I mean I lost it.
So, as many of you know, I attended a taping of The Oprah Show in Chicago.
No, it wasn’t that show—the show where the audience members got a surprise trip to Australia. No, the show I attended was taped September 8, 2010. But I ended up with a little surprise, too.
I was so excited when I got the email about the tickets. Right away I called my mother and sister and told them, “We’re going to see Oprah for her Farewell Season!”
We only had about two weeks to book our flights and hotel. My mother and sister were traveling from Detroit, and I was flying out of Pensacola. I really didn’t think we would all make it.
But actually, we found flights at a reasonable price and arrived in Chicago the night before the taping. That entire night I had butterflies in my tummy. I was just so anxious. I was hours away from being in the presence of a woman that I have admired and respected for so many years.
We took a taxi and as hyper-excited as I was, I had the nerve to stop by my favorite coffee shop and get a Grande Soy Caramel Macchiato. Exactly
Needless to say, when we pulled up in front of Harpo Studios, my heart was about to jump out of my chest.
There was a long line of people waiting to get inside. Over 300 people were there.
It was such a good vibe. Everyone was just so happy to be there, from the staff to the studio audience; everyone was sharing their favorite Oprah stories and saying how much the show would be missed.
No cameras were allowed inside. In fact, I had to check my entire purse until after the taping.
We were called into the studio and with each step I took, the pounding in my chest grew louder. We were escorted to our seats, and I thought I was going to pass out.
We had absolutely amazing seats.
We were seated on the right side of the floor, and in the third row!
So when Oprah came out, she walked right past ME!!!.
I remember how quiet it was right before she came out. Up until that point, the place was vibrating with music, laughter, and a bit of hysteria from the people who got the front row seats.
But when they announced that Oprah was making her way into the studio, a silence fell over the room.
With just one footstep into the room, there was an eruption of applause.
She made her way to the stage and walked right by my seat. See, I was sitting on the end of the row.
I remember seeing her shaking everyone’s hand, and then I remember feeling this ball of emotion. It started in my gut then worked up to my throat.
When she reached my seat and extended her hand to me, I lost it. I completely lost my cool and, to be honest, that’s where it all becomes a blur.
I must have blacked out, because I don’t really remember much. My mother tells me I dropped down into my seat, started crying hysterically, and fanning myself.
She reached over to tell me to get up, because apparently at that point Oprah was trying to give me a hug. I just kept shaking and crying, so eventually Oprah continued toward the stage.
“Lenise, Lenise, you have to calm down…just breathe,” my mother told me. It registered.
When Oprah got to the stage, she thanked us all for being there. Then, she proceeded to tell us a story about how she just loved the Mary Tyler Moore Show when she was a teenager.
Oprah said that she watched the show religiously. She said one day, she finally met her heroine and, “went right into the ugly cry, snot coming out of the nose and all.”
That’s when she turned to me and said, “I guess I’m your Mary Tyler Moore.”
If only she knew. I have been watching Oprah since high school, admiring her interviewing skills, compassion, and humility. Maybe she did know.
When she reached out to me, I’ve never been so taken…even now I am getting tears in my eyes just replaying the image in my mind.
I couldn’t handle all the emotions. Thank goodness my mother and sister were there to help me keep my feet on the ground, because I was out of my skin with joy.
Once everyone was calm and in their seats, we began taping the segment. The topic of the show was Modern Families, so appropriately they had the cast of “Modern Family” as the guests: Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, and Ty Burrell.
Time flew. Before I knew it, Oprah was saying thank you to the cast members and asking the studio audience if they enjoyed the show.
She took a lot questions from the audience. One woman asked if she ever felt like giving up in her career…someone else asked what would happen to Harpo Studios…and another person wanted to know her middle name.
She said, she’s never felt like giving up because she has always followed her true calling, which was to be a teacher. Regarding Harpo Studios she said it would still remain a production house and her middle name is Gail. I know quite the coincidence considering her best friend is also named Gayle, just spelled differently.
But she really opened up when one woman thanked Oprah for the profound impact that she’s had on American culture and congratulated her on winning the Kennedy Center Honor.
Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, Merle Haggard, Jerry Herman, and Bill T. Jones will be this year’s recipients.
Oprah got really smitten when she talked about sitting next to Paul McCartney—a man she says, she always thought she would marry.
It was cute, seeing her so awestruck, especially since I was so awestricken by her.
And she must have felt my thoughts because that’s when she turned to me and asked, “Have you calmed down yet?” I nodded my head and said I was just trying to breathe like my mother told me.
AND CAN YOU BELIEVE SHE CALLED ME UP ON THE STAGE!!!!
I almost lost it again. I just kept telling myself you’re wearing 5 inch heels; you do not want to fall.
I couldn’t speak. It was completely surreal!
I was on stage with OPRAH!!! She told me I looked nice and that she liked the orange sweater I was wearing—that it was a good color for me. She said, you smell good, too… and my response to all of that …”Oh I showered.” Oh. My. Goodness.
I finally meet the one person I have regarded with such admiration and all I could say was “I showered.” She was really sweet though and very kind; she just hugged my waist and said, “Here let’s take a picture.” My mother later told me I was smiling so hard that my cheeks were up to my eyes and that she didn’t think I could see. She told me that she knew I really, really liked Oprah but she didn’t think I would cry.
My picture with Oprah came in the mail yesterday. Looking at it brings back such a rush of happiness.
I wanted to include it in this blog but because of copyright laws, I am not allowed.
The picture is framed and will be sitting on my desk to remind me of Oprah’s advice that day: “We are all called here by a greater energy force; for me that energy force is God. We all have a purpose; find yours and be the best.”
September 8, 2010. Honestly, it’s a day I’ll never forget.
Who will fill that seat now? That’s the question circulating the web. But if you ask me, no one can replace Oprah. She’s truly one of a kind.
The episode airs September 29th. Be sure to tune in, and let me know if you see me in the audience.