Oprah Winfrey made her name as television’s most popular TV talk show host — but, judging from her “2020 Vision: Your Life In Focus Tour” in San Francisco today, she’d likely be an equally successful self-help guru, preacher or even comedian.
Happy to be at the Chase Center — “It smells like a new car” — Winfrey greeted adoring followers, from middle-aged women to “Oprah children” who grew up watching her at 4 o’clock on KGO: “Looks like I raised you well.”
To the handful of men among the 14,000 in the arena audience, she teased, “If you don’t even know what this is, if you came with your partner, this is worth eight weeks of whatever you want.”
And to dispel the myth that black people don’t like to be outdoors, she showed a video of a hike in an Oakland park on Friday with Rue Mapp and participants in Outdoor Afro, a group with a mission to get African Americans connected with nature.
But the meat of the five-hour session (not including a box lunch provided by Panera and including a sales pitch by tour sponsor WW, formerly Weight Watchers, now “Wellness that Works”) was dedicated to her plan for her fans: “This is about you today, about what your perfect vision for your life is going to be.”
She shared that, at 66, her vision for herself is to be purposeful (“I have earned the right to do exactly what I want”) and invited everyone to pull out workbooks (provided in the gift bag that came with the $50- to $300 per ticket purchase) and start down a path to wellness.
With visual aids — inspirational sayings lit up on jumbotron at times — Winfrey said wellness means keeping things in balance, welcoming the shifting flow of life, minding your own business, maintaining friendships with those who want your happiness and handling stress by “waiting for the moment that you’re in to be something that it’s not.” At one point, she went into the crowd, looked over audience members’ books, and chatted with fans, including a particuarly articulate 12-year-old.
Everyone, she said, wants to be heard and seeks validation, adding that, each and every one the 37,500 people she talked to on TV — including Barack Obama and Beyonce — asked her “Did I do OK?” when the interview concluded.
Most important, though, is to figure out what you want, for yourself (lose “the disease to please”) and pursue it: “You don’t get what you want in life. You get what you intend.”
She pointed to pivotal moments in her life around her weight — Joan Rivers asking her about gaining a few pounds on “The Tonight Show”; the most-watched segment of her own show in which she wore skinny jeans and carted out 67 pounds of beef fat (representing what she lost) on a little red wagon — and said her issue ultimately was about fear, not fat.
“I spent 50 years being upset about myself for the fullness of my shape. I was afraid of being full. But if you’re not full, you don’t have enough to give to anyone else.”
Interestingly, the show’s WW sales pitch touched on well-being and community (with a focus on founder Jean Neidich) more than weight control, although California WW members, sister and brother Kate Jang and Alex Koziol were trotted out in a video and for a moment onstage to share news of their big losses.
Other guests included Daybreaker, the local dance party that heated things up at 9 a.m. before Oprah’s entrance, with group boogieing to Adele and U2; and, on the opposite tack, Jesse Israel, who led a minute-long quiet meditation that had some event-goers shedding a tear or two.
Julianne Hough of “Dancing with the Stars” fame led a peppy 15-minute version of her group workout called “kinrgy,” a combo of dance, breathing, meditation and strength training, while San Francisco’s Dr. Dean Ornish shared how some chronic illnesses can be “undone” by making four lifestyle changes: eating well, moving more, stressing less and loving more.
Gospel singer Tamela Mann (also a WW spokeswoman who’s lost 50 pounds) belted a killer version of “Take Me to the King,” while Kate Hudson filled this tour stop’s celebrity interview spot, speaking with Oprah about relationships, motherhood and her own vision for 2020.
Hudson said her focus is forgiveness — “it’s where I’ve found the most liberation” — a comment that led nicely to Oprah’s closing story, about the liberation she felt when she visited her dying mother and, after years of not knowing what to say to her, thanked her for her courage, for keeping the baby she conceived when she was a teen, a baby that some didn’t want.
At age 60, Winfrey said, “For the first time in my life, I said ‘I love you’ to my mother. It set me free.”