I have had two great loves in my life, two great loves that I have never physically met but have touched and influence my life innumerable ways. They are Tupac Amaru Shakur and Oprah Gail Winfrey. The significance of Tupac on my development is a story for another day, but suffice to say obsessed is a term that was often use to describe my respect for this man. My focus today is on Oprah, or more specifically The Oprah Winfrey Show.
I remember being in Mrs. Williams (very white & Greek) costume class towards the end of my 9th grade year. For some reason my spoiled, middle class Black body which attended one of the most prestigious high schools in the country and who was raised in a two parent Christian home decided that I was a revolutionary.
Although at that time I would have not used that word, I was down with the movement- whatever that said movement was. Evidence of my downness was my decision at 13 years old not to get any more perms “I do not want to be a slave to the white man’s definition of beauty,” this is what I told anyone who questioned my disdain for the lye. On this particular day in class I was “educating”, perhaps a better word would be ranting on Oprah Winfrey being a pawn of white women/society and how she is just a sellout, etc. Mrs. Williams ask me was I serious…of course I was- I was Blacker than Black. (SN: I had just read a book about the Black Panthers and I have a tendency to embody books that I read). She explained to me how significant and remarkable Oprah was to all women and especially to Black women. I was half listening because, who was this white woman trying to tell me about Oprah and who should be significant to me as a Black woman!
She must have had some impact because that summer I happen to watch Oprah, probably for the first time ever. Let’s just say I fell in love over that summer in 2001. I had a standing date with Oprah at 4 o’clock every weekday since. I wonder how different I might have been from who I am now if some white lady didn’t take the time to call me on my B.S. and encourage me to watch Oprah. Thankful I will never have to know.
It does not take much more than a short conversation with me to know that I love Oprah perhaps just a little bit more than most people. I have raced home to watch Oprah since the day I got my own car. I brought a VCR just to record Oprah in college. I have dropped classes or didn’t take classes that interfered with Oprah. As recently as this fall in grad school, I would wake up at midnight no matter how tired I was to catch the 2nd showing of Oprah because I did not have a DVR. Thankfully, I upgraded my cable this spring so I did not have to do that this past semester. The major reason I upgraded my cable is because the package I had did not include the Oprah Winfrey Network. In undergrad I was known as the girl with all those names, with a crazy fro, or the girl obsessed with Oprah. Professors used to ask me what was on Oprah that day, knowing I watched. My parents and friends understand that between 4-5pm I was not going to answer my phone- Oprah was on. I have a hard time talking about anything without saying “There was this episode of Oprah…” this is how much she has impacted my life over the past 10 years.
With this being said I do not worship or follow Oprah blindly. She is not my savior. In my head we are equals.She calls me Tabby, I call her Oppie. There are plenty of things that she does that I do not agree with including her love for Tyler Perry. I actually disagree with her a lot but my respect for her is endless.
I imagine us lying in bed reading books or debating how harmful Tyler Perry is to the Black people as our dogs sleep at our feet. With Stedman bringing us tea.
I am fiercely protective of her. You want to annoy me…tell me Oprah does not believe in God and she is the anti-Christ or that she is secretly a lesbian. I know way too much about this woman from her bra size to her shoe size. I know more about her than my own mother.
Here are 3 ah-ha moments (of many) that I learned from watching the Oprah Winfrey Show
The quote that remains with me:
- November 2006 I was watching the show and Oprah said:“You are not your past. You are what is possible for you. Own this truth and move forward in your life. Forgive yourself, and others will be able to forgive you.” In my head there are so many things that I feel like I have moved on from in my past but they keep coming back because I have not them go or forgiven myself for those thing occurring. How can I expect others to forgive me when I have not forgiven myself. This quote is a great reminder that my future is not defined by my past. I own my truth. I move forward.
The book that enlightened me:
- March 2009, Oprah did a show called “Living without labels” on the show she featured a book by Lisa Diamond titled Sexual Fluidity. The book was about the fluctuation in sexual desire specifically in women. This further help informed what I was already coming to know that sexuality is more of a continuum than a binary. Those who know me, know that I do not do labels of any kind.
The show that change my perspective:
- August 2004, Oprah did a show on transgender children. While there was someone at my high school who was transgender. I was really did not get it or think much about. I still don’t really get it but it’s not for me to get. Watching this little boy cry about not being able to play with Barbies or wear a dress and his mother telling him he couldn’t play with them because he was a boy. She explained boys have penises, the little boy told his mother he hated his penis and wanted it to fall off. Watching this boy and his parents struggle to keep him in his “proper” gender assignment when everything inside of him was telling him that this gender did not fit the person he was, made me rethink how I looked at gender.
But enough of this. The last episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show aired May 25, 2011, 2 weeks ago. I started writing this a while ago, but I never finished. Perhaps I did not want to deal with the end of an era. The morning of May 25th, I decided not to work- I had to get prepared. I got a haircut and ran my errands. Came home, showered and picked out my outfit. I even wore a bra for this momentous occasion. I had the house to myself; I pour my glass of wine and got out my tissues. Turned off the cell phone and computer- I was ready to focus on my Oprah.
I had been rather underwhelmed with the previous 2 final episodes, so I was not sure what to expect. Oprah did not disappoint. I would give you highlights but they would probably bore you and I rather tell you what the final show meant for me.
- I am 24 years old. Young. Perhaps naïve and idealistic. I will give you that. However at this young age I refuse to believe that I can’t have and be whatever it is that I want to. Oprah talked to about finding your passion, the thing that lights you up. The people in my program look at me like I am crazy because I don’t want to go on the tenure track or even desire a job in the traditional manner. I want to follow my passion. I want to do whatever makes me happy. That is success for me. I am chasing passion not paper. I look at my professors and they seem miserable. There is no way in the world I want to do that. When I explain to people all that I am going to accomplish in this world and they brush me off because I am young and idealistic, I know that because my goal is to give more than I take, learn as well as educate- I am going to be ok. Oprah taught me that.
- The other part of the final show that I am going to keep with me is being responsible for the energy you bring with you. This could be in a relationship or any physical space. This little nugget caused me to examine the energy I was bringing into relationships both platonic and romantic. While in my head I believe that I know I am worthy of love and awesome friendships, my actions don’t indicate this. People tell me that they love me, but in head I am constantly thinking why this is not true. They only love the funny Tab, or the smart Tab or the goofy Tab. Or they just think they love me. There was a point where I would constantly ask my mother what did I have to do to for her not to love me anymore. This concept of unconditional love seemed unfathomable to me. While I can see myself loving someone unconditionally, I can’t see that love being returned unconditionally. I find myself not envisioning relationships forever, because people always leave. I don’t really envision anyone in my future, but myself. These thoughts manifest themselves into actuality and people do leave my life. This only confirms my thoughts of people not really loving me and always leaving, perpetuating this negative cycle. Oprah reminded me on the last show that I need to take responsibility for my energy. That I alone am worthy. Not funny Tab, not pretty Tab, not crazy Tab…just Tab is worthy of love. This is easier said than done, but I am now more consciously on path to embrace and know my worth.
The show itself exceeded all of my expectations and was a perfect ending to The Oprah Winfrey Show. No worries, ya’ll I am not suicidal. I have been coping just fine with the end of the show. In the end what I am taking from the 10 years I spent watching her almost daily is the motivation to live my best life ever. A lot of people don’t get Oprah’s appeal, it’s not for you to get. Just know that if a lil colored girl from Kosciusko, Mississippi can achieve all that Oprah has…why can’t this little black girl from West Palm Beach achieve all her dreams and more?
I apologize for the length…but this Oprah I am talking about.