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Simply By Being There, Oprah Inspires Fans At Wellness Event

The lines outside the Spectrum Center on Saturday morning stretched along the sidewalks uptown. But they were nothing compared to the lines inside the arena, where Oprah Winfrey was making her third stop of the “Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus” tour. That’s a day-long wellness event presented by WW – the newly rebranded Weight Watchers.

The focus might have been on overall health and wellness, but the draw, unquestionably, was Oprah.

line in Spectrum Center
Credit Jodie Valade / WFAE
A line of people waits to take a photo with a photo of Oprah.

People – almost entirely women – waited patiently just for a chance to take a photo with a photo of Oprah in the arena. She’s been called the “most powerful woman in the world” by CNN and is still beloved enough to draw a sellout crowd of 15,000 people to hear her speak about her struggles with her weight, how she has found contentment now at age 65 – and her advice for how everyone else can do the same.

Some, like Brittany Philbert, were thrilled for a chance to simply be in the same space as Oprah. 

"It has been a lifelong dream of mine to see her live and I thought a day long women's conference would be great," said the 34-year-old.

Nathalie Sessions Fye traveled from Houston with her friends -- they call their group "SNAKS" for the first initial of each of their names -- as one of her "50 Fun Things for 50" as she turned half a century old in December.

"I just made a list -- you know, very Oprah like --  made a list of all the things in my life that bring me the most joy," she said, her voice cracking. "I'm going to get emotional. And so of course, it's all around friends and  different things in my life that create that joy for me. And so of course, like millions, we're fans of Oprah. And when we heard this tour come about, I was like, 'Oh, we have to be there and celebrate.'" 

Credit Jodie Valade / WFAE
Christine Xoinis (the "R") poses with her friends from Burlington.

Christine Xoinis wore a shirt with a silver, sparkly “R” as part of a group of five friends who spelled out “OPRAH.” The trip from Burlington was a surprise gift from women in her creative agency who knew she would love it.

"I grew up watching Oprah," Xoinis said. "To me, she's been like my mentor my entire life. She accomplished so much when the odds were stacked up against her. And if she can do it, anybody can do it.

Oprah led attendees through a workbook that asked you to find your “wellness focus.” She encouraged mindfulness with an arena-wide meditation session. And she took the words of guest speaker Laila Ali to heart when she urged everyone to “take a chance on yourself.”

WW CEO Mindy Grossman says Oprah means every bit of the inspirational words she says.

"She feels certainly her greatest superpower is inspiring and motivating people on a journey to live their best, most fulfilled, intentional life," Grossman said.

Oprah is on the board of WW, so the push for the weight-loss program wasn’t subtle at the event. But neither was an infectious, upbeat atmosphere. People smiled and danced and laughed -- even when the long lines to enter the building delayed the start time.

"This is my third tour stop, so I've had the benefit of watching people in these stadiums become one community," Grossman said, "hug each other, cry with each other, laugh with each other dance with each other. And you just see that transformation during the day."

The day concluded with an interview with comedian Amy Schumer, one of nine different celebrity guests at each of the tour stops.

But judging from the lines simply to take a photo with a photo, it’s clear who the fans were really there to see.

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Oprah’s full interview with Amy Schumer will air on Wednesday, Jan. 22 (8 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. CT) as part of WW’s Wellness Wednesday Series on Oprah’s Facebook channel, and the WW Now Facebook Channel, with highlights on Instagram, @ww.now.