Full house and excited for Oprah Winfrey at the Bell Center last Thursday! My opinion on this phenomenon can be summed up by two conversations I had, one before the conference and the other after. At the cocktail party sponsored by Lise Watier before the event, a journalist friend was trying to find out how much money the guests had paid to be admitted to another cocktail party, the one where Oprah was, and where, it was said, you could have your photograph taken. with her for a few extra dollars. My friend doubted Oprah’s sincerity: her move to Montreal would be primarily a question of big money serving to boost the ratings of her cable TV channel OWN, which is experiencing serious financial difficulties. I had the second conversation with a stranger at the exit of the event. We were both waiting for taxis, our eyes met and she asked me if I had gone to see Oprah. With a bright smile and bright eyes, she explained to me how much she was inspired by her. Her husband, the taxi driver she was waiting for, had offered her this ticket for her party and she had been waiting for the event for weeks. She was eager to tell everything to her family in Haiti. “She’s popular there?” Stupid question on my part: of course yes, ultra-popular! I’m like her: Oprah inspires me.
Born in poverty deep in Mississippi, to parents who only slept together a few times, raped at 9, pregnant from sexual abuse at 14… Oprah’s life is a long list of hardships, battles, and improbable victories. That a little black girl destined to become a servant instead becomes one of the most powerful women in the world is in itself an achievement. That in addition, she has an unparalleled talent as a communicator that allows her to transmit hope, all of this is a fairy tale. Hearing her tell her story makes you want to fight, to believe in our dreams, to be both ambitious and at the service of others. About the money, Oprah does not hide it: she is rich even if, currently, she is in difficulty because of OWN. She asked the audience for help. “You can help me by asking your cable provider to make OWN available!” If this happens, it will increase its turnover. It would be impossible for his series of conferences in Canada not to have a promotional component for OWN. She pushes her product, and her product is her. I don’t blame him for being rich and trying to save his channel. On the contrary, I admire the businesswoman. It is precisely this clever mix of keen business sense and extreme authenticity that allows him to attract 15,000 people to the Bell Centre, to have them applauding wildly, and keep them spellbound for two hours with nothing but his stories. It says a lot about her, but also about the thirst for inspiration, values, and authenticity of the people who travel to see her.