Shelley Fralic: What Oprah knows for sure
Top ten life lessons from the self-help guru of daytime television
Oprah Winfrey poses with the graduates on her arrival at the inaugural graduation of the class of 2011 at Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls on January 14, 2012 in Henley on Klip, South Africa.
Photograph by: Michelly Rall, Getty Images
For the past quarter century, from her top-rated syndicated daytime talk show to her influential O, The Oprah Magazine, Oprah Winfrey has been the wise village elder leading the pop culture masses through the travails of modern-day life, doing it handily with a spiritual no-nonsense alchemy of self-improvement tough love and earnest common sense.
Her global group therapy sessions have guided us through times of stress, depression and recession, and have helped us face up to our fear of fatness and angst over aging. They have examined racism, family dysfunction, child abuse, addiction, infidelity and gender identity, and have introduced us to the joy of charitable giving while reintroducing us to the charms of real books.
They have, with unwavering and often entertaining dedication, entreated us to live our “most authentic” selves.
As oracles go, there is about Winfrey an honest everyman aura that draws us to her: her rise from poverty to power, her commitment to philanthropy, her unabashed love of literacy and the finer things, and even her full-hearted confessional struggles with her weight.
They are the reasons that we’ve come to seek her wisdom, and to respect her opinion.
She is, her fame, fortune and celebrity hobnobbing notwithstanding, us.
Here, then, in celebration of Winfrey’s much-anticipated Jan. 24 appearance at Rogers Arena, are Oprah’s Top 10 best life lessons, a personal selection of quotes culled from a variety of sources in her media empire, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, O’s Big Book of Happiness: The Best of O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine: Wisdom, Wit, Advice, Interviews and Inspiration, and The Best of Oprah’s What I Know For Sure.
Here, too, are some of the reasons she is qualified to dispense such advice.
1: “I know for sure that what we dwell on is who we become.”
2: “Turn your wounds into wisdom.”
Winfrey was born into poverty in rural Mississippi, sexually abused by family members and promiscuous as a teenager. Today, as she is about to celebrate her 59th birthday as a wealthy media mogul whose cultural influence is inarguable, she is the poster girl for a life turned around, for the power of hard work and persistence, and believe in one’s own worth.
3: “Do what you love, give it back in the form of service, and you will do more than succeed.”
4: “Passion whispers to you through your feelings, beckoning you toward your highest good.”
From her Angel Network to her school for young black girls in South Africa, from building new homes for Hurricane Katrina survivors to buying cars for an audience full of teachers, Winfrey walks the talk about the value of living a charitable life, having raised and donated millions to improve the lives of others.
5: “If you want your life to be more rewarding, you have to change the way you think.”
6: “My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”
Winfrey has always stuck to her guns on her unorthodox personal life. She has never married her long-time boyfriend of nearly 30 years, Stedman Graham, nor has she ever made apologies for not adhering to the status quo. And while she lost a baby when she was 14, a son who died shortly after birth, she has said, “I don’t think I could have this life and have children. And I feel like I’m a mother in a broader sense — to a generation of viewers who have grown up with me.”
7: “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo. But you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
8: “Surround yourself only with people who are doing to take you higher.”
Winfrey’s celebrated relationship with her best friend Gayle King, whom she met nearly 40 years ago, and which has infamously caused Winfrey to publicly deny that they are lesbian lovers, is a testimony to the power of friendship and trust. About Gayle, she has said: “She is the mother I never had. She is the sister everybody would want.”
9: “Whatever you fear most has no power. It is your fear that has the power.”
10: “So go ahead. Fall down. The world looks different from the ground.”
When Winfrey packed up her popular day-time talk show in 2011, it was for a new and perilous adventure: her own television network, OWN. Her decision to leave the daily stage and work largely behind the scenes has not been all smooth sailing, as the ratings and viewers failed to follow her on the path to more “meaningful television.”
That Winfrey hasn’t given up — her recent Lance Armstrong interview shows she can still draw a crowd — and that she continues to command our attention and devotion, is testimony to two truisms: the gospel according to Winfrey remains a much beloved commodity, and that gospel continues to hold much sway.
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