Being Authentic

I recently attended a workshop about on-camera mistakes by media expert Shawne Duperon. There were tips and tricks to being a great interview subject, but what it really boiled down to was this – people who are genuine, honest and real during the interview give the best interviews.

As a journalist, I’ve found this to be true. Some of the best quotes I’ve heard were from people who were willing to tell it like it is.

On the other hand, I once interviewed a woman with a high profile, public relations job. The interview was about the woman – not about her company – and yet she couldn’t get past, “This is what I’m supposed to say.” It was one of the worst interviews I’ve ever had. She told me the safe stuff, the fluffy positive stuff, the stuff that didn’t really distinguish her from anyone else. She wouldn’t give me a single detail about her personal life or an opinion. I had to call her back a couple of times, each time hoping for something more.

It seems that many of us go through life acting as our own PR people. When someone asks us how we are, we smile and say, “I’m fine,” or “I’m great,” even when we’d rather crawl back into bed and hide under the covers for 24 hours.  We don’t want to come across as weak. We don’t want to reveal to others our less-than-perfect selves.

And yet the most successful woman in the world has made a career of being her true, authentic self. Oprah is the queen of authenticity. She’ll talk about her health issues, her weight loss failures, her most embarrassing moments. It’s hard to find a “persona” there because she’s playing herself.

Oprah’s best interviews are also the people who are willing to open up and tell all – the good, the bad and the ugly.

A recent Oprah show on weight loss featured three celebrities who had lost weight in the public eye. The first two celebrities gave really surface, “everything’s great” interviews. They received less than five minutes of airtime. The third interview was Star Jones. She poured out her soul on Oprah’s couch, revealing her deepest fears, shames and mistakes. The bulk of the show was devoted to Star.

It’s funny that being who we really are – no pretences, no defences – is one of the hardest things to be. And yet it is so mesmerizing to watch. Perhaps that’s because it’s so rare.