Oprah Winfrey has said she recently became a victim of racism when a shop assistant in Switzerland refused to show her a £24,477 handbag saying it would be “too expensive” for her.
The US chat show host, who is one of the richest women in the world, was in Zurich for Tina Turner’s wedding when she decided to go shopping alone.
Winfrey told Entertainment Tonight: “I was in Zurich the other day, in a store whose name I will not mention. I didn’t have my eyelashes on, but I was in full Oprah Winfrey gear. I had my little Donna Karan skirt and my little sandals. But obviously The Oprah Winfrey Show is not shown in Zurich.
“I go into a store and I say to the woman, ‘Excuse me, may I see the bag right above your head?’ and she says to me, ‘No. It’s too expensive’.”
The bag was apparently in the shop window behind a security wall.
When Winfrey insisted again, the woman replied: “No, no you don’t want to see that one, you want to see this one because that one will cost too much. You will not be able to afford that.”
The assistant then started to show the media owner smaller bags before she asked for a third time and was refused again.
“She said, ‘Oh I don’t want to hurt your feelings’ and I said, ‘Ok thank you so much you’re probably right I can’t afford it’.” said the 59-year-old.
Winfrey, who is the world’s only African-American billionaire, then walked out of the shop calmly.
She said: “I could’ve had the whole blow-up thing and thrown down the black card but why do that but that clearly is you know … it (racism) still exists, of course it does.”
Trudie Goetz, the owner of the boutique Trois Pommes, had apologised for the incident.
But Ms Goetz, who also attended Tina Turner’s wedding, blamed a language barrier for the “misunderstanding”.
“It was a translation problem. The shop assistant’s mother tongue is Italian,” Ms Goetz said.
“She was very nervous because it’s not everyday somebody comes in to buy such an expensive handbag. She simply offered Oprah examples of cheaper ones and that’s when she thought the shop assistant didn’t want to sell her the bag.
“I don’t know why so much trouble has been caused.
“I don’t have Oprah’s number to say sorry so I will get it from Tina Turner.”
Oprah had been asked on the US TV show whether anyone had ever called her the ‘N- word’.
She said no one in their right mind would call her that to her face, but that racism showed itself in other ways.
“It shows up for me this way. Sometimes I’m in a boardroom or I’m in situations where I’m the only woman, I’m the only African American person within a 100-mile radius and I can see in the energy of the people there, they don’t sense that I should be holding one of those seats.
“I can sense that. But I can never tell is it racism, is it sexism, because often it’s both. I mean the sexism thing is huge. The higher the ladder you climb it gets huge, because men are used to running things.”
Oprah has just been awarded America’s highest civilian honour – the Presidential Medal of Freedom – which she will receive from President Barack Obama at the White House later in the year