For the past 10 months, we have been operating in a state of suspended reality. For the past 2 days, it has felt more like delusion. We just got back from Chicago last night. We spent yesterday morning at Harpo productions for an Oprah show taping.
The place is a fortress and Harpo definitely runs a tight ship. We showed up at 7 AM and spent an hour and a half in the green room. For the first time in my life, I got airbrushed. By the time Jess and I proceeded into the studio, our faces were speckle free and mostly monochrome….ready for the bright lights and the intimidating gaze of Ms. Winfrey.
A team of highly professional and kind producers and assistants made sure we were prepared. We practiced our responses all morning. However, you never know what Ms. Winfrey might come up with. In the end, you better be able to throw your preparation out the door. She will look at you when it’s time to begin.
We were in the audience. The show was focused on President Clinton’s new book — Giving. We assumed our seats in the front row. The President and Ms. Winfrey entered to great applause. There we were, in the front row, about arm’s length away as the interview began.
We were in the 5th segment. I think that’s right. The President and Oprah ushered us through 4 segments of emotional conversation and specials. I could almost touch them. Even so, it felt like I was watching a movie — however more frightening because the characters could call on you at any time. You better be ready.
I couldn’t pay perfect attention. About 45 minutes into the show, the Kiva segment began. A tape rolled highlighting Anne Brown, an artisan in Seattle who lent money to a seamstress in Ecuador. I didn’t watch too closely because I didn’t want to be too emotional as the biggest interview in my life would begin.
Then she called on us. Our most likely scenario was that Oprah would focus on Jessica, given that is a women-centric show. We were wrong — she focused on me. How much has Kiva loaned so far? How does it make you feel? How long does it take for an entrepreneur to get funded? I could answer these questions in my sleep. However, they came out in slow motion. I didn’t make any big mistakes. I was serviceable, not incredible. Since that time, I’ve replayed the answers in my head, second guessing every word. I’ll probably never get the chance to address that many people again in my life. Thinking about it too much can drive you crazy.
She turned to Jess and asked about her inspiration. Jess got emotional. It was an emotional moment. She delivered a heart felt account of how we began Kiva. It was one of the more moving parts of the show.
The President and Ms. Winfrey spent the next few minutes talking about the power of the Internet and "the Kiva model." Watching this was truly surreal. If you had told me a year ago that I would watch these two people discussing Kiva in front of millions on TV, I would have laughed. I cannot tell you how ridiculous it would have seemed. It still seems imaginary.
The show ended. The President approached us to talk about Kiva and how he could help. He noted that Jess used to work for World Vision and had apparently read our bios. Are you kidding me? Is this really happening? President Clinton is an immensely personable person. He would have stayed all day and talked to every single person in the studio if reality accommodated that. The Harpo people had to remind him to move to the next venue.
Tactically speaking, this will be a big week for Kiva. Watch for the show on Tuesday, September 4th. It’s bound to be another order of magnitude shift for our young organization. We will do everything we can to react.