One day, after much indecision, I just decided. I would do it. I would book a flight to Chicago to try to see one of Oprah’s last shows before its successful 25 year run came to an end. I had to. If I was true to myself, I just had to try. How could I have a picture of her on my vision board, and not make the effort? How could I have embarked on a career in broadcasting, in part due to her leading the way as a successful Black woman in the business, and not say thank you for her example of excellence? How could I know that seeing her show was something that I wanted to have happen long before 2011, but for one excuse or the other I didn’t, and not now attempt to make it happen?
If Oprah taught us anything, it’s that your best life, moments and opportunities, are what you decide to create.
So I decided. I booked the flight on Monday May 16 for a Tuesday May 17 morning flight out of Buffalo. I had no hotel room. I certainly didn’t have a coveted Oprah Surprise Spectacular ticket in hand. No matter. I know what I had.I had will. Loads of determination. A couple of VISA credit cards. A CAA card (good for hotel Discounts in the U.S.), some cash, a purse and a tote bag on my back. I also brought a willingness to let life happen and faith that it would work out in the way it was supposed to, no matter what.
It was grey and rainy when I left Buffalo. When I stepped out into O’Hare airport it was bright sunshine: I considered this to be a good sign. At the airport, I found a man at the information booth. He looked friendly, so I approached him. Trusting my gut, I asked for help in booking a hotel. I told him I was a Canadian in Chicago, trying to see Oprah before she called it a show. He then reveals to me that his “Lady friend”, as he called her, was scheduled to sing in the choir for Oprah’s United Center show. Then he hands me a pink piece of paper. He said the number listed on the sheet was for people in distress, or whose flights had left them stranded. Typically he advised, people in these situations could call and get hotel rooms for lower than the regularly listed price. He warned that it may not work, but I should keep it in my back pocket, just in case. I was incredulous, but I took the paper. Good sign #2. A few hours later, the Marriott was booked. Check!
Next, I had to get to the United Center…but where was it? After getting on Chicago’s Blue line subway, I ask several people in my car for directions. After landing a few misses I get a hit. The man who ended up sitting next to me gave me precise directions to the United Center. I chose to trust him. I told him what I wanted to do: go see Oprah. He smiled, and confirmed his directions. I got there exactly as he directed. Good signs continued.
Being a reporter by training, I scoped out the scene: a small crowd was beginning to form along Gate 3 of the United Center. Within a few minutes, I spotted a woman who reminded me, of me. Sure enough, she too was looking for a ticket. Her name was Pat and both of us quickly bonded on the understanding and feeling that we were getting into the stadium. We weren’t sure how, we just felt that we were. Pat and I just believed. As we toured the stadium to get a feel for the crowd (and possible tickets), we saw a woman wearing a green sun dress. She had a sign that simply said: “I believe in miracles. Need a Ticket”. This woman had hope, faith and patience – she had been there for hours. Her odds though seemed slim. Everyone from the box office staff, to the crew, to other audience members said all tickets were gone. Sold out. None left. The last run of random free tickets was given out earlier in the afternoon by Gayle King. We were told that the only way of getting in was if by some miracle, someone offered a ticket.
Suddenly, the woman in the green dress started squealing, jumping into people’s arms. The sign was flung to the ground. Instead she had an Oprah ticket in her hand. She had about an hour to get to her seat before the show started. Stunned, I went closer to see what was happening, asking what happened, I learned that a member of a bank who sponsored the show noticed her sign and decided to reward her with an extra ticket. Knowing how much it meant to me to have a ticket like that, I was happy for her. What I didn’t know was that while I was watching the woman with the sign, someone else was watching me.
A few minutes later, a tall, attractive and smiling Black woman approached Pat and I. She said that her and her boyfriend saw how happy we were for the lady in the green sun dress who got the ticket. She asked if we were looking for tickets because her colleague couldn’t make it to the show and if we wanted them, we could have them. It bares repeating: they saw how happy we were for someone else that they decided to share an opportunity with us.
After 25 years of admiring the show from a far, I was blessed with an opportunity to sit at Section 109, Row 7, Seat 9 to see a taping that will be a lasting highlight of my life.
I may have seen the Oprah Winfrey show, and a Vision Board goal was accomplished, in part because I was in the ‘right’ place at the right time.But it also happened more importantly because I was happy for someone else who got something that I didn’t have at the time. I may not have seen the blessing coming, but I certainly wouldn’t have seen it had I not made a move. A move to get on the plane, the move to trust the man for hotel information, and the move to share the joy with the woman who got the ticket.
Many times in life, we hold back from making a move or going on a trip for fear of what could happen. But after this experience, and after taking in the lessons of Oprah’s life in that taping, I really see how making a move can push us forward, launch us on faith, introduce us to great people and teach lasting life lessons. In a thrilling 28-hours, I attended Oprah’s celebrity show finale in Chicago without first having a ticket to the show or a hotel room. Twenty-eight hours before, I couldn’t quite see the end of the story.
The lesson? Make a decision. Have a vision. Let people know what you want to do. Focus. Pray. Follow your gut and your compass. And most of all, believe. These are certainly lessons Oprah lived personally. On this trip, they became real to me in a very powerful way.
Oprah, thank you for giving me yet one more lesson to take from your show before it ends. Much love and all the best for your next 25 years. There’s no doubt that your inspiration will continue from this trip…and many more to come.
Dayo Kefentse is a Toronto based broadcaster and writer. An alumnus of CBC Radio and Television in Toronto and Windsor, her stories have also been published in the Toronto Star, SWAY Magazine and B.L.A.C. Detroit Magazine. Dayo is a Manager of Marketing and Communications for a Canadian not-for-profit charity, and when she has a free moment between travelling and enjoying life, she runs a boutique media and communications company. .
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- That’s a Wrap: Final ‘Oprah’ Taping Today (abcnews.go.com)
- Fans gather for final taping of “Oprah” (cbsnews.com)
- With a Final Taping, a Daytime Talk Era Ends (mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Oprah Winfrey’s Final Show Topic (& Guests) Revealed! (okmagazine.com)
- Oprah’s Last Guest (khmx.radio.com)