Mama O inspires South African women . . . and me

By Kirstin Buick
15 October 2013

It’s not often you get the chance to attend a motivational speech where the iconic Oprah Winfrey is present. O magazine hosted the O YOU event in Joburg where the former queen of talk was present and reporter Jessica Levitt blogs about the experience.

It’s not often you get the chance to attend a motivational speech where the iconic Oprah Winfrey is present. O magazine hosted the O YOU event at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Joburg where the former queen of talk was present.

After being a journalist for more than seven years and interviewing and meeting influential folk including Nelson Mandela, Bono, and Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey has always evaded my path. So when YOU’s Gauteng Bureau chief, Yvonne Beyers, phoned me on a bright and early Sunday morning to ask if I wanted to attend the Oprah event, I had to squash my squeal and calmly say, “yes please”. I even drove all the way to her house on a Sunday afternoon (almost missing the Rihanna concert) to fetch the ticket.

They say that there are certain people that have the ability to change your life. Oprah is most definitely one of those people. More than 6 000 women from all walks of life had gathered to hear her.

One of our first ladies, Tobeka Zuma, was in attendance. One woman’s husband had bought her a ticket as a 40th birthday present. She flew all the way from Atlanta in the US to attend. There’s no doubt Oprah yields that kind of magnificent power over millions of people who she has never met –similar to Madiba.

She came on stage, dressed impeccably in a pink dress, muted bronze heels and her trademark curls. From the moment she first uttered, “Hello, sit down, please sit down,” to when she walked off stage, she had every single person’s full attention.

From regaling us with intimate stories of her life to her mantra of “service” she’s the kind of person who leaves everybody wondering if they’re leading their best life. And that’s really what society needs, isn’t it? Too often we’re stuck in our comfy limbo going through the motions without questioning if we’re really on the right path.

Oprah speaks about getting that whisper. The whisper that tells you that you know you aren’t making the right decision. She encourages everyone to listen to that whisper. And if you don’t, it becomes louder, eventually leading to a crisis. In that crisis, however, “all is not lost. This too shall pass,” she says – a line from her mentor and friend, the renowned poet Maya Angelou.

Some left feeling motivated and inspired, others spoke of that whisper and what to do about it. I left in awe. She grew up the daughter of a domestic worker. She was supposed to be a domestic worker. That’s what people believed.

But she didn’t believe it – and there’s the key, the lesson in everything. If you believe, it shall happen.

-Jessica Levitt

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