Oprah Winfrey’s scaled-down minimalist approach to her finale show was the antithesis of everything her long-running chat-fest had become famously synonymous for in recent years: the big trips, big stars and even bigger surprise gifts. In this flooded reality TV age where we’ve all been trained like dogs to follow the circus-like spectacles that pepper our television lineups, Lady O’s approach to a swan song was hauntingly powerful.
What at first appeared underwhelming in the white-hot aftermath of the two-day celebrity-studded goodbye shows instead prompted personal cathartic moments of reflection—the kind of thing that lingers long after a program has ended. Without bells and whistles and in the one-on-one quietness of host and audience, the close of Oprah Winfrey’s chapter on daytime TV made you chart your own personal evolution over the last 25 years. I watched her very first show as a teen sick at home from high school and her final show as a working married mom. And like most who’ve viewed The Oprah Winfrey Show over the years, I can attest that my life has been enriched by her reading suggestions, my relationships bettered by the conversations her shows sparked, and so on and so on.
In her show’s final hour, filled with clips and special audience members that ranged from her first teacher and first boss to longtime love Steadman Graham to mogul Tyler Perry, Oprah repeatedly stressed what she wanted her audiences to strive for in their own lives. Because as she’s said through the years, and as I've echoed, her daytime talk show has always been about the viewers. But as the camera followed the daytime queen off her studio stage and into the hugging and crying arms of her staff backstage it also reminded me how the show has also been about Oprah in the best ways. How it allowed one heavyset brown-skinned woman who got a talk show in '80s to work on her mom, self-love and food issues and in the process became a vehicle for transforming her into a billionaire, cultural icon and world philanthropist who impacted the lives of millions of people. And how just as her show began, my immense pride and admiration for Oprah’s existence has only grown tenfold since it ended.
(Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)
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