These stories got the biggest reactions—good and bad—over the past decade.
The Story That Garnered the Most Letters: "I'm Mad at Myself...", January 2009
This cover story about Oprah's battle with her weight inspired hundreds of letters, more than any other piece we've ever run ("I cried when I received the issue.... I am now getting ready to shed 50 pounds," said one). And the media had just as strong a reaction: More than 900 outlets did their own pieces about the article, including The New York Times, People, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Read the story...
The Story That Made Readers the Angriest: "Divorce Dreams" by Ellen Tien, May 2008
Reflecting on the reader response to her essay about her ambivalence toward marriage, Ellen Tien jokes, "You're a bad woman if you get a divorce, but you're evil if you write about it!" Tien says she was shocked by the negative mail she received about the essay, which one incensed reader called "an ugly rant from a bitter woman." (Others said: "I feel sorry for your husband" and "How does he tolerate you writing about him in this way?") Tien even asked her husband, who had read (and liked) the piece before it was published, to go back and give it a second look—but he ultimately couldn't understand all the fuss. "I wasn't saying that I wanted a divorce," Tien insists. "When women see marriage as a choice, and not as something we're trapped in, we're empowered." Read the story...
Story That Played Matchmaker for a Reader: "The Love List" by Alice Gorman, February 2008
Jackie Scheller, now 46, was divorced and "content with being single" when she read about a woman who wrote down 100 things she wanted in a man and five years later found her dream guy. Jackie decided to do the same thing. "I thought, This man does not exist." Nine months later, she met Chris Gilliam, now age 40, at a senior citizens' dance, of all places. "I went because I wanted to get my sister, who's in her 60s, out of the house," recalls Jackie. Chris had ended up there inadvertently, thinking it was a different party. He was a nice dresser (check), family oriented (check), and loved to dance (check!). "Chris has every quality I wanted but is much more," says Jackie. The couple married last December. Read the story...
The Story That Gave Readers And the Writers—a New Outlook: "The Fat Lady Sings" by Natalie Kusz, August 2002
This article not only had a strong impact on readers ("It put everything in perspective," one noted) but also changed the life of its writer. Natalie Kusz, who reflected on giving up her lifelong struggle with weight, says that since telling her story, she no longer hesitated to be open about her size: "The article outed me," she says. "If I go to dinner with a group, I'm comfortable saying, 'I'll take the end seat so I don't crowd anybody.'" And she hasn't been subjected to an "I'm worried about your weight" intervention in years. "Since I mention my weight all the time, no one feels the need to bring it up—ever." Read the story...
The Story That Inspired a Fete: "Oprah's Garden Party" by Mary McNamara, August 2002
Patricia Dawkins and her daughters loved this piece about a fun outdoor gathering of friends in big hats and summery dresses. "We appreciated it so much: the pictures, the story, the friends—the whole spirit of it," says Dawkins. So last year, when it came time for her daughters to throw her a 50th birthday party in their hometown of Columbus, Ohio, the theme was a no-brainer. Remembering Oprah's sophisticated but whimsical bash, they hosted a luncheon—complete with crisp linens, rose centerpieces, colorful dresses, and flowered hats—for about 20 of their mom's closest friends. "When I walked in and saw the tables exactly like they were in O, I cried," Dawkins says. "It was my birthday celebration, but it felt more like a celebration of sisterhood." Read the story...
Most Polarizing Story: "The $60,000 Dog" by Lauren Slater, August 2007
"Some people were just rabid," says Lauren Slater of the way certain readers responded to her essay, which described the high emotional and financial toll of caring for Lila, her ailing Shiba Inu. Many readers said they could relate to Slater's decision to go to any length for her pet, including spending more than $5,000 to treat her glaucoma alone. "My dogs' companionship and love are priceless to me," one responded. But others felt the opposite: "It's a dog. Just a dog," fumed a reader, offended by the implication that dogs deserve a human level of love and maintenance. Slater had to put down Lila two years ago, but she and her family just got a puppy, named Memphis. Her daughter, Clara, like her mom, values him "as though he is a person." Read the story...
Story That Was Only the Beginning: "One Pregnancy, Four Mothers, Two Fathers, and an Army of Lawyers" by Jane Meredith Adams, December 2003
This story was about Susan Ring, a surrogate mother who was carrying twins for a couple who then split up and left her $22,000 in debt. Ring won legal custody of the twins, and a loving couple adopted them. Since then Ring has been a surrogate three more times—she had boy-girl twins for a couple in 2005, a boy for another couple in late 2006, and then boy-girl twins again, this time for a gay couple, in 2008. She still talks to all the children she gave birth to. "They'll call me to say, 'Thank you for carrying me in your tummy' or 'Thank you for my birthday,'" she says. A divorced mom of two sons (now 20 and 17 years old), Ring has been dating and has no plans for more surrogacies. "It's time to get my own life together!" Read the story...
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From the May 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!