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May 25, 2011

Why I'll Miss "The Oprah Winfrey Show"

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OPRAH Image copyright/courtesy Harpo Productions

The Oprah Winfrey Show is over and I've used up the last of the Kleenex.

Before watching the show, I had all kinds of things I planned to say about why I’ll miss Oprah’s daily hour of love, laughter, pathos, confession, inspiration and enlightenment.

But what I wanted to write changed after watching the show.

You see, today's Oprah show finale talked to me like so many other Oprah shows have talked to me in the past, and at a time when I needed it most.

Right now my life is in upheaval: I’m going to graduate school to figure out what the next phase of my work life will be, and that’s frightening as hell; I’m dealing with my difficult mother who’s alone since my stepfather passed away last year; I’m still looking for that lifetime partner that I often despair of finding; And hardest of all, my usual safety net of friends has, for a variety of reasons, not been available for the support I desperately need.

But today, Oprah did for me what she always does:  she inspired me, she gave me hope, she reminded me that I have the power to change my life, and she reminded me I’m worthwhile.

Because as she said during the show, she too was “a lonely little girl who felt not a lot of love.”

Oprah live your best life
Oprah at the Live Your Best Life Weekend - 2010

Ultimately the show was a thank you to her viewers, and a lot like the Radio City Music Hall show I took my mother to during Oprah’s Live Your Best Life weekend last year. it was just Oprah talking from the heart about what she knows for sure.

There she was in a lovely pink dress with a belted, fringed sash, and matching fringed bracelet, thanking her viewers and taking one last opportunity to tell them that her show ultimately wasn’t about her, but about them.

She thanked them for “sharing this yellow brick road of blessings."

From Donahue to The Oprah Winfrey Show

I was a Phil Donahue fan when The Oprah Winfrey Show first came on the scene. And as much as I loved Donahue, Oprah’s show was special for me as a young black woman because she too was a young black woman.

Relationship shows on Oprah not only had white couples, but black couples too. You’d have to have grown up in the black community with the rabid, “don’t air your dirty laundry in public” sentiment to understand how revolutionary that was.

All of a sudden it was okay for black couples -- and black women, especially -- to seek help and not feel ashamed for doing it.

I eventually dropped out of regular Oprah viewing when there were one too many shows about battered wives or weight loss or shouting audience members. I didn’t return until she changed the direction of the show and began the themes that later became part of her “live your best life” mantra.

She began promoting gratitude journals and the book club, and all of a sudden, The Oprah Winfrey Show had meaning for me again.

While I didn’t agree with everything she said and did, she was such a positive force for good, how could I not admire her?

Add to that, she was a self-made black woman who exposed white women to writers like Maya Angelou. A black woman who explained in clear and intelligent terms a black woman’s point of view when it came to racial issues of the day. A black woman of humor and character and the ability to connect with all kinds of people.

Charity Began At Home

Then there was her sense of charity.

Because of Oprah, survivors of Katrina have homes. Because of Oprah, many a student has gone to school with an Oprah scholarship. Because of Oprah, many more people have thought in terms of giving back to their communities. Because of Oprah, the girls in her South African school are going to change their country and the world.

Sure, I cringed when she came out with the pounds of fat in the little red wagon, because I wondered why she’d put that kind of public pressure on herself to keep the weight off.

Sure enough, she couldn’t. But neither can most of us.

I cringed when she verbally whipped author James Frey a few years ago, and then marveled at how she apologized for her lack of compassion just a couple of weeks ago.

One of Oprah's best interviews in the last couple of years was with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. It took place in a beautiful, historic hotel in Scotland where Rowling wrote her last Potter novel, and was so fabulous because here were these two powerful, self-made women talking about their lives and beating the odds.

The Oprah Winfrey Show gave black women an image of themselves of power and success, kind of like Michelle Obama is doing now, that can never be erased or diminished.

Today, Oprah used that power to once again connect with her viewers.

Here's a video with comments from people who were in the audience:

“I won’t say goodbye, I’ll just say, until we meet again,” she said right before walking off stage.

She kissed Steadman in the audience, shook a few hands and then took a final bow before the lights went out to the strains of Paul Simon’s “25 years,” and vigorous applause.

The Oprah Winfrey Show will take its place in television history as an entertainment milestone, but it will also be remembered as the launching pad for a truly remarkable woman.

Cross Posted from BlogHer



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