Oprah Is Harming Black Women by Pushing Weight Loss Drugs and Diet Culture

The Ability Toolbox is a disabled-owned small business. We use affiliate links, which means we may receive commissions at no added cost to you. Thanks!


Oprah Winfrey is one of the most famous women in the world. She has also had a very public battle with her body image and weight. She has even categorized her battle with weight as one of her biggest regrets. Therefore, it was no surprise when she revealed that she was taking weight loss medication. It was just a matter of time.

As one of the world's most powerful and wealthiest women, when Oprah shares that she is dissatisfied with her body, she sends a powerful cultural message. I grew up with Oprah as a big influence in my life (she was one of the first influencers). I wanted to be like Oprah. I wanted to have her power, her intelligence, and her charisma. I wanted to have her success and influence. But her telling a whole generation of women and girls that their bodies are faulty and that we should be ashamed of them has caused immeasurable harm to Black women and Girls.

Black women live in bodies that will never meet the cultural expectation of the perfect body. We can lose weight, work out, lighten our skin, have surgery, and we will never be “white enough.” Instead of Oprah communicating that our bodies are worthy of love just the way we are, she pressures us to change them. We are supported in being disgusted with our bodies and made to feel like something is wrong with us.

Oprah partly owns one of the biggest weight loss companies in the country, Weight Watchers (WW), although she recently resigned from the Board of Directors. WW has invested in the new weight loss medication companies and created a weight loss program that is geared toward those taking the shots. Her relationship with this major weight loss machine has been used to send the message that our bodies are unacceptable and need to be changed at all costs. And when I say cost, I mean an average of $1,000 per month. Black people hold $12 in wealth to a white person's $100.00, yet she is telling us we should spend our limited funds to meet an ideal that is unobtainable for us.

With whiteness comes power, acceptance, access, and influence. No one believes that Black women can meet white beauty standards, but they will take all our money to support us in trying. Oprah is not just complicit, but actively profiting from this damaging diet culture. 

Bottom line — Oprah is toxic to women, especially Black women and girls. We have followed and even worshipped her and all she has achieved. We were wrong to admire her. She has only operated to our detriment. She has taught us that we should hate our bodies (her biggest regret) and that we should spend our lives in the pursuit of fixing our bodies to meet an unattainable ideal. Now she is selling us a product to further build her fortune at the expense of our mental and physical health.

Imagine if Oprah said how much she loved her body. How much diet culture is our enemy, that Black bodies are beautiful, and that we should not bow to the media and racist tropes about Black women. Imagine if she looked at me as an innocent Black girl and said, “You are beautiful, and your worth is not tied up in your body and how much it weighs and conforms to made-up body image expectations.” She could change the conversation about beauty standards, weight, and health, but instead chooses to reinforce the racist status quo. 

It is not our fault that we took all of this in, and maybe not even Oprah’s fault for having negative feelings about her body. But as someone with so much power and influence, she has an obligation to learn and do better.

As a disclaimer: I have no interest in telling someone what to do with their body. If you feel you need to take the weight loss shots to access medical care, a love interest, a job, mobility, love, or acceptance, I do not begrudge you this. These reasons are why I have pursued weight loss my entire life until recently. Body autonomy is imperative, and if your personal informed choice is to use weight loss medications, I support that. What I am talking about here goes beyond personal choice into a dialog about diet culture and how Oprah is using it to manipulate, shame, and coerce others, particularly Black women, into changing our bodies.

+ posts

I am Black, lesbian, disabled, mentally ill, fat, a birth mom, mom and grandmom (grand ma Coco to be exact) and Funny. I am a woman who is constantly fighting for my and your liberation.

I have a history of working for those living at the margins mostly in activist and nonprofit spaces. I currently work in the mental health field serving those who have been convicted of felonies and are in mental heath court. I am also a writer. I write about disabilities, chronic illness, mental health, racial trauma, sexual violence and disordered eating. I am also a public community speaker on the same topics. Hit me up if you need my writing or speaking skills.

Please use she or her pronouns when referring to or about me.

Start the discussion at community.theabilitytoolbox.com

The Ability Toolbox
Register New Account