As anyone who has ever seen "O" Magazine while standing in the checkout line knows, Oprah Winfrey has never shared the cover of her eponymous publication...until now.
The lucky winner -- unsurprisingly -- is Michelle Obama.
The cover photo -- unsurprisingly -- is odd.
Usually so careful with her staging, Orpah is sending out millions of copies of herself at less than her best: looking shorter, fatter, and older than the new First Lady.
(She is, in fact, shorter, fatter and older than Mrs. Obama, but that's why God and Adobe invented Photoshop, right?)
Of course, the strangest thing is their body language. Oprah and Obama aren't touching, aren't in each other's space, aren't even looking at each other. It's yet another sign that, as much as they try to act like "girlfriends" for the sake of their different careers, there's not a lot of love there.
For the First Lady, Oprah is yet another in a long line of things that must be endured. Not only rich and powerful, Winfrey is an open channel to a huge audience of women who are as a group critical to the success of the Obama administration. So she has to kiss the ring every once in a while.
For Oprah, Michelle Obama must be the proverbial pebble in the Manolo Blahniks. Obama grew up in a stable, loving working-class household, got into the Ivy League, bagged "The One," had two beautiful daughters, made a boatload of money, and at the age of 45 is already First Lady of the land. She has no food issues, no emotional baggage, and her ascent into the public consciousness has been almost effortless. she exudes that positive, spiritual attitude that Winfrey has been flogging her audience with for the last quarter-century. She is the living embodiment of how that self-actualizing crap is supposed to work.
So Oprah can neither totally embrace her nor eschew her, and is far too savvy a businesswoman not to see the danger: she could well be usurped by Michelle, at least for the next four (to eight) years.
Obama's influence on fashion is already being seen. Her biceps (recently dubbed "Thunder and Lightning" by the New York Times' David Brooks) have launched dozens of articles and online workouts. Women are going to be turning to her for everything from work/life balance, child-rearing and diet advice to G-rated tips on how to keep the spark in a mature marriage. A list of her "most inspirational quotes" on HuffPo recently showed that, while she's hardly the Dalai Lama, she does have self-help lingo down to a science.
And that's all been Oprah's job, for almost as long as Michelle has been alive.
The standard analysis of this relationship is, typically, the most demeaning: cat-fight.
It's not. It's much more complex than that.
These are two utterly decent people....hardworking, driven women who have brands to maintain and legacies to protect. In their joint Bizarro worlds, these two incredibly powerful public figures have to weave conversations about interior decorating and the quality of pie at the White House, because that's what the public expects. If they play their roles well enough, they may even get to talk about something substantive someday. Whether they like each other or not, they need each other.
One thing seems clear: it's only going to get weirder. Both these ladies are going to be in the public eye for the next many, many years.
Maybe next time, they'll even be able to look at each other.
Heather did not blog last week due to a altercation between her fingers and a very sharp box grater. Prior to the carnage, she wrote about a hated new lunch-room policy in New Mexico, the USN&WR's strangely sexist online poll, and an update on the Nadya Suleman octuplet case, which has changed in ten or fifteen strange new ways since it's posting.