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Spending the summer with Oprah

Janelle Grai (center), a 2007 OHS graduate, and her fellow O, The Oprah Magazine staffers pose in front of a cover. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
September 08, 2010 - Janelle Grai spent the summer working for the most powerful and influential person in the Free World.

That's right, the 2007 Oxford High School graduate worked for Oprah Winfrey.

From early May until early August, Grai lived in New York City where she interned at O, The Oprah Magazine, a monthly publication founded by the billionaire media mogul and television star.

"It's a really great magazine," she said. "I enjoyed working at it."

Grai started as an unpaid intern working in the magazine's "fashion closet."

Basically, her job was to help keep track of all the clothing and accessory samples the magazine used for stories and photos, including fashions worn by Winfrey on the cover.

Grai helped make sure everything stayed in good condition and was returned to the Public Relations companies and designers when the magazine was done with the samples.

She did such a fantastic job that after only a month she was promoted to "head executive intern," a paid position. From then on, she worked predominantly with jewelry.

Of course, the big question on the minds of everyone who's reading this article is, 'Did she get to meet Oprah?'

"I did see her once," Grai said. "I saw her 10 feet away, waiting for the elevator."

Back in June, Winfrey stopped by Hearst Corporation headquarters in midtown Manhattan, where the magazine's based, to give every staffer an Apple iPad and a check for $10,000 regardless of how long they worked there.

This magnanimous gesture was her way to celebrate the publication's 10th anniversary. "Oprah was so generous to give all of her employees that," Grai said.

Unfortunately, interns were not included.

"It was a bummer," Grai said.

However, she did get to meet Gayle King, the woman famous for being Winfrey's best friend. "I worked a lot with her," Grai said.

King is the magazine's editor-at-large.

"She's a sweetheart. She's so funny," Grai said. "It was really cool being able to work with her."

One time, Grai was asked to go through all of the magazine's jewelry and pick out pieces she thought King would like to wear to an event.

"It was a lot of responsibility and pressure," she said. "I picked out a lot of things and I think they ended up using some of them."

One of the great things about working at O magazine is the free stuff. Tons of samples are sent to the publication in the hopes that the products will be featured.

Grai said so much free food gets sent there on a daily basis that the employees jokingly refer to the subsequent weight-gain as the "Oprah 15."

Overall, the internship taught Grai a lot about designers, fashion, labels, what fashion PR companies do and "what goes into the magazine itself."

But it also gave her second-thoughts about her previous notions of having a career in the fashion world. "I learned that maybe the industry isn't right for me because it's really fast-paced and some of the clients can just be crazy," she said.

Right now, Grai's leaning toward building a career in the entertainment industry doing PR for television networks like MTV and Nickelodeon. But she hasn't completely ruled out the fashion world. She likes the idea of organizing fashion shows.

"I'm really into event planning," Grai said.

For now, Grai's concentrating on getting through her senior year at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She's majoring in communications and psychology.

Outside the classroom, Grai is the executive director for SHEI, a student-run fashion magazine that comes out twice a year at the end of the fall and winter semesters. She handles the business side of the publication, which includes marketing, PR and finance.

"It's really a great magazine," Grai said. "The models, writers and photographers are all students, but it looks so professional. I show it off to everybody."

Grai is also president of the Michigan Association of Communications Studies, a student-run organization for communications majors and others interested in the field.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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