Recently, I had the opportunity to spend an evening with Oprah at her show in Adelaide at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. What a great evening it was!
I have always been a fan of Oprah. From a young age I found myself watching Oprah in the afternoon during the school holidays. Looking back, I don’t know what it was about the show, or her, but I loved watching it. Even to this day I still believe in two of the tips I picked up from Oprah. Number one, don’t eat after 9pm. Having struggled with my weight all of my life I found this to be a great piece of advice. The second piece of advice was to do with my wardrobe. The rules for this were pretty simple. If you haven’t worn it in 2 years, then throw it out, or if it was still in good condition then give it to charity. Being a shopaholic, this was a great way to ensure that there was always room in my wardrobe for more. I have recently tried to pass this knowledge on to my wife, but she doesn’t seem to have grasped the concept yet!
Arriving at the entertainment centre I was not so sure what to expect. Some friends had seen Oprah via pre-sale tickets and without even looking into what the show was about I purchased tickets. As I entered the auditorium and walked up to our seats, situated somewhere near the back, I thought WOW – HOW EXCITING! Slowly but surely the room started to fill. By the time Oprah was on stage, the entertainment centre was the most full I’d ever seen it, albeit eighty percent was filled with ladies in their forties and fifties!
According to Oprah, the men were well represented, even though there were no more than fifty guys in a sea of women. As she opened her show, Oprah thanked the men for taking their wives to see her. This was true for the majority of the men in the room, but for me, this was a show I wanted to go and see.
I spent the next 2 hours captivated, as Oprah shared her life experiences with us. She has a great commanding stage presence and is a fantastic storyteller, and what a story her life is! Oprah explained her life as a number of ‘threads’.
Threads that would lead her to where she is today. Coming from humble religious beginnings and being raised by her grandma, Oprah was sexually assaulted and fell pregnant at just fourteen. Shortly after birth, she lost her baby. Although clearly traumatised at the time, she remembers thinking that losing the baby was the universe giving her a second chance at life.
Every story that night was deep with emotion and purpose. Tales of wit, trauma, hardship, discovery and success. All delivered in a personalised way, with a hint of ‘Oprah humor and swag’, as she so often did on her talk shows. To date, she has interviewed more than 35,000 people. Many of who were, and still are world famous. I think she said the only significant person she hasn’t interviewed is the current Pope!
The next thread was when she was twenty-two. She had landed the lead news anchor job at the local station paying $22,000 a year, which at the time was great money for someone her age. Everyone she knew told her what a great job she had, but something deep inside told her that it wasn’t what she was born to do.
Although she enjoyed the journalist aspect of the job, she didn’t enjoy the sad and sometimes horrific stories she had to cover. It took her another 8 years before she built up the courage to leave her job and follow her dreams.
Fast forward a few years and another thread. She had started her own production company ‘Harpo’ – which is Oprah spelt backwards. During the early stages she would cover stories that brought in ratings. After all, low ratings meant no show. But then one day something happened on her show that would be a catalyst for change. A change that would propel Oprah to become the talk show queen that we all know and one of the most wealthy and powerful women in history.
On that particular day on her show, a cheating husband came out and told his wife that his mistress was pregnant. During the filming Oprah thought to herself “this isn’t right. Why am I allowing people to use my medium to deliver these types of messages.” Although she thought this, she did nothing about it. A week later she had some ‘skinheads’ on her show, and again another similar situation occurred. Someone was using her show to deliver their own ‘negative’ message to the world by labelling her and fellow black people as ‘monkeys. This made her furious and this is where she made a stand. Right after that show she approached her producer and told them that she will never ever do a show like that ever again. From that point on, her vision of her role changed and so did the success of her show. She was driven not by rating, fame, power or money, but a desire to use media as a tool for positive influence.
Since ending her talk show, Oprah has acted in a number of movies and has spent the past 3 years creating a documentary called ‘BELIEF’ to be released later this year. The documentary is about humankind’s search to connect with something greater than themselves. It sounds very interesting and I can’t wait to see it!
Of the many powerful messages throughout the evening the key message I took away was, “to listen to your spirit and let it guide you through life to discover your true purpose.” Oprah says everyone on this earth has a purpose to serve and it is our job to find out why we were put on this earth.
After the show I realised why I was drawn to Oprah for all of these years. It wasn’t just the content of her show, it wasn’t that she was rich and famous, and it wasn’t the fact the she gave everyone in the audience of a show a car. It was her spirit! Yes, she was a power presenter who was very good at her job, but it was her desire to serve others and use her powers for good and to change the world for the better that has made her one of my idols in life.
Thank you Oprah for everything you have taught me. I’m sure there are things I do now without even realising, that I picked up from you and your show. You did bring me up and for that I am grateful. Thank you Oprah!
“I am the master of my destiny and the captain of my soul” – Oprah Winfrey
By Mario Nguyen
RTO Manager at Proteus Leadership.