Oprah Winfrey 'was victim of racism' in Switzerland

 
Oprah Winfrey The star made an estimated $77m last year

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US talk show host Oprah Winfrey says she was the victim of racism during a recent visit to Switzerland.

She said an assistant refused to serve her in an upmarket handbag shop in Zurich.

Winfrey, one of the world's richest women, was apparently told one of the bags was "too expensive" for her.

Her claims, made to a US television programme, come amid a political row over plans by some Swiss towns to ban asylum seekers from some public places.

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Berne says human rights groups have likened the plans - which include banning asylum seekers from swimming pools, playing fields and libraries - to apartheid.

Winfrey, who stars in Lee Daniels' new film The Butler, visited Zurich last month to attend singer Tina Turner's wedding. The Oprah Winfrey Show is not shown in Switzerland.

Winfrey said she left the shop calmly without arguing, but that the experience was proof that racism continues to be a problem.

"There's two different ways to handle it," she said.

"I could've had the whole blow-up thing... but it still exists, of course it does."

Shop owner Trudie Gotz told the BBC that an assistant had shown Winfrey several other items before the "misunderstanding" over a $35,000 (£22,500) bag, which was kept behind a screen.

Winfrey's claims are a public relations disaster for Switzerland, our correspondent says.

About 48,000 people are currently seeking asylum in Switzerland. It has twice as many asylum seekers as the European average.

Officials say the curbs, which will also see asylum seekers housed in special centres, are aimed at preventing tensions with residents.

The country's asylum laws were tightened in June.

 

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  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 415.

    The general negative attitude towards Black women is showing itself here in the messages on this story, as it was shown to Oprah while she is in that store. Frankly, so many negative responses to Oprah herself (that somehow she "deserved" the rude treatment by the clerk for whatever made up reason) is precisely the confirmation that racism itself was the reason. Her experience isn't worthy enough.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 306.

    Living in Zurich I know this is not racism - this is how some snobbish salesgirls treat customers in these expensive shops. It happens all the time even with Swiss people. But to be fair not in all the shops either. It also important to see how the customer treats the salesgirl. And admittedly not all salesgirls in Zurich understand and speak a perfect English.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 305.

    Reminds me of the scene in Pretty Woman. Vivian Ward unable to spend her money on Rodeo Drive! She should have just said to the woman " I can afford a bag bigger and better than that one....and you will always be a shop assistant". But she didn't. These incidences happen to all races.I'm mixed race and got told in Ireland recently to go back to my own country recently..i think that's far worse!

  • rate this
    -12

    Comment number 134.

    Good for Oprah. It's good that it happened to her. I don't really see why the shop assistant should be given the opportunity to respond - she clearly gave Oprah a put-down. How does she know how much money any client who comes into her shop has got? It's condescending and arrogant to the nth degree.

  • rate this
    +40

    Comment number 121.

    How does she know that the comment was based on her race?

    I'm white and I've been into a good few designer shops and they have given me the exact same response because I choose to wear casual clothes.

    Maybe Oprah was just looking a bit scruffy that day!

    *NB if it the clerk was being racist she should be fired and an official apology should be made.

 

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