A mere month (or so) ago, I had put “meet Oprah” as my Before I Die aspiration, thinking it would never, ever happen. Sure, I may have deluded myself into thinking that Oprah and I were totes going to become BFFs, or the next incarnation of a buddy cop comedy duo like Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, after she tweeted me back in October. But let’s be real, there’s us mere plebeians and there’s Oprah — these paths rarely cross.
But, the stars must have aligned because on April 13th, 2013, I did end up meeting Oprah-freakin’-Winfrey. Alas, this meeting didn’t result in her asking if she could adopt me or inviting me to a sleepover where we would braid each other’s hair and chat about cute boys (then eventually offering me a show on OWN to try out cupcakes, burgers and pizza all over the world). It was still a remarkable experience, one that I cannot put into words how awesome it was, but I will try to in this post. Weeks later, I am still in disbelief.
It all started after hearing on Twitter (gosh, how I love thee) on the Breakfast Television feed that they were doing a contest to win VIP tickets to see Oprah at her An Evening with Oprah event in Hamilton, Ontario. At least two people had been nice enough to send me a heads up on the contest, knowing what a rabid Oprah fan I was, but little did they know that I was already “on it”. Specifics were vague but from what I gathered, to enter, you had to tweet a question you’d ask Ms. Winfrey with the hashtag #BTOprah. I never really win contests but why not give it a shot, I thought. So I tried to tweet at least one question every day, including many ridiculous ones like “who’s your favourite Muppet” and “what’s your favourite dog breed other than cocker spaniels“. My creative spurt had dissipated and it was getting to desperate times.
One day, I got an @ reply from a Breakfast Television producer. Oh god, I thought, I hope they don’t want to have a segment on TV for Oprah fans to fight it out for the VIP tickets. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s seeing myself on TV. Cringeworthy to the max. That wasn’t it, luckily, I had just won the contest!
What. I WON THE CONTEST???
HELL YA! I was going to get to go to the event and meet her at a little VIP soiree prior to it, getting a picture with her as a keepsake.
I didn’t really tell anyone after I heard the news because I was still pessimistic and expecting to have this dream yanked away from me. Shit happens and they could be like, “your ridiculous questions about Muppets has disqualified you from winning” for all I know.
Fast-forward to the day of the event – April 13th
My friend and I drove to Hamilton and checked in at our hotel. Since the event was happening at night, it was nice that we didn’t have to worry about late night driving afterwards.
At Copps Coliseum, we waited with other people, mostly women who were dressed in fancy outfits (some even in cocktail dresses), who were also participating in the VIP meet and greet. The check in process required confirming your identity with photo ID and passing through security, I’m surprised there wasn’t also a pat down! As we were brought inside, I kept exclaiming, I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING! I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING! Good lord, it was happening.
We were brought into a cornered off area in the arena where we had open bar, hors d’oeuvres, and a pastry table. These are things I love: open bar and pastries. However, because the washroom situation was an unknown and I didn’t want to end up meeting Oprah with powdered sugar all over my face and clothes, I opted out of over-indulging in either. It was very difficult.
After chatting with some people, and after what felt like forever, we started lining up and the anticipation for her arrival was palpable.
She finally came in and gave a little speech about how she was going to take a picture with everyone in the room and not to tell her your life story.
There’s also a funny story to go with my meeting with THE OPRAH: she puts her arm around my waist for the photo and the photographer took the photo. Then after the shot, Oprah pulls me in at the waist and she says in a stern voice, “stand up straight”. I was yelled at like a schoolmarm by Oprah. She was saying it like my mother says to me all the time. I was pretty sure my second picture attempt with her would turn out with me with this look on my face D:
But it turned out alright!
Now, whenever I feel myself slouching, I hear in my head Oprah’s stern voice telling me to stand up straight and I make it a mental note to stand up straight.
An Evening with Oprah
What she spoke of covered everything from her tumultuous childhood to her rise to becoming one of the most well-known media personalities in the world to inspirational nuggets of wisdom that she’s learned along the way. There were many “a-ha” moments, as she calls them.
Shift your paradigm to service
One interesting point she was driving home is that one’s life should be bigger than one’s self. She said, “whatever your job is, shift the paradigm to service”. That really struck a chord with me because in my career and in my life, I feel like I should be doing something that matters. I enjoy the industry I work in and constantly want to learn more about this field, but am I doing something that truly will shape the world for the better? Not quite. And I often wish I had that feeling (while still being able to afford things and have proper sanitation).
Do I matter?
Another theme she spoke of was about how at the crux of what all humans want is acknowledgement: do you hear me? Do you see me? Does what I say matter? And it’s true, nothing is more frustrating than feeling ignored, unappreciated, unacknowledged. I think that then leads to disgruntlement or apathy, both of which are not good qualities. Trust me, I know.
Go with your gut
Last aspect of what she spoke of that resonated with me was the importance of trusting yourself/your gut.
She said that we should only do what we intend to do because intention → cause → effect. If you want to say no, say no – if you say yes while really wanting to say no, it leads to an outcome reflective of that. Not only that, but your gut or in the back of your head, you’ll often hear a whisper. A whisper that says “hmm, that’s odd” and that whisper will keep nudging at you until you get the message. So listen to that voice.
You are still here, you are co-creating your life
The truth is: you are still here.
Later, when we got back to the hotel, there was a mob in the lobby. Turns out Oprah was staying in the same hotel as us and I ended up seeing her walk past me, as I was in the scuffle with 500 older ladies shoving me to get closer.
I want to try taking into account the Oprah wisdom. I’m inspired yes, but some of these things are good reminders and some really require some commitment. The stuff like dedicating my life more to service, I want to do. I just need to commit to it.
Anyway, it was definitely a great, memorable, spectacular experience. Oprah (and Stephen Colbert) really are national treasures.
Video of Oprah talking about boobs (and drowning in her grandmother’s boobs)
Photos from the day