Thank you, Oprah Winfrey

LORI WELBOURNE/Guest Columnist

After 25 years the Oprah Winfrey Show is ending, and I’ll be sad to see it go.

With little time to watch TV, I’ve still managed after many years to fit Oprah into my busy schedule. Usually I watch her from my treadmill and often find myself crying or laughing as I huff and puff for air.

But it didn’t start out that way. When her show first began I’d only catch it occasionally when I happened to be home. It wasn’t until I bought my first video recorder and started taping her shows that I became a true fan. I don’t remember when that was exactly, but it was well before her highest rated episode aired in 1988 when she came onstage wheeling out 67 pounds of fat to signify her impressive weight loss.

I was already a big fan of hers by then and was excited to see the recording of the show when I got home from work that night. I was in awe of her accomplishment. If she could go on a liquid diet for three months and lose so much weight, surely I could as well.

But I was wrong. My liquid diet only lasted three days.

I weighed 215 lbs. at the time and I could relate to her struggles with food and her desire to get slim. When she was ridiculed for gaining the weight back and became significantly heavier than she had been, my loyalty as her fan intensified. She was obviously a trail-blazing powerhouse in so many ways, but she also wasn’t perfect. Her courage to share her imperfections with the world was both brave and beautiful to me.

In the wake of her exhilarating weight loss, followed by her devastating weight gain – and her yo-yoing sizes after that – I started jogging and eating healthier. I lost 85 pounds the year I turned 25. It still amazes me that I was able to accomplish that goal and I believe that Oprah Winfrey inspired me to believe in myself, something I had never done.

Much like her millions of other faithful viewers, so much of what she’s shared in her shows has helped me in my own life. I have learned to live in the moment, to have faith, to recognize my “ah-ha” moments, to never give up on my dreams, and to pick myself up and dust myself off whenever I fail at any of that.

I’m not sure who I’d be today without her. I’m not sure what the world would be without her.

And to anyone, like my husband, who may think I’m exaggerating, I’ll say this: You don’t become the greatest black philanthropist in American history, the richest African American of the 20th century, and arguably the most influential woman in the world without having a massive impact on society.

It’s remarkable to think that this media mogul was once born into poverty and mocked by other children for wearing potato sacks instead of dresses. Still ridiculed to this day, she’s living proof that anyone can succeed through courage, hard work and perseverance.

I will miss watching her show immensely. But I look forward to checking out her new network and hopefully finding something else to make me laugh and cry while I huff and puff away on my treadmill.

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