One Incredible Journey: The Ultimate Oprah and Gayle Conversation
Oprah: Well, certainly going to Auschwitz with Elie Wiesel is at the very top of the list. And Monica Jorge, the mother who went into the hospital to have a baby and contracts some sort of flesh-eating bacteria while she's there. They have to amputate her arms and legs, and she says, "I gotta get up, because I gotta get home and take care of my daughter and this little baby." We just recently helped her with a house. And Jacqui Saburido, the woman whose face was burned when the drunk driver hit her—that's another one I'll never forget.
But I do have an all-time favorite. I can't tell you who it is, because it's going to be one of the last shows, and it won't have aired by the time this issue comes out. But it's an all-time, all-time, all-time favorite. It's the one woman who ultimately defines everything I've tried to say in all my years of doing the show. When I saw her again, I just broke down and boohooed.
Gayle: Without giving the story away, why does that particular episode symbolize what the show means to you?
Oprah: It speaks to the essence of what the show has tried to say all these years: that you are not the product of your circumstances. You are a composite of all the things you believe, and all the places you believe you can go. Your past does not define you. You can step out of your history and create a new day for yourself. Even if the entire culture is saying, "You can't." Even if every single possible bad thing that can happen to you does. You can keep going forward.
Gayle: What kind of shows have made you the happiest?
Oprah: The best shows are when there's an aha moment for the audience and for me. One of the most searing moments was the show with Dr. Phil and Jo Ann Compton, a mother whose daughter had been murdered. Jo Ann couldn't get over losing her. She still had all of her dresses and everything. Nothing in her daughter's room had been touched. And later, she admitted that she was planning to go home and commit suicide after she finished our show. But then there was this incredible moment where Phil said, "Why have you spent the past decade mourning the day of your daughter's death, instead of celebrating the 18 years of her life?" And Jo Ann just froze. Her eyes got really wide and she turned and looked at Phil and said, "I never thought of it that way before." I live for that kind of moment. That is the moment that I'm going for every single day—when suddenly you're able to see things in a new way.
Gayle: You know, I talk to people on your staff all the time and everybody's already starting to get nostalgic. We go, "God, that was the last 'Favorite Things' show." Or "That was the last 'Harpo Hookups' show." The other day somebody told me that she recently went to fill out an employment application and broke down in tears, because she doesn't have much longer to say, "I'm at Harpo." I look at everyone around you who's feeling very bittersweet, and very reluctant, and a lot of trepidation. And here you are, practically doing the hula.
Oprah: Well, I say no bitter, all sweet. No bitterness, because we've done it as well as anybody could. And you have to know when it's time to let it go.
Gayle: What about being seen and heard on a daily basis? You won't miss that?
Oprah: You mean the fame thing? I always think I manage the fame thing very well. But Rosie O'Donnell was on the show, and she said to me, "Well, that's because you're still in it. Wait till you're out of the spotlight." And I was like, "Oh, no, no, no. This fame thing doesn't affect me one bit. I could lose it all tomorrow and be just fine." And of course—because this is how God always works in my life—that very same day I had to go to the gynecologist. The one thing in the world you can't get somebody else to do for you.
Gayle: You have to bring your own vagina to the gynecologist, yes.
Oprah: Yep, it's strictly BYOV. [Laughter] Although in this case I was there to get my annual mammogram. Now, normally I'm taken up the back stairs and ushered right into the office. Tom, my security guard, always takes me. But this year, it's Mark. And I say, "Mark, I think we're in the wrong place." And he says, "No, no, ma'am, they said we're supposed to be here."
Anyway, we go in the front entrance. And I end up at the sign-in desk. I'm like—"Uh, I don't think I'm supposed to sign in." And the woman doesn't even look up. She goes, "The policy is, you sign in." So I fill out my little form and sign in. Then she takes the clipboard and says, "Have a seat over there." I say, "Well, isn't there someone here by the name of"—"Have a seat over there." So I'm sitting in the waiting room. And it's 1:10. It's 1:20. And then that Rosie thing comes into my head. And I start thinking, "Okay, this is a test to see how long you can be patient." So I go, "Okay, I'm gonna give it ten more minutes."
Gayle: And then I'm gonna be famous again! And then my breasts are gonna be pulling a major star trip. [Laughter]
Oprah: The funny part is, I call my assistant, and I'm whispering to her, "Libby, I'm at the doctor's office and I don't know what's going on." And she says, dead serious, "Well, you're going to get a mammogram. You're going to take your top off. And then they're gonna put your breast in the machine." And then she goes, "But don't worry. I just did this a couple of months ago. It's gonna press your breast down. Then you've got to lean in, and you have to hold your arm up." And I go, "Libby! I know what a mammogram is!"
So, that was my great humbling lesson. But my favorite part is Libby. "You're going to take your top off. And then they're gonna put your breast in the machine." [Laughter]