Thursday, May 11, 2006


I couldn't sleep Tuesday night. Due, in part, to the fact that I missed a crucial episode of "American Idol." And if you know me, you know I do NOT miss AI (ooh whoa whoa). But, we all know the main reason I battled insomnia, don't we? All together now - OPRAH! I was so excited - what's the topic going to be? Will I get to meet her? Will I be on camera? Will I win a car? Do I *really* need a makeover? I wanted to be in line fairly early as seating is "first come, first served" basis. So, I left the hotel around 10 ~ check-in time between 11-11:30. When the cab turned left onto Washington, the words "Harpo Studios" and an "O" loomed a couple of blocks down. My stomach totally leapt to my throat from sheer excitement! I walked past about 12-15 people all chattering away. Within 10 minutes, the line tripled! While texting my sister and BFFs, the line started moving forward to the sounds of "have your ID out and ready to go" chanted by Harpo security. Inside we maneuvered through the Disneyland-type lines - y'know, the ones where you pass the same people, do the courtesy smile, assess wardrobe, etc. (You know what I'm talking about). Each group was checked in, then hoarded through a metal detector while our bags and purses were being checked for contraband. My mobile was confiscated, which was a drag cuz I had a lot to say and texting was to be my saviour. After the security stuff, we were taken upstairs to the holding pen ~ 3 huge flat screens showing Oprah shows, pictures of O with some of her favorite guests (Nelson Mandela and the cast of Sex and the City, how's *that* for diversity), and five posters of the current cover of "O" magazine. We sat in this holding pen for about 90 minutes. And boy was it ripe for people watching! My internal dialogue was hilarious - too much makeup; she's wearing flip flops to the Oprah show?! Doesn't even matter if the flip flops have sequins on 'em, they're still flip flops; nice outfit; great shoes; what was she thinking this morning?! I really needed *someone* to share with. Around noon, groups of names were being called. I was called in the 6th or 7th round. Down the stairs and into the blue hall...up the few steps and THROUGH THE SAME DOORS OPRAH USES TO ENTER HER SHOW!!! I really wanted to jump up and down. I walked across the stage and stopped in front of her chairs. OMG! THE YELLOW OPRAH CHAIRS!!!! I really wanted to jump up and down. Ridiculous, yes. Too bad producers were sitting in the chairs - I wanted to touch 'em or brush up against 'em or something! One producer led the three ladies in front of me to seats and left me standing there on the stage. " forgot me!" She apologized profusely then sat me in the first seat of the first row in the bleachers. It's not as bad as it sounds - I had a direct line to Oprah's seat *and* a camera. A couple of production assistants came out, did the crowd warm-up (who traveled the farthest? who's having a birthday? etc) and shared that the show's guests were "royal" and wonderful. I felt like the girls on "America's Next Top Model" who always try to figure out what they'll be doing by deciphering a cryptic message. When the producer came back on, she told us the topic: Women Changing History and Making a Difference. The guests were Queen Rania of Jordan, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Sarah MacLachlan. What an amazing panel of guests! The producer walked off and then the people on the right side of the room started yelling and clapping. OMG!! OPRAH!! OPRAHHHHHHH!!! She just walked right out! No announcement, no lead-in, no warning, no nothing! I jumped up and down! And yelled. And clapped. And woooo'd. She was wearing a yellow top (not a good color for her, but then, she didn't ask me), tiiiiiight white skirt, fabulous shoes and her hair pulled back in a pony tail (again, not a look I'd choose for her, but then, she didn't ask me). OK, she's a peanut. She's tiny! But you feel how amazing she is...the air really was electric. She chatted us up a bit, then launched into her opening.

Queen Rania of Jordan was first. She's beautiful, intelligent, well-spoken and so incredibly down-to-earth you'd never guess she's royalty. She spoke with such passion when discussing her family, raising her kids, educating women in Jordan. Her love for her country and religion were so evident! Everything she said was something fantastic to quote - educate a girl and you educate the future; poverty is a she; extremists biggest fear is understanding, which is why the Arab countries and the West should work together to understand. One of the clips shown was a day in the life of women in Jordan. It was very interesting to see these women are not oppressed. I was surprised. One lady, a shop owner, was shown ordering Domino's pizza for dinner for her family! It was hysterical!

Then, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. She is the first elected woman president of an African nation - Liberia. Liberia was founded by freed American slaves. Recently, the country has been engaged in civil war. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf ran for president against Charles Young back in 1997 and lost. Charles Young did nothing but encourage the civil war, give guns to children and allow the rape/murder of women in the country. He was overthrown and exiled. Last September, an election was held and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf won. She was inaugurated in January 2006. When she walked out, I was crying. There was so much emotion churning inside me and it just came out at that time. This 67-year old grandmother of nine is changing the lives of thousands in a country! She's building schools, empowering women to better themselves, helping families help their children grow and flourish. A clip was shown of a 10-year old girl named Mosu. She LOVES school and science and wants to become a doctor. Why? Because a few years ago, a rocket came through the roof of her house and Mosu lost her arm. "I want to be a doctor because a doctor helped me when I lost my hand." Her parents grow and sell potatoes and greens to make enough money to pay for her schooling - $75 US dollars for one year. One year? I spend $75 in Target in one hour! Again, I cried. The lady next turned and said "How can we help? This jacked cost me $150 - I could send Mosu to school for 2 years!" Then Oprah yelled to have the chairs re-set. She brought President Johnson-Sirleaf back to the stage. Mosu was here! The little girl was incredibly shy and didn't want to come out. She did, briefly and the whole audience was moved to tears.

Lastly, Sarah MacLachlan came out. She took the money it would have cost to make a video ($150K) and donated it to charities around the world, literally helping a million people. The one that stuck with me - the $3,000 for one day of craft services bought food for hundreds of families in Calcutta. To see how much money is spent on a video and how it helped those without was tryly amazing. And brought more tears.

That was the end of my Oprah show. But the effect and affect will last much longer...

Look for me on TV!

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