I just witnessed the most AMAZING moment ever: Oprah's Surprise Spectacular. I entered the United Center not expecting much. My seats were on level 300 and I knew we weren't winning a dream vacay because 20,000 people were supposed to be in attendance.
BUT THEN THE SHOW began. A little girl with the most spectacular voice sang, followed by Josh Groban and then...I HEARD PATTI. The legend, Patti LaBelle, came out belting, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Her voice was as crisp and powerful as it was decades ago when I was a child. And then she did IT--Patti kicked off her high heels as she hit a high note. It's her signature move and it was amazing to witness it live and in person. I nearly jumped down three levels to the stage. If you've ever been inside the United Center, you know that's quite the leap. I thought to myself, "that was worth waiting for outside in the hawk (also known as Chicago's biting wind)."
That's right, we spent about an hour outside the United Center waiting for the doors to open, even though we had tickets. I wanted to feel and see every moment...even if they were cold moments that messed up my hair and darn near froze off my teeth (yes, I was smiling that hard).
Thoughts about outside had all but faded when Madonna appeared on stage. Madonna! I was in the same building as Madonna. I turned to my mother to tell her that, "WE WERE IN THE SAME BUILDING AS MADONNA." I don't know why I had this reaction. I like Madonna, but I never wanted to see her in concert or meet her. Anyway, I loved her salute to Oprah and the way Madonna managed to address the controversy surrounding her own attempt to build a school for girls in Malawi. She basically said her efforts have been thrown off track, but because of Oprah, she would not give up.
No, Madonna did not perform, BUT BEYONCE DID. I don't care for her new song, but I loved the message and BEYONCE'S PERFORMANCE (of which she did two versions) was awesome. Beyonce didn't speak to the crowd outside of her routine, but she wasn't there for us. She was there for Oprah...and to promote her new single.
BUT the fun kept rolling. The crew played some of Oprah's funniest moments, Rascal Flatts performed and more celebrities thanked Oprah for all she'd done (Queen Latifah, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Halle Berry). I really didn't know how they were going to do a second show, when the first one was so great.
THEN WILL SMITH CAME OUT with his wife. I lost it. I can't even remember things in order. I just know Jaimie Foxx followed and started singing, "Isn't She Lovely." Before he could finish STEVIE WONDER TOOK OVER.
By this point I am jumping up and down, hugging my momma and texting my joy to my husband. Stevie took a song he'd written for his mother and changed the lyrics for Oprah. Tell me you don't think that's awesome? Stevie Wonder wrote a song for her and THAT WASN'T EVEN THE BEST PART OF HER NIGHT!! (I'm writing in caps to convey my excitement).
Next thing I knew, Michael Jordan was on the stage and I started to cry. I was in level 300...as far as you can get from Oprah and Michael, but I was crying. The two heroes of my childhood were in the same building with ME. I am a Chicago native and no two people were bigger in the 90s for a young black girl (today we have the Obamas).
Things got even better. The one and only Maya Angelou took the stage and read a poem she penned for Oprah, while Alicia Keys played the instrumental of "Superwoman." OMG!!! MAYA WROTE A POEM JUST FOR OPRAH. Wow!
Again, I am remembering things out of order because I was having an out of body experience. During all of that, Gayle King walked on stage with MARIA SHRIVER. Let's take a minute to think about this: on the day that the media was going nuts with news that Arnold Schwarzenegger had a love-child, Maria was in Chicago kickin' it with her homies. TALK ABOUT STRENGTH. She was not broken. In fact, when she thanked Oprah for always telling the "truth," the crowd erupted in cheers. It was our way of showing her we appreciated her courage (or at least it was for me).
So let's get on with the show. We were so pumped up, but Gayle's mic wasn't working properly. As the crew gave her a new one, Oprah patted Gayle's forehead with a napkin. In her typical "girlfriend fashion" Gayle said something like...I am having a hot flash at the wrong time. I laughed so hard. I love Gayle about as much as I love Oprah.
As if the night couldn't get better, Stedman took the stage. Even Oprah was stunned, but what really stunned us was when he introduced the QUEEN OF SOUL. Aretha sang, "Amazing Grace" and I can't put into words how fantastic it was. I finally had to open one of the boxes of tissue Harpo placed at the end of each row. That woman's voice was flawless and evoked both happiness and sadness. I thought of my grandmother's funeral and at the same time, the joy of standing with my mother and witnessing this magical moment.
As great as all of the performances were, what really moved me was Oprah's philanthropy. We all know about it, but we saw it in a different way on this night. Oprah put some 400 men through college at Morehouse. It's something Oprah doesn't talk about, nor the media. But hundreds of those men were in attendance at the United Center. They each carried a light, walked the aisles and filled the stage. It was beautiful and I cried. I cried at the beauty of all of those educated black men and I cried at the wonder of how ONE WOMAN could impact so many people in such a good way (crap! I'm tearing up right now thinking about it).
I was truly honored to be part of the night. I didn't get to meet Oprah and she didn't give me a car, but she gave me something far more valuable-- an AMAZING night with my mother. OPRAH, thank you for inspiring me as a child. I didn't get to work on your show, but I'm in TV news and I wouldn't be without seeing you. You'll never shake my hand, but my mother and I got to see three legends (Patti, Aretha and Stevie) perform together because of you. Wow!!
Oh, did I mention Target is building 25 libraries across the country in her honor and planting thousands of Oak trees in her name? Triple Wow!!!
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the great performances by Usher, Jerry Seinfeld and Rosie O'Donnell (she did a musical number introducing the stars of OWN). They were amazing as well.
All and all Oprah's Spectacular Surprise was fantastic!