Farewell to Oprah

People have bared their souls to her. Children run up to hug her. People have stood in line for hours on end just to get a glimpse of her. For 25 years, the world has welcomed her with open arms for an hour of information and entertainment, and that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you’ve just spent an hour talking on the phone with your best friend.

The “Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular” 2 part series is monumental for television history. Never before has one show had such an immense impact on social and political affairs. For years The Oprah Winfrey Show has gone beyond what the news station cover, and reached into the deep, dark abyss of issues that effect us all. The 2 part series will feature surprise guests such as Will Smith, Maria Shriver, Patti LaBelle, Tom Cruise, and Oprah’s longtime partner Stedman Graham. The show was taped at Chicago’s United Center in front of an audience of 13,000 people.

Whether or not you consider yourself a true Oprah fan or not, no one can deny the impact of The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show almost represents a liberation movement for women who may have otherwise lost their voices in a male dominated world. It was a saving grace for housewives across America looking to remain a part of the outside world. The show uncovered details of politics, social ills, and pop culture. It was Oprah Winfrey who first introduced the world to a Chicago politician named Barack Obama. Oprah has taken us everywhere-from sitting on the steps chilling with the likes of rapper Jay-z in Brooklyn, NY to hugging and feeding children in South Africa.

I have been a fan of the iconic Ms. Winfrey since before I could understand what the issues on her show were about. Her show had those “Aha moments” where women could bare their souls and admit their insecurities; Where Mom Jeans and bad hair days were accepted, and being ridiculed for late night snacking was never an issue. She tackled serious issues such as sexual abuse and race relations.

End of An Era

As Oprah decided to end her daytime talk show to focus on her new cable channel OWN, people are wondering where those millions of viewers will go. There have been more than 5,000 episodes of the daytime talk show that have transformed television as we know it, and attempted to teach viewers how to live their life with purpose. 25 years of producing shows that change people’s lives is quite a large burden for one woman to carry on her shoulders.

So where will all the viewers go? A few daytime soap operas have already been cancelled. ABC is reportedly in serious negotiations with Katie Couric, who this month wrapped up a five-year run as anchor of "CBS Evening News," to create a syndicated talk show. There are also talks of CNN reporter Anderson Cooper getting his own talk show as well. Some suggest it is a generational change, and foresee the increase of shows that target much younger audiences.

The Oprah Effect

There was a huge surge of small business owners who became mainstream and more successful because of the exposure they received on The Oprah Winfrey show and in O magazine. Talk shows can be a powerful launchpad for branded media empires. Oprah’s favorite things have featured brands such as Spanx, Ugg’s, Ralph Lauren, and Vera Wang. When Fat Witch Brownies was featured in 2002, it took the small bakery over six months to respond to the orders that had been placed after Oprah spoke about the product. And when local NYC beauty store Carol's Daughter was featured, their website went from around 4 visitors per day to 17,000 visitors per day, subsequently, crashing their website. The aftershock is that the business went from a $2 million net worth to $30 million today.

Others who have benefited from The Oprah Effect are bakery We Take The Cake and Yoga Instructor and now author Robyn Okrant. On one of her Oprah’s Favorite Things shows, Oprah featured the now fhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifamous Key Lime Bundt Cake from We Take The Cake and the company was literally pulled from the brink of bankruptcy to become a million dollar business-Quite a large departure from a company that only turned a $19 profit in 2004. Yoga instructor Robyn Okrant was studying self help and decided to do a social experiment by living her life according to Oprah for a period of one year. During the year long experiment she practiced everything Oprah preaches. The end result was that Okrant received a book contract and now writes a blog called Living Oprah with an estimated 10-thousand weekly readers.

There are books and classes that discuss The Oprah Effect and teach entrepreneurs how to market their products effectively in hopes of getting a spot on Oprah’s list. CNBC even did a documentary on the topic and featured several small businesses who have enjoyed a mountain of success due to exposure from The Great O.

Oprah has managed to create a sort of inspirational “crime mob” that has helped her pushed her message of inspiration and encouragement. Because of their frequent visits to her show, guests have managed to create their own empires. Her mob of encouragement includes experts such as Dr. Phil, interior design sage Nate Berkus, fitness guru Bob Greene, chef Art Smith, personal finance whiz Suze Orman, and renowned physician Dr. Oz. At the beginning of the last presidential campaign, Oprah had Barack Obama on her show, and publicly stood by as a strong supporter of his campaign. She has also had President George W. Bush appear as a guest on her show, and taken us on a tour of the famous Bush ranch.

Who can ever forget the famous couch jumping scene with Tom Cruise? Or the fat wagon episode where Oprah proudly displayed her brand new body after extreme weight loss. Or the funny, and sometimes tongue in cheek dialogue with Chris Rock about his movie Good Hair. We all have our different Oprah moments, and they mean something different to us all. So as we say farewell to 25 years of lessons, inspiration, and encouragement, let us rejoice in the laughter, the tears, and the ‘Aha’ moments.

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