Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oprah No More: The End of an Era

The ladies of The Urban Politico share their reflections after the jump.


"Did you see Oprah yesterday?" I will never hear those words again. For the last time, Oprah stood before a full studio, including standing audience members, and spoke from her heart. She highlighted her ah ha moments and spoke of her gratitude and appreciation for viewers. She dubbed the finale "Oprah's Love Letter" to her viewers. Leaving us with the lessons she holds most precious and the anchors of her life. I could see a sense of relief in Oprah - she truly gave us her all each day, 4561 days to be exact.

I am 28 years-old and Oprah has been on television for 25 years. I can't recall television without Oprah. As a child, everyday I departed school at 2:45pm, arrived home by 3:15; changed cloths, had a snack, watched the rest of General Hospital and then tuned into Oprah with my mother. Once a month Oprah gave up her 4pm slot for an "After School Special." I learned about college scholarships, watching Oprah; how to shop for a better bra and had a glimpse of "Women of the World." At every point in my life the "Oprah Effect" has been in play.

Today's finale presented many with mixed emotions. There are people who want to find fault in Oprah and there are those who find a sense of gratitude and strength in her many accomplishments. I can admit, I am one who has maintained a love hate relationship with Oprah over the twenty-five years she spent on the air, but I am grateful to have her as a force of good in my lifetime. Unconscientiously, Oprah has shaped my life and, in many ways defined the woman that I’ve become. Many women around the globe can say the same and we are all thankful for her.

Oprah has defined an entire generation of people and will continue to do so through her new network and the many lives she has touched. Oprah is an American Icon and I am proud of the impact she has made on our nation and the entire world.

The Storyteller: 
I’m 24 years old. I was born in Chicago in August of 1986. Oprah launched the very first Oprah Winfrey show September 8, 1986. Oprah has been on television all of my life. In Chicago, Oprah comes on at 9 a.m.  It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized that everywhere else Oprah came on at 4 p.m. Talk about a shocker. Being from Chicago you often hear of random Oprah sightings, downtown at Lord & Taylor in the Water Tower, or shutting down Michigan Avenue for something, or more recently delaying the NBA playoffs for a farewell concert. That’s just what Oprah does. At one time she even had a restaurant in the city. But like all good things, Oprah, as we know her and love her, (in show form at least) has come to an end.

It’s difficult for me to write about Oprah because I’m neither the biggest fan nor the biggest critic. I know her through what I’ve seen of her on TV, read about in magazines (including her own), or heard from my brother who works at Harpo Studios. One thing I do know about Oprah is that for bright eyed college co-eds in broadcasting, hosting, and journalism classes, Oprah is the bar everyone hopes to reach. Matt Lauer, Brian Williams, Robin Roberts, Katie Couric, and Diane Sawyer are up there on that list as well but at the top there is only one Queen and that is Oprah.

Knowing that Oprah is the bar for journalists and aspiring talk show hosts everywhere, including those who already have their own show, it’s funny to hear her tell her back story. To hear her say she lied her way into working at her local TV news station. She couldn’t run the cameras, she couldn’t write a news story, and she let two minutes of black go over the air… all issues that if she were working today would be grounds for firing. But what Oprah lacked in technicality she more than made up for in personality. She was personable and, as a generation of women and their children have grown older or just grown up, she was so personable we considered her a friend.

Her struggles with weight were our struggles with weight. Her wearing of the wrong bra was our wearing of the wrong bra. Her tortured family secrets reminded us of skeletons in our own closets. Her favorite things, her favorite books, became our favorite things and our favorite books. Her candidate for President became our President. Oprah’s influence has touched the lives of all who live in this country no matter if you love or hate her. It goes without saying that you know who Oprah is, you know what Oprah does, and you know how the ‘O’ factor works.

You may not appreciate the fact she opened a school in Africa instead of in the United States. You may turn your nose up at her choice of endorsements. You may not even like the powerhouse people who she’s put on the map and catapulted into the pop culture lexicon with just the wave of her hand. You may not appreciate, like, or care for any of this behavior but one thing that I think we can all care for and appreciate is one of Oprah’s biggest lessons, teachings, and preachings, and that is to live your best life.

As Americans we’ve been through hell and back in the first decade of the 21st century. Two recessions, one nearly on par with a depression, the boom and bust of the dot com era, the collapse of the economy, corporate welfare, Wall Street greed, corruption to the nth degree, high unemployment, terror attacks, two wars, and an inept government. In the first decade of the 21st century we’ve been through it all. But at the end of the day Oprah’s four little words have probably helped us all get through it; live your best life…even in the worst of times.

There is something to be said for a person who can come in and touch people’s hearts, stimulate their minds, and open their eyes to what they don’t readily see. Whether Oprah was taking you on a trip with her best friend Gayle or pissed off with the rest of the Nation following the Bush Administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina, Oprah felt every moment fully as she lived what she taught. She’s living her best life and encourages us to do the same.

She may not be there with us everyday at 4 p.m. (or 9 a.m. for all my Chicagoans), but she’s still here. Her quotes are still readily accessible and living our best lives is still possible if we only let ourselves do so.

So cheers to 25 seasons, cheers to 4,500 episodes, cheers to life lessons taught, life lessons learned, and life lessons yet to be lived.

Cheers. To Oprah.
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