My Encounter with Oprah Winfrey


copyright © 1995 Joan Holman


While attending an international meeting of television programming executives, I was distracted from conversing with someone by a great fluster of commotion around the corner where a large crowd was gathering. 

Now, I had never seen more well-known television personalities in one place in my life, and their presence seemed to be no really big deal for the thousands of industry people in attendance. So, I could not imagine who was creating this kind of excitement. To try to get a glimpse of who it was, I perched myself up on a small platform supporting a large decorative tree.

And then I saw Oprah Winfrey and her bodyguard surrounded by a large number of photographers and video cameras. One of the cameramen decided that I had an excellent position to capture some footage of Oprah and proceeded to push me off my platform.....and thus propelled me forward, right past Oprah's bodyguard and right into her face.

There I stood squeezed next to Oprah, who was smiling for the cameras. Thus, I was presented with an opportunity to meet her (and speak with her) at extremely close range. So, I put my arm around her as the cameras flashed and wondered if I would be on the front cover of The National Enquirer the following week.

I have great admiration for Oprah and have followed her career closely. I respect her for trying to provide quality television programming, and for her focus on personal accountability and responsibility for one's life. I was impressed with her commitment to turn away from her trash tv format a few years ago. In 1994, Oprah stated "I'm not going to spend from now until the year 2000 talking to people about their dysfunction. Yes, we are dysfunctional. Now, what are we willing to do to change it?" She also committed to more positive shows even if her ratings "go in the tank."

Since I have spent a lot of time studying the principles of success and the lives of successful people, it was particularly interesting to meet someone of the absolutely stellar success of Oprah. She presents such a warm persona on her television show and seems so likeable and accessible. However, during this encounter with her, in person and up close, I realized that she is really, really tough. Much tougher than most people might realize. But, she is also very personable and dynamic. She radiates power and strength, determination and focus. All of the really successful people I have known have this intensity of focus. People see the glamourous side of her life, and perhaps do not realize the price that she pays to be a huge celebrity. She is the target of envy and of scores of people who want a piece of her, who want her to do something for them or give something to them. And, she attracts the attention of fringe elements who might even attempt to do her harm.

Oprah's success has not come by chance. It is obvious to me that it has come as a result of a steely will that has overcome formidable obstacles. In 1987 she said " I knew I'd be a millionaire by age thirty-two. In fact I am going to be the richest black women in America." By age 12, Oprah planned on being famous. Oprah is an excellent role model for success because her life is a demonstration of the universal principles of success and because her goals are not just fame and money, but service to others, a desire to improve the world and to empower people. "The success wasn't the goal, the process was. I wanted to do good work. I wanted to do well in my life."

Read Joan Holman's Article "My Day with Oprah Winfrey"

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