Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The End of An Era

On May 25, 2011, Oprah Winfrey ended her 25 year long run as a day time talk show host. With all the news coverage of this event, I had to take a minute to think about how impactful Oprah’s career has been to me. Not only was she a talk show host, but Oprah has a long list of accomplishments that would make anyone look at her as an example or an inspiration.

I recently watch an interview with Oprah where she discussed her memories of being a young girl and seeing Diana Ross and the Supremes on television. Oprah recalled being happy to see Black women on television because during that time that was a rare occurrence. Seeing Diana Ross on television left Oprah with a lasting impression that stayed with her while she was growing up. I can somewhat relate to the way Oprah felt because Oprah is to me what Diana Ross was to her during her childhood. Of course while I was growing up I had seen plenty of positive Black role models on television, but for me no one else caught my attention like Oprah.

I remember coming home from school and seeing the Oprah Winfrey show on television EVERY SINGLE DAY of my life. At the time I didn’t understand the significance of what Oprah was accomplishing with her talk show. But I later realized Oprah was showing the world that Black people could be successful, carry themselves in a positive way, and relate to people of other races. Oprah's confident demeanor caused her show to appeal to the masses. She did this by discussing a variety of topics, which everyone could relate to.

One thing I really respect about Oprah is the fact that she opens up and allows herself to learn and grow from the guests on her show. For example, for years Oprah always said she does not like rap music because rappers use the word nigga, and because of the negative way women as talked about. And because of her views on this subject she refused to have any rappers on her show. But in 2009 Oprah interviewed rapper Jay-Z. She even went to Brooklyn, NY where he grew up so she could get a first-hand account of how he was able to make it out of a rough neighborhood and become the mogul he is today. Oprah’s interview with him was very eye opening; she learned a lot from Jay-Z and even added his book “Decoded” to her 2010 “Favorite Things” show.

As insightful as the interview with Jay-Z was, I appreciated the fact that Oprah stuck to her views and made it a point to let Jay-Z know that she did not agree with the word nigga being used in his music. I think it is always a good thing when a person can rationally express their beliefs and opinions with a person that feels the complete opposite. This part of their interview is something that I will always remember because Oprah stated her opinion about the word, but also explained why she felt the way she did. She could have decided to avoid the entire subject but she confronted it and did not hide or down play how she felt.
Just like the Jay-Z interview, regardless of who was a guest on her show, Oprah never held back her opinion. No matter the topic, she always expressed her feelings. And that is what I feel made her so relatable to so many people. For 25 years Oprah kept her show relevant and popular. Her style and method of interviewing people was done in a way that made me, the viewer, feel like I was watching a casual conversation between two friends. Oprah always kept things professional, yet causal. And because of her charismatic style, she paved the way for plenty of other talk show host, including Tyra Banks and Wendy Williams. Although their talk show formats are different, both women credit Oprah as their inspiration.
For me Oprah represents what hard work and perseverance can lead to. Throughout her 25 year run on television she was able to branch out and expand her empire. She did not just stick to her talk show. She created a magazine, a radio show, a book club, an all-girls school in Africa, and her biggest accomplishment- her "OWN" network. 

Seeing Oprah take chances and not just stick to one thing inspires me to push forward and pursue my interests and goals. Oprah has shown me and other women of any race that with determination we can accomplish our goals and become successful.
“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” – Oprah Winfrey

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