In a 2003 issue of O magazine, Oprah Winfrey described that “aha moment” when her show became more about self-love and empowerment than Jerry Springer-style sensationalism.
It happened during an early episode in which a woman learned for the first time that her husband had cheated on her. Winfrey, as she later told the magazine, saw an expression of pained humiliation on the woman’s face and decided to “never again be a part of a show that demeans, embarrasses or diminishes another human being.”
“Once the light bulb came on for me that day,” she recalled, “my calling became to create shows that encourage and inspire as much as they entertain — television that leaves guests with their dignity and helps us all see our lives in a different way.”
Those words are a fitting reminder of what Winfrey did so well over the past 25 years and why we’ll miss her.
Yes, there were the car giveaways. Yes, there were the famous friends. And we won’t lie, it was pretty good for sales when, on the morning after Barack Obama was elected president, Winfrey held up a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times — with Obama’s photo on the cover — and proclaimed it “the best paper of all the papers in the world.”
But “The Oprah Winfrey Show” was really about inspiring ordinary people, especially women, to be their best selves.
Winfrey has been a cheerleader for hard work, for a healthy sense of self-esteem, for giving back, for good books.
She has been a role model for millions of women and girls — and most especially for African-American women and girls.
Wherever she goes next, as she builds her Los Angeles-based TV network, OWN, we think an awful lot of Chicagoans would agree: Oprah is family.
Chicago Sun-Times (May 25)