fire and the dogs were here and Stedman was in his office and I was curled up on a sofa reading the most exquisite book. I had a hundred and twenty-some pages to go and I just looked around the room and thought, “I am so happy. I mean, God, I am so happy! I hope it rains all night or at least until I finish this book!”
C.E.: What was the book?
O.W.: You must get it! It’s called Ruby. It’s by a first-time African-American novelist named Cynthia bond. It now goes on my list of top five all-time great books, which includes Roots and To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s a love story and the language is just astounding. So anyway, it was the combination of rain, a chill in the air, dogs and a good book. That’s it.
C.E.: One of my most enjoyable evenings was around a campfire in the mountains of Colorado. I was with my mom and two kids and we spent the entire night singing songs and telling stories about each other. It was just one of those really wonderful family moments.
O.W.: What are the most important qualities in a romantic partner?
C.E.: Kindness, empathy, compassion, passion, and a sense of humor. And intelligence. I’m a sucker for somebody that’s got serious brain power.
O.W.: It’s a good turn-on, isn’t it? So what comes first for you, kindness or intelligence?
C.E.: Kindness, actually. I’ve been with the intelligent guy who’s mean-spirited and a real jerk. That’s no fun to be around. Intelligence starts to get pretty dull if it’s not coupled with kindness.
O.W.: Oh, that’s really good. Are you a bath or shower woman?
C.E.: Baths. Absolutely. I’ve got the lavender essential oils and the whole routine down at this point.
O.W.: I was in Provence last summer, antiquing, and found this pure oil that they harvest in the lavender fields. I have a gallon of it that I transfer to different bottles by my bathtub. It’s an art form for me, bathing. So you’re a woman after my own heart.
C.E.: I’ve had as many as maybe three, maybe four baths in a day. Is that really excessive?
O.W.: Oh, you beat me. I think one every night is enough. But I will not take a bath without some kind of bubbles. As a kid I would use Ivory liquid soap and Joy dishwashing detergent because I didn’t want to clean the tub.
O.W.: Okay, I love this game: if you could invite three people, dead or alive, to your home for a dinner party, who would they be and what would you serve?
C.E.: I’d invite Josephine, Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife. I want to know more about what made that woman tick. She was quite a fascinating creature. I would also invite Gandhi. Now let me lighten the whole scene up with Reggie Watts. He’s this awesome, out of his mind comedian who I’m a little bit obsessed with. As far as the menu, it would be a potluck dinner. Gandhi could bring some Indian food, Josephine would bring a French dish, and I would make my three favorite desserts: banofee pie, crème brulee and panna cotta.
O.W.: How important is being beautiful to you?
C.E.: I think my definition of beautiful has shifted over time. It means something different than it did when I was fifteen and aware that how I looked had power. Now it’s more about character and having something to say. When I see those things in someone, I find that very attractive, particularly in women. It’s important for me to set an example for my daughter so I actively try to stay away from projects or situations that make me too hung up on the exterior. To be honest that’s always been a criteria for choosing work, avoiding the vanity trap.