Life has been a series of twists and turns and some of those roads are a total surprise. In the last week, we’ve been sitting back and processing what just happened. With returning to regular life, the world of Beverly Hills and Oprah seems just out of grasp. It was magical. It was extraordinary. It was exactly how I want to live my life everyday…as if I’m having lunch with Oprah. Here is why…
Early on the morning of OYou, coffee welcomed us into the day in Montage Beverly Hills style. Oversized coffee cups with freshly brewed caffeine to perfection helped us wake up and start to come alive at 5:45am. While the plan was to leave the hotel at 7:15am, God had other plans. With a series of missteps, forgotten tickets, and GPS challenges, we were on the road by 7:50am. Arriving to the Staples Center was like arriving to a mini-concert as lines twisted and turned to orderly get us in the door and into the experience. All 5000 people in one place to soak in the energy and to get a chance to see Oprah in person…while my sister and I stood in quiet excitement knowing that Oprah had invited us to lunch…that Oprah would be THISCLOSE to us. Without words, the excitement of the day and the effects of the four cups of coffee on an empty stomach were showing. With sharing this experience with my sister all we had to do was look at each other to say the words, “I can’t believe this is happening to us.”
Over the years, I suspect that many people have felt that O-Awe moment. That moment when you are about to meet Oprah or someone that you hold in high esteem and you find that there are no words to describe what is about to happen. The feeling is caught somewhere in-between a giddy school girl, your first kiss and a deer in headlights. You can’t stop smiling, you feel a little sick to your stomach (could have been the liquid breakfast) and you almost stop breathing and moving. It’s that surreal. But this time all of those feelings melted away quickly. Oprah may not know this…but her lunch with us was perfection…the only thing that would have elevated it more was more time with her than we already had…but we are not greedy…what we got was perfection and we are in gratitude.
The day was amazing but I really want to take you to the lunch. To get there, we skip over the front rows and special neon green wrist bands with “OWN Ambassador” on them were the little touches that were noticed immediately….and the special conversations and exchanges with others that happened during the day that I hope to write about soon…but this moment was it’s own star of the day and I want to make sure that I capture it in its brilliance…before it begins to fade…before I begin to forget. Because this is lunch with Oprah…and this was really special.
At 1:30pm all of us met at our designated area. Flashing our IPhone cameras before we tucked them away, there were looks of joy, amazement and a little panic on each of our faces. This was happening. Lunch with Oprah was happening. Now, I have to note here that the “panic” was something that I felt that I had under control. After my first experience with meeting Oprah, I felt like I had this down. I knew that when she walked into the room, the air around might disappear…so take a deep breath. I knew what it felt like to be right next to her and have her hold your hands and look you in the eyes like you were the only one in the room. I was prepared…and I was surprisingly calm. My only prayer going into the day was “Thank you…” I already felt so blessed.
Up some steps and around a corner and into a hallway, we arrived. We all flowed into the room adorned with pink roses and pale pastel flowers, all of us like a river of clouds…floating and smiling and dancing around. Checking in and finding our nametags and our assigned tables, we all took our places around the room in one of the 5 tables, all noticing quickly that there was at least one chair that was open at each table. This immediately answered our question of how is Oprah going to have lunch with all of us. Each table would have their moment and have their time. Each person would be seen…heard…and sit THISCLOSE to Oprah. Each person was just as important as any other person there. Oprah was telling us through just the setup of the room…we all mattered…we all mattered.
For about 20 to 30 minutes, each of us visited with each other and floated through the buffet line of the best gourmet sandwiches and salad options that the caterer could offer…knowing that someone who took that order knew that this lunch was for Oprah, so the care and love that went in to each dish that was prepared came with its own story of perfection as the chefs and servers and managers gathered their bits and pieces of their own Oprah experience. We sat with our tablemates (ours included Sean, Brittney, Luisa, Phoebe and Sandy) ate our lunch and took in the experience that we were about to have. The empty chairs at the table (we had 3 of them) spoke loudly to us…and the experience spoke even louder…reminding us that anything can happen in your life…just be ready.
During our meal, Iyanla VanZant came into the room and floated by each table…making me realize that perhaps it wasn’t the experience that was making us float… it was being in the close proximity to Oprah. Iyanla breezed by each table, thanking us for support and taking in all the love and energy in the room. Then, Eric Logan, President of OWN, came into the room and joined the group. When I say joined, I mean he literally joined us. He talked off the cuff about OWN and the appreciation of our support. He talked about the growing ratings and the new programs coming our way…and then, he just talked. He made himself available to everyone who wanted their moment with the President of OWN. He was gracious. He was personable. He was real. Everything and more that we would expect from someone who was at the helm of Oprah’s Network. With him and the very missed Sheri Salata (who was celebrating her birthday with family back home), OWN has more than vision and passion…it has intention. This is what we said to Eric when we met him…”OWN is more than television. It is television with intention.” With all our heart…we believe this.
With a little visiting of tables, a few friendly exchanges and even a kiss on the back of my hand by our favorite photographer, Rich, we all waited with anticipation…but with a calm, relaxed energy throughout the room. Oprah had done this for us. How blessed we all were in this moment.
And then…she arrived. We were told by our Oprah handlers and angels, Maya and Jai, how it would go. Oprah would come into the room. Her photographer would take our photos. We would return to our tables. Oprah would come to us. In a quick dose of reality, Patricia reminded our table, “Get rid of your gum if you have gum,” and Maya quickly shared the tip with the rest of the room. Then…SHE…arrived.
Oprah entered the room with a few friends in tow. Gayle in her favorite comfy black UGGs, an assistant or two and a body guard. Wearing the prettiest black and gold top and some amazing jeans and heals, she looked great! Suddenly, deciding to wear what I felt comfortable and my best self in felt pretty perfect. Later we would realize that a fleet of body guards were guarding the door, the elevator was being held open and inoperable and no one was allowed in this section of the building. But this level of lockdown and security was absent from the room. In this room…at this lunch…the energy and openness was a direct connection with God and a direct link to Oprah. As we went through the photos, our table was the first. After, I remember turning around and watching each and every person who came after me and fighting back the tears. This moment was their Oprah moment. This was many of their first experiences. This was more than joy rising…this was love rising…and what a gift it was to witness it. Early in the day as we sat down to eat, I said a little prayer. “God, please don’t let me cry. Wait, I know I may cry God. Please don’t let me ugly cry.” God heard my prayer as tears filled my eyes at each moment of the experience.
From here, Oprah talked to the room. She talked of her journey…of understanding that you find out who your friends are when you go from riding in a limousine to flagging down a bus. You understand who is in your corner…who is holding you up. She talked of how people were quick to cut her off at the knees when she started her network…those same people who hailed at her feet when she was high on the mountain. I remember those moments…when we would try to speak louder on our blog…have a greater voice to drown out the chatter of those who were looking at the numbers instead of looking at the content. Drown out those speaking who have little faith and little light. They are fair weathered. We are faith hearted. So someone in the big world of Oprah entourage sees the heart and support of each of the self-proclaimed OWN Ambassadors …and this person showed it to Oprah. And now…in this meeting room at the LA Convention Center, all of that karma that was put out into the world came flooding back in through Oprah’s words, her energy and her heart. Overwhelming and amazing karma…knocking each of us off our feet just a little as we realized, this moment was ours and this unforgettable joy was priceless.
So after she spoke, Oprah danced to the tables. Starting with the table to our side first, she came to our table second. Alongside Eric Logan, Oprah sat 3 chairs from me and directly across the table. If I had extended my arms, we could have connected our hands for some serious conversation and maybe garnished a little superpowers too. But with Oprah, you don’t need to connect your hands…she connects with your heart with each word. You think and want to believe…she hears me. This means the world to someone who wonders “am I memorable enough…will people remember me in a room full of incredible others…” But I have to believe…Oprah remembers. She sees these two sisters and our hearts.
As our adopted little sister at the table, Brittney, threw out Oprah trivia faster than any of us could speak, part of me sat back and smiled. This moment meant so much for so many in the room – this moment of unexpected validation and gratitude…of when you do something because you know it’s the right thing to do…not because Oprah’s going to buy you lunch. We support OWN and Oprah’s vision because it’s the right thing to do…because the world needs these kind of lessons…because the world needs the light. Everything extra is simply that…extra.
During our table time, Gayle came over to tell Oprah that Entertainment Tonight and Nancy O’Dell wanted to come in for a moment. With a brief pause of consideration and a group of us saying, “This is great for OWN,” Oprah asked for her “good shoes” and in came the camera crew and Nancy directly to our table. With all eyes on Oprah, Nancy started tearing up telling Oprah that she was her first interview. With emotions already heightened in the room, it was as if Nancy instantly became one of us…seeing that this experience was more than amazing. This experience was unforgettable.
And just like she arrived, she waved and moved into the big world of OYou. It wouldn’t be until an hour later, when we sat in our seats at OYOU and Oprah talked about seeing the people who were there for her and shared her very personal story of having a lump in her breast the week before did it really hit me. Oprah had her own aha moment during this entire OWN experience and in her own private health scare just a week before…a worry that she hadn’t even shared with Gayle because she didn’t want to worry her. Oprah is fine for those who are beginning to get concerned. But Oprah, just like every single one of us, had a moment of clarity…when life is brought into focus very quickly when something very real shows up at your doorstep. You realize the gifts…you see the friends…you take a deep breath and take in the love that is around you. It was in that moment of hearing her story that I realized deeply…Oprah heard us. Just when she needed to see us and hear us…sprinkled along her journey like lights in the darkness…God has a plan for each and every one of us…even for Oprah.
After our meeting, hours after a little of the journey had soaked in, I shared these words with our group who have now become a family…
Just like many of you, we are processing and moving through what just happened and what this means to us at a very surreal level. We are lucky because we, Patricia and I, have each other on this journey but we also have all of you, and we wanted to share this…what we know for sure….
Since the beginning we have supported Oprah and OWN…and at times have said, “This is crazy…this is Oprah…she doesn’t need us. This isn’t important and really doesn’t mean anything to OWN”…but we also said…maybe it will to someone. We believed this deep down. So we moved forward following our faith and our whispers…and we reminded ourselves, we do this crazy blog, watch and tweet and keep crazyass hours because we deeply believe in OWN and Oprah’s vision. At times, we felt like we were standing with our arms stretched upward and to the sky, holding her and her vision up and supporting when there were no other voices of love and confidence around except ours – the voices of everyone in this group of self-proclaimed OWN Ambassadors. In faith, we moved through the last 22 months… knowing that what we were doing would mean something to someone and change someone’s life. This Saturday, we realized whose life we were changing.
Ms. Winfrey…we will stand with our arms held high until you reach the top of that mountain. We are here. We believe in your vision. We have faith. If you ever need to borrow any, you know exactly where to turn to…your OWN Ambassadors.
Xoxo to all of you and to Ms. Winfrey - Paula & Patricia
So, through all of the lessons and the blessings that we have found in this journey, this one is the greatest gifts of all. You never know who you might impact on your journey…or whose life your actions might change. Keep your heart open and your intentions pure because the energy that you send out into the world does comes back to you in a full force of waves and even when you think you are prepared, it may just knock you off your feet with magic and extraordinary happiness. Today, I am changed…because in all those moments when I doubted myself and my whisper, God responded in kind. I believe that great things happen all the time. I believe that amazing dreams come true. I believe that passion touches the right people in the right moments in their own time. And I believe that it’s time to start planning dinner with Oprah…because while lunch was an amazing adventure, dinner could just be out of this world.