Blast from the Past
In February 2003, Oprah donned a crown and scepter to bestow a very important honor—Princess for a Day—on some very deserving people. One of the women who received the royal treatment was Fannie, who was nominated by the woman she worked for as a housekeeper and nanny.
After the death of her younger sister, Fannie raised her two nieces and nephew as if they were her own. "My aunt has never given up on me. No matter how desperate the situation seemed, she never let me go," said her nephew, Lloyd.
Fannie lived to give and sometimes went without for herself. She drove an old van with no air-conditioning.
Oprah decided to give Fannie a royal break—Merry Maids service for a year and an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City. She also got a new set of wheels—a van with air conditioning!
Before evacuating, Fannie says she made sure to take one prized possession with her—her tiara. "As crowded as [the van] was with kids, I didn't want it stepped on, so I put it on. I made sure it was safe," she says.
Fannie and her family returned home three months later to find her neighborhood destroyed. "We lost everything," she says. "All we had left was the bricks and the floors."
In November 2006, Fannie and her husband started living in a FEMA trailer on their property. Fannie doesn't want to leave because there's no one else to protect her home, which is under construction. "I just look for the day that I can get out of here, go in the house and have somewhere for my kids to come," she says. "That's the hardest part, being here by myself without my kids."
Although work on Fannie's home was supposed to be finished in December 2007, she's still hopeful. "I'm still waiting to take a deep breath," she says. "I haven't done that yet. Not since August 29, ."
"My heart goes out to you and to your family," he says. "Say goodbye to your FEMA trailer because you and your family are moving into the award-winning Homewood Suites by Hilton while my team and I come down to New Orleans and finish your house. And I personally am going to decorate every room."
That's not all—Brinks Home Security is installing a top-of-the-line system in her house to keep everything safe and providing free service for the next five years.
Fannie is stunned. "Oprah, thank you," she says.
"I know it's been hard," Oprah says. "If America would just not forget that so many people still have not been able to move back into their homes, so many thousands of people are still living in FEMA trailers. Fannie represents just one of them."
Watch Nancy's reaction.
As promised, Nancy got to meet Tom Cruise face-to-face. "I was so happy for her," Oprah says. "It was a wonderful moment for her."
As Nancy tries to get a hold of herself, Oprah reveals the big surprise. "Tom is coming back right here to this very studio, and he asked that I ask you to come back," Oprah says.
"You're kidding me," Nancy says. "He asked about me?"
Nancy says she still gets recognized as the "Tom Cruise lady." In fact, she is such a fan that when her house burned down in 2002, she made sure to save her box of Tom Cruise memorabilia filled with pictures. She even kept the outfit she wore on the show!
Getting Sharyn and her husband Marvin out of the piles of clutter seemed to be an insurmountable task, but they took it one object at a time. Below the mountains of mess, Peter and the family discovered the house was not only unlivable—it was dangerous. They found everything from mold and mice nests to food from 1994. Peter told Sharyn there was nothing in her home that was worth risking her health.
Sharyn and Marvin moved in with family while Peter and a team of more than 100 people took nearly two months to clean out the house. Sharyn didn't realize how far her hoarding had gone until she saw that the items from her home filled a 10,000-square-foot warehouse.
After seven weeks, Sharyn and Marvin returned home to see the results. "I was a sick person, and there was a monster inside of me that had been unleashed," Sharyn said. "I will never, ever do this again."
When Peter walks into the house, he sees a clean living room. "It's beautiful," he says. "It's exactly as I remember—a couple of plastic bags, but that's not so bad."
Clothing used to be an issue for Sharyn, but not anymore. Her closets—even the sock drawers—are still perfectly organized. "Look at this house. It's like we left yesterday!" Peter says.
Still, Marvin has a few boxes to sort through. Peter makes a deal with him—if after six weeks he hasn't finished, Marvin must throw them out.
Peter is impressed. "From my heart, I could not be more blown away," he says.
"I'm glad I didn't disappoint you," Sharyn says.
Sharyn and Marvin's children, Steven, Jodi and Rich, say they're very proud of their parents. "I think I've been really hard on them," Steven says. "I was really glad to hear that Peter gave them an A plus plus on what he saw."
Looking at the old tapes, Sharyn says she can't believe how she was living. "You really don't believe that is you because it was a way of life," she says. "But now I'm acclimated to something that is simply beautiful."
Sharyn says she now feels a compulsion to keep everything clean. "If I go to the grocery store, whatever, I come in and I immediately open every bag, put everything in its place where it goes, and that's such a wonderful feeling because I can do that because there is a place for everything," she says. "I have lots of empty drawers and closets and everything, and it's going to stay that way."
Peter's intervention gave the family back more than just living space. It gave them a new life. For the first time in 10 years, Sharyn and Marvin hosted their family's Passover dinner. "We got our life back," Marvin says. "We got our home."
The response was inspiring. Shelters reported being inundated with prospective owners eager to adopt and donate. The day after the show aired, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, Florida, broke all of its records with 32 total adoptions.
The Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control Center in Indiana also broke records. The day after the program, the center received 131 visitors and handled 19 adoptions in only four hours.
The day the show aired, the Coastal Humane Society in Brunswick, Maine, was deluged with visitors looking for a dog. "What I heard was that they didn't know how bad puppy mills were," a volunteer says. "They wanted to rescue these dogs."
The Oprah Show also heard from pet store owners who say they do not go to puppy mills for their puppies. One said he'd even experienced some violence at his store. Do your research and ask your local pet store owners where their puppies come from. Responsible owners should be happy to address your concerns, and remember, violence is never the answer.
When Jill isn't on set, you can find her at home with her five dogs and six horses. "Animals are my whole life. They're my children," she says. "You realize how important it is to take care of our babies. We're their voice. We have to speak for them."
In 2007, Jill spoke up on behalf of Jack, her rescued German shepherd who was battling cancer. She profiled him on The Today Show, and she's happy to report he's now cancer-free. Doctors did have to amputate one of Jack's front legs, but Jill says he's made a full recovery. Jack was even named an Ambassador Dog of Hope by The American College of Veterinary Medicine. "He's amazing," she says. "He's on three legs and truly a miracle dog."
While touring the facilities, Oprah also met Brianna, an adorable puppy who stole her heart. The day after the show featuring Brianna aired, she was adopted by a Chicago family. "There are three boys in the house who say they love her fury face and are excited to have her home," Oprah says. "I was so happy Brianna got a home."
Though Oprah wanted to take Brianna home for herself, she says she's not quite ready for a new dog in her life. "It will take some time for me to be ready," she says. "As I said before, the next time I adopt a dog, I'm going to go to a no-kill shelter."
The husband, Thomas, is the one who's pregnant. Thomas was born female and lived for 24 years as a woman named Tracy. After agonizing for decades over her identity, Tracy became a man.
For the past two years, Thomas and Nancy have been trying to have a child. Nancy, the mother of two daughters from a previous marriage, says the effects of endometriosis left her unable to have more children. After investigating their options, the couple decided Thomas would be the one to carry their child. In October 2007, they used an anonymous donor sperm to conceive their first baby, a little girl.
In this day and age, Thomas said different is normal. "Love makes a family," he said. "And that's all that matters."
Though they touched on many important topics during the hour, Oprah says there were a few questions asked during the postshow discussion that she wants to share. As the cameras kept rolling, one audience member asked Thomas if he plans to deliver the baby naturally or through a C-section.
"I'm planning on doing it as natural as possible," he says. "I want to feel the experience."
Thomas also shared that the baby was conceived using his eggs, and he's not able to breast feed because he had his mammary glands surgically removed years ago. "My nipples did actually change a little bit, and I was really shocked because they were grafted back on," he says. "The doctor said, 'There is a good possibility you may never have feeling again,' but they actually grew a little bit [when I got pregnant], and now I have feeling again."
During their trip, thousands of people in the town of Meridian agreed to sign Best Life contracts, committing to take control of their lives and end their struggle with weight. Oprah says she'll never forget meeting Jeff and Karen, two dieters who have hundreds of pounds to lose.
Jeff once weighed nearly 800 pounds, but by the time he signed his contract, he'd already lost 150 pounds. He told Bob and Oprah he was committed to losing even more. "I do pool work every day. I walk in the water and do aerobics in the water," he said. "I do a workout with free weights."
Karen, a mother of two, weighed 512 pounds when Oprah met her in Meridian. She revealed that she was frightened about her future. "After my second child, my last child, I acquired high blood pressure, and my health has been going downhill ever since," she said. "It's to the point where I either lose it or I'm going to die."
After meeting at The Oprah Show taping, Jeff and Kate started teaming up four days a week for workouts. "We're going to continue to update you on their progress," Oprah says. "That takes a lot of courage to do that."
The makeover millions of viewers still remember involved Sue Ross, a suburban mom and grandma. Sue was hoping for a new haircolor and a few makeup tips, but she got a lot more than she bargained for. Using black eyeliner and white face paint, Jamie and his team transformed Sue into a dark queen of Goth!
Watch Jamie's hilarious makeover take shape.
"You can use this look when you pick up your grandkids from kindergarten," Jamie said with a straight face. "Twenty million people are going to see you on Oprah looking like this!"
When Sue's daughter Kerry saw her mom decked out in black leather and a cheetah-print cowgirl hat, she was speechless.
After a few minutes, Jamie let Sue and Kerry in on the joke. "I think you guys are fantastic," he said. "I also want to let you know my name is Jamie Kennedy, and you're part of Oprah Winfrey's hidden camera prank show."
Finally, six years later, Sue's back in the States and ready for her real makeover from beauty and style experts. How does it feel?
"It's wonderful," she says. "It was a great feeling."