Oprah Winfrey woos Toronto, reveals that she’s pretty freaking good at Scrabble
By Bianca Puorto
Oprah Winfrey on stage at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Monday, April 16 (Image: OWN)
Almost 9,000 people crammed into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre yesterday for the Toronto leg of Oprah Winfrey’s Lifeclass tour, and Lady O didn’t disappoint. A four hour wait preceded her second show of the day — a live taping of her forgiveness-themed Lifeclass episode — during which time speakers Bishop T.D. Jakes, Deepak Chopra, Iyanla Vanzant and Tony Robbins pumped up the crowd for the talk show queen’s imminent appearance.
The real show, it turned out, was the one going on between live segments.
Oprah strode on stage in typical fashion, arms open wide, and boomed, “Hello Toronto!” The crowd, mostly women between 20 and 60, went wild. Oprah smiled as one girl in the front row absolutely sobbed at seeing her idol so close.
Almost immediately, the show was sent to commercial break and crewmembers dashed across the stage setting up the next segment. Oprah peeled off one of her sky-high heels, saying that the next we’d see them would be at the end of the show, when she would stand again. She then proceeded to say how grateful and shocked she was at the response from her Canadian fans.
“You know Beyonce’s not going to be here right?” she quipped.
Her banter with the audience continued right up until the end of the break, when she seamlessly transitioned to speaking into the camera and introduced her first guest, spiritual life coach Iyanla Vanzant. The two talked a bit about Vanzant’s work and introduced a young man having issues with his parents’ abrupt divorce before we were sent to yet another commercial break. We soon learned that there would be a lot of these.
Once again, crewmembers converged on the stage setting up additional chairs. One bold worker even had the gall to argue with Winfrey, claiming that the position of a chair would block her from view.
“Don’t worry about blocking me,” she said, pulling the chair into position herself.
“You tell him Oprah!” shouted a man in the audience.
Next up was lifestyle guru Tony Robbins, who already riled up the crowd with his earlier speech (though may have actually been due to his Rambo-like build and charisma rather than his message of empowerment). At one point, when speaking to a woman from Texas who claimed she only likes people who do things for her, he actually said, “Well, we all whore ourselves out sometimes.” That sent the audience into yet another frenzy and prompted Oprah to joke, during commercial, that she doesn’t know if everyone’s a whore, “but we all know the Secret Service is.”
She then fielded more questions from the audience and boasted happily that her highest Scrabble score (apparently one of her favourite pastimes) is 400, but she hasn’t had time to play much since, you know, she runs an entire network. At one point she even swore into the mic, which had the audience roaring.
Yes, Oprah is human.
Her interviews with spiritual leader Deepak Chopra and Bishop T.D. Jakes ran in much the same fashion, with the two mentors helping to solve the problems of those who wrote to Oprah from across the world. Chopra, however, did stumble at one point when he misunderstood a question and gave an answer that was both lengthy and, let’s face it, somewhat irrelevant. Ever the consummate professional, Oprah smoothed over the situation with a joke about how Chopra’s depth can sometimes go right over her head.
The show passed quickly, and just as things were winding down with the final commercial break, a question from a woman in the audience sent a hush over the crowd. The woman was a teacher from Toronto — and an event volunteer — who has been working for about 35 years.
“I think what your network is missing is a show about teachers and students,” she told the talk show titan. “I think I am lucky to be here today and I think you should let me show you what I can do for you.”
The audience held its breath as Oprah considered.
“Okay,” she said simply. And just like that, someone in the audience successfully pitched a show to Oprah Winfrey.
A few seconds later, Oprah was on her feet, heels back on and thanking viewers for tuning in. True to form, Oprah not only delivered a stellar show, but she gave the audience an experience they wouldn’t soon forget. As parting shot, she declared her regret at the fact that she had never done a show north of the border.
“I’m definitely coming back here,” she said.