EDMONTON - For a minute, Beth Coulas’s illness was smothered and forgotten beneath a giant bear hug from an inspirational woman in purple.
“I’m so thankful,” Coulas said, her eyes still glazed over from what just transpired. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
Coulas, 51, along with about 150 other lucky Edmontonians, had an opportunity to meet daytime talk show queen and inspirational guide Oprah Winfrey on Monday evening at Rexall Place.
In a roped off room on the lower level of the arena, an hour before the sold-out show dubbed An Evening With Oprah began, fans and devout followers smiled and giggled with anticipation as they waited.
When the monarch of couch therapy sessions and celebrity interviews arrived, she did so with a sense of humour bigger than her hair.
“My secret to taking great pictures is to say ‘Yay,’ ” she said. “And please don’t tell me your WHOLE life story,” she joked.
Guests had an opportunity to shake hands and pose for a photo with Winfrey, one of the most famous and richest women in the world.
Wearing a royal purple wrap dress and four-inch bronze platform heels, the 58-year-old Winfrey (who turns 59 next week) offered genuine, loving embraces to each of her fans.
Coulas won the opportunity to meet Winfrey through a Southgate Centre contest. Coulas, who is suffering from a terminal brain tumour, has her son Robert to thank for the experience.
The 25-year-old entered his mom in the competition to fulfil one of her dreams, which was to meet the lady who had made her laugh, cry, and find strength for the quarter century that Oprah reigned over daytime television, in the highest-rated talk show in American television history.
The Oprah Winfrey Show ended in 2011, only to be followed by the creation of OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
“I feel like it was a full circle moment,” Coulas said. “She’s not ‘Oprah’: She (embodies), ‘What can we do to make this world a better place?’ ”
For Journal contest winner Sandra McColl, the experience was “fast, but very cool. I don’t think there will be another time in my life that I’ll be that close to an icon.”
She shared the experience with her daughter, Aleana Sorensen, 24, after winning tickets by sharing her “aha” moment with Journal readers. It came after the death of her son, when she realized she missed him so much because she had loved him so deeply, a realization that allowed her to carry on with her own life.
Though cellphone photos with Oprah were forbidden, McColl’s daughter snapped a shot of her with CBC-TV host George Stroumboulopoulos, who is in town to interview Winfrey.
As for her brief meeting with Oprah, McColl says she felt “really lucky to have got the opportunity to come to see the show, let alone to get a photograph with her.”
Coulas raised her two children on Oprah. For 25 years, Oprah found a place in the Coulas living room. Her son remembers it well, but An Evening With Oprah will shine a little bit brighter in his memory from now on.
“I’m so happy I had a chance to share this experience (with my mom),” he said, wiping away tears.
Oprah brings her tour to Calgary’s Saddledome on Tuesday and to Vancouver’s Rogers Arena on Thursday.
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