More than a week after returning from her trip to South Africa to celebrate the opening of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, Gayle reflects on the emotional journey. Plus, celebrities who attended the event share their thoughts with Gayle!
Actor Tyler Perry: "It's hard to describe the day without talking about the children and how amazing they were and their stories and what they've come through to be in this place. I said to Oprah—I went into one of the dorm rooms and I said, 'Why didn't you put in four beds—the rooms are so nice, you could put in bunk beds.' And she said, 'I wanted every girl to have their own space.' And I think that is what the school represents for them: their own space in the world. They can be whatever they want; they can accomplish whatever they want."
Comedian Chris Rock: "It was so much bigger than I thought. I thought I was going to see Little House on the Prairie—a little school house, chalkboard, picture of Oprah out front. [But] I saw…wow. I saw an institution of love. An institution of promise.
Singer BeBe Winans: "I think she just out-detailed herself. It's going to take a while (to completely digest) but I go back home with a mission. … People are just motivated to do something and I think if everyone goes back and tells another person and tells another person, this is something that is going to affect our world. I'm so proud. I'm so proud. I know many people have had the money and the thought, but for her to put it in action, in a way that she's put it into action, it just makes me proud."
Singer India.Arie: "What Oprah was saying about herself being that girl—I was that girl. I was in a lot of trouble as a teenager. … And remember my mom taking me down to the police station to scare me and growing up too fast. … So as I was looking at these girls, what moved me more than anything was that they now have the opportunity to have someone save them, the way Oprah's father saved her, the way that my mother saved me. That is what moved me the most, because that's who I write music for because that's the girl that I was. So it means a lot to me to see someone being effective in the lives of girls who were like me."
Designer Colin Cowie: "It's all about the girls. And today was a celebration of the girls. And it was a day filled with so much emotion. We who live with so much privilege and they who have come from such humble beginnings, who have so much promise and have so much hope. When we heard and we watched their testaments, if you didn't cry, you didn't have a heart. Without a doubt. I will always think back on this day. It's marked in my heart forever."
Published on January 11, 2007