Gayle King on Her Saks Obsession, Holiday Plans (Without) Oprah, and Why She Doesn’t Like Working Remotely

by Eddie Roche

CBS This Morning co-host and national treasure, Gayle King, was on hand last night at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York to host the latest installment of their reimagined holiday window and light experience. Before she headed to Saks to spread some much needed holiday cheer, we got on the phone with her to talk about how she’s keeping the Christmas spirit alive this year, the charity she’s supporting, and how they put together Oprah’s favorite things list this year for O: The Oprah Magazine.

What are you doing to get into the holiday groove?
It’s so interesting because Christmas music even sounds different to me today.  I’ve always loved Christmas music, but it seems to have taken on a different meaning. I crave anything that makes us feel normal. At CBS we taped our Christmas show and just seeing Christmas decorations—the lights seem brighter, the tree smells better, I feel hypersensitive to everything. I’m so ready for 2020 to be over. It has been a crappy year for most people, but I also know it’s not over yet. At least I feel there is light at the end of a very, very dark tunnel. You used to think, ‘Ok! We’re gonna start a new year. This will be great!’ But you can’t even say that because there’s so much more to go. At least knowing there is something on the horizon makes me feel better.

Speaking of light…you are going to be in the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue. Have you ever been inside the windows before?
I have walked by the windows! I’ve pressed my nose against the window! Saks is one of my favorite stores. I’m a black belt shopper. I’m always looking for a deal and they have some of the best sales. Before COVID, you could call me a regular. It will be the first time I’ve been to Saks and not shopped. I’m excited to be in the window and press the lights and say, ‘Let there be light!” Those windows are so gorgeous.

Saks Fifth Avenue (Courtesy)

Saks is making a donation to a charity on your behalf. Tell us about the charity.
It’s SEO Scholars. It was started by Henry Kravis. He runs a program that helps kids of color go to school all year round and helps prepare them for college. I like what Henry is doing and he’s not doing it for a photo op. He’s devoting his time and his money. We had some of the kids come to CBS to watch the news. These are really bright kids, who want to be successful in the world, and he’s providing the resources. They go to school on Saturday and in the summertime.

Where are they based?
Here in New York. I found out about it because I was at a conference and Henry said he wanted to tell me about a program he was doing. I thought, ‘Oh God!’ Eye roll!’ He said he wanted me to meet some of the kids. I had the college kids come to the news, who were interested in television and I was blown away. I called him and said, ‘What is it you are doing with these kids!?’ That’s how I became hooked. I’m impressed with people who do things that they don’t have to do. He’s a billionaire and devotes his time to any cause. I was very touched by it.

How will you be decorating for the holidays this year?
I’m decorating my house. I’ve got lights. My family room where I always put the tree is still a studio because we had to broadcast from home. I’m praying to sweet Black baby Jesus that we don’t have to be confined to our homes to broadcast again, but just in case, they’ve left all the equipment here, so I still don’t have a family room. I’ve put up lights and Santas and that kind of stuff so it does look festive, which I’m happy to say. There’s wreathes on the door. I like multi-color lights. Some people like the white lights. I like the colored ones.

I’m with you on that!
I’ve got my sparkly mask, too!

Gayle King (Courtesy Saks/Getty)

What are the holiday traditions in your family?
We always go to Oprah’s in Hawaii, but this year we’re not doing that. They are in California, including favorite daughter Kirby, favorite son Will, and Oprah. Nobody is traveling these days. I didn’t see them at Thanksgiving either. I’m not sure how we’re going to negotiate it this year [with my kids]. Oprah has a very strict 14-day quarantine rule in her house. You better quarantine for 14 days before you can spend time with her specifically. She’s so worried about COVID. She has  underlying conditions. She had pneumonia in January and still has some of that residue. 14 days is all I get off for Christmas, so it’s not going to make sense to go in quarantine. I’m trying to figure it out.

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? What will your’s be?
I’m hoping that whatever lesson there is to learn—and I do think there is a lesson—I’m trying to figure out what it is. I’m hoping that we will be kinder to each other, be better to each other. I keep saying that we’re all in the same boat. Some people are in better boats, but we are all in the same boat. Bishop T.D. Jakes said it best that the country is on a collective timeout and we’re all in it. Dr. Fauci, who I’m very smitten with, says the calvary is coming and I’m hoping that when the calvary arrives, that we will take this to heart and be kinder to each other and realize we are all more alike than different. Right now the country is bitterly divided and that’s pretty frightening to me.

Oprah’s Favorite Things issue recently came out. What was it like to put that together remotely?
I don’t enjoy working remotely! I know I’m a people person. I crave the face to face collaboration and interaction. I marveled that we were able to pull it off. Kudos to Adam Glassman. He had all of that stuff that was brought to his house. He showed it to us remotely. Oprah’s in California, I’m in New York, he’s in upstate New York. He had certain things sent to Oprah, certain things sent to me. It was unbelievable what he did. But we pulled it off! And then to get it shot! We did a lot focusing on Black-owned businesses this year. We did Zoom calls with the owners who were going to make it in and they thought they were just going to be talking to me and Adam about why their thing was so good and then Oprah would pop up on the screen and they’d scream! That was fun! I love when people get to meet Oprah for the first time because she never disappoints.

Oprah Winfrey, Adam Glassman, Gayle King (Courtesy Hearst)

Do you have a favorite thing in the issue?
We have these pretty cute dog hoodies that I like. I love dogs. I hope one day I can have a dog but I live in a high rise. I don’t have outside space. My hours are crappy. But I love dogs. We also have these cashmere throws that are nice if you are traveling. We did a lot things for people who are home. We have something for every price range and price; I like that.

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