It was a monumental purging: letting go of all things Harpo, the studio I built in 1990, three and a half years after The Oprah Winfrey Show went national.

I had taken ownership of the show so I could be my own boss and have my own space, separate from my original bosses at WLS-TV in Chicago. I bought the building, and the enterprise evolved into something more. One of the producers, Tara Montgomery, who's been with me for more than 20 years, described it as "a joy-fueled rocket ride down deep into the bloodstream and marrow of America."

Every day, every show was created with the intention of serving our audience. And I believe that every person who was part of the Harpo team would tell you it was an honor to serve.

It was a massive effort to take it all apart, from my wardrobe to the cameras to the 200,000 videotapes in boxes. My life in boxes. The tapes represented the days of our lives, the countless hours spent booking, crafting, organizing, editing, and presenting stories that changed the way people saw themselves. "Tipper Gore on Depression, "Mom Makeovers," "Garth Brooks in Texas," "When Your Vanity Is Challenged"—multiple tapes for every day we worked for more than 25 years!

Up close and personal with 25 years of show tapes.

After all the master tapes were digitized, deciding what to keep or destroy was crazy-making. The process is ongoing for the millions of pictures that Harpo photographer George Burns took of me over the years. What to hold on to? What to let go?

As we were talking through a hallway of boxes for the last time, Gayle said, "Don't you feel sad?" "No," I told her. "I feel such great pride." I'm proud of every person who gave their time, energy, and passion to the place we called Harpo. We transformed a television production company into a major influence in our culture.

The wall of fame displaying shots of The Oprah Winfrey Show's famous guests.

The building was sold two years ago and will soon be torn down. But the legacy isn't the building. It's not the bricks and wires and electronics. It's the work. It's the people who gave diligently, from their hearts, every day. It's every life that was touched by what we put out into the world. It's the lessons learned, the joys we shared, the challenges we overcame. And the chance we had—and took—to use television as a force for good. All of that, I know for sure, will be the legacy of Harpo.

The seats where audiences listened, laughed, and learned.

Keep Reading: See how Oprah pares down her memory-filled closets at Chicago's Harpo Studios.


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