I am sitting tonight, finally watching the Oprah finale. Not the big surprise after surprise shows...but the final show that was her "love letter" to her fans. And the moment that has me in tears is the final moment when they are rolling the credits and Oprah is walking out of the studio. She stops to kiss Stedman and walks out of the studio to her staff applauding her throughout her building. And I teared up...because, love her or hate her, Oprah forever changed television.
I never watched Oprah religiously. I tuned in when I could, or if I knew something particularly interesting was going to be on, I'd record it. It was always on at a time that I was at work...well, I have realized that "always" isn't exactly true because since Oprah has been on the air for 25 years, that is roughly 75% of my life. Meaning, when Oprah first aired, I was 8 years old. I watched Dakota Fanning on the finale show the other day talk about being an "Oprah baby." They were a group of young women who had literally not lived in a world unknown to Oprah Winfrey and her show. Now, I'm not quite in that category, but in terms of my memory, I don't really recall a world in which Oprah didn't exist. That's really saying something. Like many out there, I remember the hideous hairstyles, the 80s fashion we all wish we could forget, and shows that stick out in my mind.
So, why, of all things - would I write about Oprah?
She is an icon...love her or hate her, sad to see her go or screaming from the rafters, "It's about time!" - you can't deny her impact on television, pop culture, even politics. She affected the books we read, the topics we discussed, the music we listened to. While I find it a strange thought that I have no idea what will air on my local NBC station from 4-5 p.m. every Monday through Friday, I am no sad. 25 years is an amazing run...and it's iconic. She literally changed the face of television in this country.
While I can't really say what it is about Oprah that struck people, it seems to be attached to her genuine personality. She made fun of herself, she laughed at herself, she talked about her demons and let us see her foibles and fallacies. She was never afraid to appear imperfect if it met she could make a connection with a person.
Oprah has said she always wanted to be a teacher, and I have to say, she probably would have made a good one. She allowed us into her world everyday for 25 years. Most of us haven't known our closest friend that long! While she was doing many things for the purpose of television, to all of us watching, it felt like she had appeared in our living room and was chatting with us, even if she had to be stern and give us a dose of "tough love." While compassionate, her ability to set boundaries and be firm when called for seemed to make her the thing we liked about her. As she became a self-made billionaire, she also remained what so many wealthy people fail to do...she remained human. That is why Oprah succeeded. Because at her roots, she remained a person that was grateful for what life had bestowed on her and never forgot where she came from.
As I'm not sure what I'll watch on weekday afternoons, I do know that Oprah has much left to do. I am interested to see what that turns out to be...