Jennifer McDonald

Wildest Dreams
Making Jennifer McDonald's wildest dream come true was a dream come true for Dana, a 14-year veteran of the show. Jennifer had packed up her kids and left her house behind in order to escape an abusive relationship. Her three daughters wrote to Oprah about their mother's dream for a new house. Oprah told them to pack their bags!

"I love Jennifer McDonald's story because she's not unlike a lot of single moms out there," Dana says. "To be able to give her not only a house but a home to keep her safe is really wonderful."
Oprah and Tina Turner

Tina Turner
Another favorite moment for the producers was Oprah's performance on stage with Tina Turner. "It's really your moment," Dana tells Oprah, "but I swear I lived it vicariously through you—I was dying when you were walking down those stairs. You had not only to walk down them in these really high heels but with rhythm! I was in the front row taking in every step and doing every dance move."
Dana and her sister

While You Were Out Makeover
One of the best moments for one show team was getting to surprise one of their own. For 10 years, Dana had wanted her sister Clarice to come on the show for a makeover. Clarice finally gave in—but everyone kept it a secret from Dana!

On the day of the show, Oprah pulled Dana out of her office, put her in front of the cameras and revealed her sister's radical new look. "I feel for every guest I've ever done this to," confessed Dana.

But Dana's professional instincts saved her from being overwhelmed with stage fright. "I'm having a whole conversation with myself: 'Dana, you're segment one and you're a really bad guest! You've got to snap out of this!'"
Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise
Even a seasoned producer can get a little star struck—especially when the celebrity in question is Tom Cruise... and he's giving her a back massage.

Dana was in her ninth month of pregnancy and experiencing shooting back pains when she heard a vaguely familiar voice say her name. She looked up to see Tom Cruise standing in her office. After that, it's all a blur: she was babbling; he was suddenly rubbing her back.

"I had no more pain. The pain was gone." Dana, still walking on air, called her husband to share. He was nonplussed: "I can take a lot of stuff. But to get a call from my wife saying that Tom Cruise is in her office rubbing her back? That's a little much."
Esona and her mother

When Oprah and a team from Harpo traveled to South Africa to bring ChristmasKindness to 50,000 children, Katy was touched by Esona, a nine-year-old girl bravely coping with her mother's battle with AIDS.

"The moment that really got to me happened right after everybody had left the room and Esona came back in. She ran back to her mother's bed and she laid down there with her mom and she buried her head in her mother. It was just so sad because she didn't know if she would ever see her mother again. It was so heart-wrenching; it really put that face on AIDS that we never really see."
Oprah and Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
No one at Harpo will ever forget the day that living legend Nelson Mandela visited the studio. Katy remembers his remarkable presence: "Royal and was just extraordinary. He was also really humble—we sat down and started telling him about the show. He said, 'What is the subject of this show?'"

"You are the subject, Mr. Mandela," Oprah replied. "I hope you came to talk about yourself!"

For this very special guest, Harpo relaxed its rule about employees talking to celebrities. The whole building came out to see Mr. Mandela, and he shook hands with every staffer.

Angel Catcher
Jill says, "We've had so many inspirational guests over the years, and I guess the ones that really stick with me the most are the ones that make me think about how important it is to live big all the time."

One such story was that of 22-year-old photojournalist Dan Eldon, who was covering the United Nations involvement in Mogadishu, Somalia, for the Reuters news agency. On July 12, 1993, a terrible bombing by U.N. forces killed or injured 60. The Somalians were so angry that they picked up pipes and stones and attacked the journalists. Dan started to run, but was hit with a large stone from behind and killed.

On the show, Dan's mother and sister, Kathy, told of how driven and full his tragically short life was, and how inspiring his has been to them. Kathy put together and book called Angel Catcher, "which now we've published, which we hope will help other people not only capture the essence of the person they've loved, but also help them going through the grieving process."

Cheerio Moments
Another important moment for producer Jill came in a show with the late Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist and author of a ground-breaking book on grief called On Death and Dying.

"Two kids were on the show named Kate and Zack. Their mom had died just a few months, I think, before they were on the show," Jill says. "Because they knew she was dying, they had spent a lot of time together taking trips, done a lot of family things together to pack a lot of time in."

In the show, Kate tells Oprah that one of her most favorite memories of this time with her mother was not the trips, but rather was the time that her mother woke her up so they could share a bowl of cereal at 2 in the morning.

Oprah says that she and Jill still call these disarmingly powerful moments "Cheerio moments."
Mattie Stepanek

Mattie Stepanek
Amy says "hands down" her favorite guest is Mattie Stepanek. Though he was just 13 at the time and suffered from a rare form of muscular dystrophy, Mattie was determined to change the world. "When I got on the phone with him I was just so moved by his spirit, his incredible intelligence. He was just this amazing little boy."

Mattie was a published poet at 9, and Oprah says that his wisdom was so amazing that she "could do a book of the e-mails he sent me."

Mattie did not disappoint. Talking about wishes that he had, he said, "They were things that would last forever. Going to Disney World ends in a week. Having a shopping spree lasts for a day. But being able to talk to Jimmy Carter, being able to have my books published. Being able to talk to you here today lasts forever."

Sadly, Mattie passed away before he turned 14. We will always miss this phenomenal poet, peacemaker, philosopher and friend.
Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier
Like all the producers on The Oprah Show, Amy has met her fair share of celebrities and is used to the phenomenon of the traveling entourage. "We get the glam squad. We get the publicists. We get family and friends. Often they reserve a whole section of the audience for their cheering pack."

But when Sidney Poitier arrived for his interview with Oprah, he didn't have any of that. Jill says he walked in alone, and his only baggage was "his briefcase, and he had his trench coat over his arm."

Just to add to Sidney Poitier's reputation of supreme class, Amy says, "The day the show aired...I'm sitting at my desk working on the next show and the phone rings...and I hear this voice. And he goes, 'It was amazing.' I thought it was my father goofing off or something. I go, 'Who is this?' And he goes, 'It is I.' And I was like, 'It's you!'"
LaShell Griffin, Popstar Challenge winner

Pop Star
After 15,000 entries, months of searching and thousands of votes cast by viewers, Oprah's Pop Star Challenge finally crowned a winner: LaShell Griffin from Detroit.

But The Oprah Show's Sheri has a little surprise, and "America does not know this story. Neither does Oprah. On television you think we settled it all right there at the end of that six or seven hours. The truth is, LaShell wasn't in the final cut."

When they created the list of finalists, Sheri says she knew something was wrong. "Ellen [executive producer of The Oprah Show] and I stayed behind and we looked at each other....Something did not feel right. [We went and] looked at [LaShell's] tape. You cannot deny that she has an unbelievable voice."

Sheri's instincts paid off when LaShell ended up in the final group of qualifiers and eventually won over America. Her CD is called Free. All of the contestants from Oprah's Pop Star Challenge are winners in our book, and even put out a cast album!