Steve doesn't look like your typical Oprah viewer. He's a biker with tattoos and a tough exterior...but he has a secret, softer side.
Last Christmas, Steve says his wife Kelly put Oprah's DVD on her wish list, and although he was embarrassed to be seen buying it, he got her the six-disc collection. "She was excited to have it, and then the words came...the ones I didn't want to hear," Steve remembers. "'Hey honey, you want to watch Oprah with me?' I thought, 'Oh crud. No, I don't.'"
Kelly put in the first disc, and before long, Steve was hooked. "There are so many things on it that were so touching—that were beneficial to me," he says. "I thought, 'Wow, that's good stuff!'"
Even when Kelly left to run errands, Steve continued to watch. When she came home from the grocery store, she caught him on the couch—with a beer—watching Oprah!
One Oprah moment really caught Steve's attention. In the clip, author Toni Morrison asks parents an important question: "When a kid walks in the room—your child, or anybody else's child—does your face light up?"
After hearing Toni's advice, Steve says he made the conscious decision to put on a happy face every time his children walk into a room. "I thought, 'Wow, I could actually be hurting their feelings and not even [know] it,'" he says. "Aha! Your kids actually see the expressions on your face."
Now, when Steve picks his children up at school, "I try to light up and consciously think, 'What does your face look like when you go into that classroom?'" he says. "I want them to see how proud [I am] that they're there—how much [I] love them.""
What else did Steve learn from watching Oprah? Kelly says Steve now uses "Oprahisms"—like "Aha! moment"—around the house!
Erika has watched one Oprah Show moment more than 30 times...and she still can't get enough!
In the clip, Oprah surprises Nancy, one of Tom Cruise's biggest fans, with news that she'll be meeting Tom at an upcoming Oprah Show. Nancy's stunned reaction brings Erika to tears...of joy!
"Every time I watch it, I find something new to laugh about," Erika says.
Leilani, a mother who lost her son and stepson in a tragic fire 18 years ago, says one Oprah Show moment helped her come to grips with her grief.
After the tragedy, Leilani says her grief was so intense, she considered taking her own life. "There was a pain," she remembers. "[It was] like a dark hole surrounded me...no one could get to me, and I could get to no one."
The one person who made Leilani feel less alone was Kathy Bray, a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1989. Since that show, Leilani has never forgotten Kathy's story...and neither has Oprah.
Oprah interviewed Kathy Bray just three weeks after her son was killed in an accidental shooting. Leilani watched as Kathy shared the pain of her son's death and talked about how she missed his "dirty dog" smell.
Leilani was amazed that Kathy could speak about such a painful topic when her emotions were still so raw. For the first time, Leilani says she felt like someone understood her pain. "If she can do it, I can do it," Leilani remembers thinking. "She was able to say something to the world, and I'm sure she helped a lot of people—she helped me. ... It helped me to go on with my life and to stop worrying about trying to stop the pain by trying to kill myself."
"Her story hit me right where it hurts," Leilani says. "I immediately felt everything that she could possibly feel. ... The show reminded me that there is life after the death of a child. There's a lot of pain, but you can live."
More than 10 years after Leilani saw Kathy on The Oprah Show, the two mothers meet for the first time. Kathy tells Leilani that she still remembers how it felt to be in the "black hole" of despair after her son's death. Kathy says she realizes now that when you lose a child, "it's never going to be okay...but it's going to be all right."
Leilani isn't the only person who has remembered Kathy all these years. Oprah says she always knew Kathy's raw emotion and strength would be inspirational for grieving mothers.
"I could feel that your message was so pure, so strong, so real that it was going to reach other people," Oprah says to Kathy. "I didn't know your name, Leilani, but [I knew] that somebody would be watching who would find strength from your strength."
Steven, a student at the University of California Berkeley, has watched Oprah's entire DVD collection—all 17 hours! He says his favorite moment is when Gayle King and Oprah visit Colonial House, a reality TV show on PBS. During this Oprah Show episode, Gayle and Oprah live like colonial Americans with no electricity, no running water and no panties!
During one scene, Oprah is cooking breakfast over an open fire, and Gayle asks Oprah to make her bacon "extra crispy." Oprah shoots Gayle a look and replies, "This is not a restaurant!"
"That look you gave her was classic!" Steven tells Oprah.
Sandra Joseph may be a big-time Broadway actress now, but this Phantom of the Opera star had to overcome a big hurdle to get there.
Sandra says that though she loved singing and acting, she was timid and shy as a child. "I think for so many of us as young girls," she says, "if you have a dream, there's still that little voice inside that says, 'Who do you think you are? What makes you think you're so special that you could do something that big?'"
Sandra says she always turned to The Oprah Winfrey Show for inspiration when she felt that her dream was unreachable. Oprah, Sandra says, "knows who she is and she's not afraid to stand in her power. And that was such an inspiration to me that I actually dared to believe that I could do great things."
One episode in particular always stuck with Sandra. In 1997, Joni was an audience member at The Oprah Show. She told a story about how she bought a pair of Oprah's shoes at an auction. Joni explained that when she felt depressed and couldn't stand on her own...she would stand in Oprah's shoes. An emotional Oprah finished Joni's thought those many years ago, "To make herself feel better, she would stand in my shoes...now she says she doesn't have to stand in the shoes as much because she's standing on her own."
"It just kills me because I said that's what I'd do," Sandra says. "Whenever I needed courage that I couldn't muster on my own, I would always find my 'inner Oprah.' Strong, confident, courageous, successful."
Channeling her "inner Oprah" has certainly paid off for Sandra. She's been starring as Christine in Phantom of the Opera for the past 10 years. "I remember Oprah saying, 'God can dream a bigger dream for you than you can for yourself'," she says. "I'm still pinching myself every day."
Joni has also found her "inner Oprah." She's in college now, studying for a double major and working in the special education department at an elementary school. Joni says she doesn't need Oprah's shoes to gain strength as often as she once did—because she's standing on her own now!
Joni says people still recognize her as the "shoe girl." Once, she was driving and got pulled over by a police officer when she realized that she'd left her license at work. "When I pulled over it was a lady police officer," Joni says. "She looked over and said, 'Shoe girl!'"
Sandra wasn't the only member of her family moved by a moment on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her sister, Monica, was inspired by an all-time favorite guest.
Monica says she was always overweight growing up and went on her first diet when she was just 10 years old. "It was very hard growing up as a fat child, as a fat teenager," she says. "I was depressed. Anytime anybody calls you a name, it just eats away at you. You get to a point where you just think, 'This is who I am. This is how I'm meant to be.'
The first time Stacey Halprin was a guest on The Oprah Show
, she was featured on a show about people who hate the obese. In this striking episode, Stacey went about her daily life with a hidden camera. All around her, people made comments—and their words were captured on camera.
Monica says that she related to all of the issues Stacey highlighted. "I was just amazed that someone would actually be that brutally honest about weight issues," Monica says. "I would internalize all of that."
Years later Monica had reached 360 pounds, was always tired, suffered from diabetes and was considering gastric bypass surgery. Around this time, Stacey returned to The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss her own experience with gastric bypass.
Stacey provided a lightbulb moment for both Oprah and Monica about gastric bypass. The surgery, she explained, is not the end; it's the beginning. "You still have to continue to eat healthfully and exercise," Monica explains. After seeing Stacey's life after gastric bypass, Monica finally decided to undergo the surgery herself.
On her postsurgery show, Stacey also mentioned that she loved theater, but her weight had prevented her from attending any shows. Monica's sister Sandra invited her to a performance of Phantom of the Opera
at the same time Monica was in town. The two met just three weeks before Monica's surgery.
"She was fantastic," Monica says. "She was so encouraging and sweet and really just gave me the courage to face what I had to face."
A year after her surgery, Monica has lost 125 pounds.
After seeing Stacey's dramatic weight loss, actress Shirley MacLaine sent a message of encouragement to Stacey
. Now that Monica has begun her journey to better health, Stacey has sent a message of her own to Monica.
"When I met you a year ago, I looked into your eyes and I saw so much of myself. I saw the pain. And I saw the willingness to do whatever it was going to take to make it. I'm here to give you a message today that I am so passionate about. I know you might think that the hard work is over, but the truth is the hard work is just beginning. I'm here to tell you three and a half years down the road, it is so worth it, Monica. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I'm so proud of you and I will be waiting for you at the finish line, girl. You look gorgeous."
In 2002, Elizabeth was a smart, popular and pretty college sophomore. Later that year, Elizabeth's world turned upside down when she was diagnosed with skin cancer in a spot right between her nose and upper lip.
Doctors told her the only chance for her survival was invasive surgery that would most likely disfigure her face. "I guess I kind of figured I was going to come out looking like my old self," Elizabeth says. "I was kind of shocked I didn't."
When Elizabeth saw Jacqui Saburido's story, she says she felt embarrassed about her own "pity party." Jacqui was hit by a drunk driver, killing two of her friends and setting her car on fire. After 40 operations, Jacqui was alive, but horribly disfigured.
"I'd go out with my friends all the time and I'd come home crying because I wasn't as pretty as they were," Elizabeth says. "But my story had nothing on Jacqui's. She lived through so much more and she seemed to have such a positive outlook... A lot more positive than I was at the time."
Oprah says Jacqui also profoundly moved her. "I write a lot about beauty, inner beauty and so forth," she says. "It's really easy to talk about inner beauty when you're not disfigured. But Jacqui was the first person I'd ever met who looked like that who really had it. Her view of herself was as strong as anybody I've ever seen on a runway."
Few guests have touched so many people so profoundly as Mattie Stepanek
. Though he had a rare form of muscular dystrophy that had already claimed the lives of his three siblings and was threatening his, Mattie's positive spirit was unfaltering.
Mattie, who started writing poetry at age 3, was one of Oprah's dearest friends. He taught her to always "play after every storm" and touched millions of lives with his courage and wisdom. He expressed his message of peace and understanding in a collection of poems called Heartsongs
A "heartsong," he explained, "was the song in my heart. It was the message in my heart. A heartsong doesn't have to be a song in your heart even talking about love and peace. It can just be your message. It can be your feelings."
In March 2004, Mattie's condition again worsened, and he never recovered. Mattie lost his battle with muscular dystrophy at just 13 years old but his positive message lives on and continues to inspire millions.
Mattie's message of peace and love continues to inspire viewers like medical student Utpal.
While Utpal was watching Oprah's 20th Anniversary DVD collection, he saw Mattie for the first time. "He just blew my mind," Utpal says. "If I just had read his words, it was like some wise old man. He was a 13-year-old boy in this frail little body, but his spirit and his mind were so strong."
Utpal says that Mattie's thoughtful words have inspired him in trying times. "This boy who knew his destiny, who knew what was going to happen to him, kept going on," Utpal says. "He tried to make the world a better place for everybody else regardless of his problems."
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