Oprah Winfrey once explained this way her outlook on life after rising from a difficult childhood to a status of wealth and influence:
“Though I am grateful for the blessings of wealth, it hasn’t changed who I am,” she said in her magazine. “My feet are still on the ground. I’m just wearing better shoes.”
Which brings the (maybe not obvious) question: What do those shoes look like?
Louisville has something of an answer. The Muhammad Ali Center is exhibiting about a dozen pairs of shoes from famous and significant people; the Right Foot exhibit an addition to the traveling Global Shoes project of shoes worn by people from around the world meant to spotlight cultures through footwear.
The Right Foot spins forward an element of Global Shoes’ purpose—by showing what familiar people wore as they walked through life, Ali Center spokeswoman Jeanie Kahnke said.
“There’s a learning opportunity here to show young people that everybody doesn’t come from a lot of wealth or prominence—that a lot of people who are famous have really worked hard to reach their goals and attain a certain level of success in their lives through hard work,” Kahnke said.
The Ali Center sent out requests for footwear to several famed people, some of whom have Louisville connections; the Alis sent personal notes, Kahnke said.
“We said, ‘Why don’t you send a pair of shoes that’s really representative of who you are and what you have accomplished in life,'” she said
Now on display are cowboy boots from Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, pumps from CBS News anchor Diane Sawyer and, of course, a pair of brown shoes from Ali himself. The three are all from Louisville, natch.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela sent a pair of well-worn shoes and (“Exactly the type of shoes you’d expect” from the celebrated anti-Apartheid activist, Kahnke noted) And a pair of the much-discussed red shoes that Pope Emeritus Benedict wore before his retirement are on display, too.
The exhibit is included in the price of admission to the Ali Center and is open through July 7. Also, the Ali Center and WaterStep are having a “shoe drive” to help fund projects for safe drinking water around the world. People who donate a pair a shoes get $2 off the regular adult price of admission to the Ali Center.
Now, another shoes photo: