My immediate response, of course, was to take a screen shot of the email so I could save it forever and to walk around repeating " I got an email from OPRAH!!!" I was excited for the email and braced myself for it to end there. But it didn’t!!
A few more emails and a phone interview later, I had bona fide invitation to haul my butt to Chicago as fast as I could to be a "special guest" at a taping of Oprah Prime featuring Maria Shriver's new documentary "Paycheck to Paycheck: the Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert".
I had no idea what "special guest" meant! Would I get to meet Oprah? Talk to Oprah? Plug my little cape shop? Would I be in the same room as Oprah and Maria Shriver without fainting and wetting my pants? I thought about buying Depends. Instead, I bought Spanx.
So of course I said, "Yes! I can be there Tuesday!". I left my husband with the kids and grabbed my sweet friend McKenzie, who of course dropped everything and drove me to Chicago. All we knew was we had to be at Harpo Studios by 7am and we had to look good.
Here is where I tell you: I didn’t get to talk. So there was no big moment in the spotlight for me. While that was a bummer, it really did not diminish at all how EXTREMELY COOL my day was!!! I’m having a pajama party on Sunday night in case my face makes it on TV. If you want to know about all the details of my Oprah Day, read on...
(McKenzie Goodrich who Owns Shine Insurance, keeps you from freaking out, and drops everything to take friends to Chicago)
Here is what our day with Oprah looked like
4:30am Wake up and tell yourself you have to get out of bed because it is Oprah. Wonder to yourself if Oprah really is worth getting up in what you consider to be the middle of the night
5:00am Convince your sleepy self Oprah is in fact worth it and pull yourself to the shower
5:10am Begin the process of blowing out your hair for the first time in you life, get brush stuck in your hair, wonder if Oprah will notice said brush if you just leave it in
6:00am Room Service!! Eat with your crazy friend the most perfect poached eggs in the history of the world. Everything taste better the day you are going to see Oprah in person. Talk openly about how you wish your life involved more room service.
6:50 Get a cab to Harpo studios!
7:00am Note the heated tunnel and mega long line wrapped around Harpo as you pull around to the back door to meet your contact. feeling like a V.I.P.
7:05am The Sweetest ladies greet you and take you through all the different back passages that pop out to the different lines and stations you have to go through to be near Oprah!
7:10 Producer takes you to show your id to security and you get a peek at the 300 guests coming through the tunnel, show your picture ID, hand over your purse to be searched and walk through a metal detector. Feel incredibly nervous and wonder if you should have brought a bigger purse so that you could throw up fancy hotel breakfast in it.
7:20am Go upstairs to a huge room lined with chairs, take your seat and are handed paperwork. Begin to make friends on every side of you. Amazing woman with even more amazing stories and lives.
Deep gratitude for the experience you are having starts to set in. You want to talk with every one of these woman. The Oprah Prime show does not have an audience format anymore so everyone is feeling extremely excited and lucky be there. Our favorite new friend is Miss Dorothy from Chicago who, while unemployed herself, is collecting clothes, food, baby item and delivering them to people in her community who need them every day straight out of her trunk! That day she had a trunk full of zucchini.
Clench your teeth at the thought of Oprah asking you questions. Friend helps you fill out paperwork. Feel glad your insurance nerd buddy likes paperwork. Wonder if you will get to talk to Oprah or if you will just pass out at her feet with your last thoughts being about how amazing her shoes are.
8:00am They make an announcement that they need the following 6 guests and their party. Your name is called.
8:10am You’re handed a bag of tasty food including a muffin, granola, fresh fruit and a water bottle and taken to the stage.
8:15am See your names on chairs in the front left section of the stage! Get seated on the aisle. Panic and squeal. Wonder if you will get to hug Oprah.
8:20am Sally Lou Loveman shows up. Instantly fall in love. Sally instructs the small group of us in the front sections to stand up if you’re talking to Oprah or Maria. We are on a first-name basis now. Old pals.
Once the entire audience is seated, the boom mic girl gets a workout to help everyone practice. There are tons of people working cameras, taping down cords, directing people, and coordinating shots. It is a well-oiled machine. Insurance nerd friend starts geeking out on all the superior risk management activities happened. You love her for that.
8:45am The rest of your row and audience is seated. Make fast friends with Gloria and Trivia. This was Gloria's third Oprah show-she even got to go to the last one ever filmed with Beyonce! Harass Gloria for details for the next 30 minutes.
9:00am(ish) Put your phone away. OPRAH TIME!
10am-11am Watch the beautifully executed and extremely relatable documentary "Paycheck to Paycheck: the Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert."
11:30am Taping!!! Sit in awe of Oprah, Maria and Katrina. Feel thankful that your experience hasn’t been as tough as some of the other folks who actually get to talk to Oprah. Wish they would call on you so you could talk to Oprah. Feel thankful you get to be in the same room as Oprah. Rinse, wash, repeat.
So the taping went from 11:30-1:30 here are some of the fun behind the scene things that you should know:
· When Oprah headed to the studio, the crew holds up their hands and walks their fingers and that means "Oprah is walking"
· When she comes in the room everyone goes nuts. Even if you are talking about a hard subject and you have been told not to clap-yeah that's not gonna happen. Everyone is going to clap!
· Oprah sang a verse of Let it Go from Frozen. Seriously she did! She randomly broke into "Let it Go." It was endearing. And I have heard that song waaaaaaay too much this winter.
· Oprah and Maria Shriver are great friends and watching them interact is like hanging out with your own friends
· Oprah and Maria can't see without their glasses and had an extremely funny exchange between the two of them during a break about this fact. Maria at one point said binoculars would work better for her than glasses.
· Maria and Oprah both have AMAZING hair. Seriously, you could stare at it all day that is how amazing it is. You stare at it and think two thoughts: 1. I want to touch it, and 2. why doesn't my hair look like that?
· Oprah only needs one take…unless one piece of confetti randomly falls from the rafters and then Maria and Oprah laugh and do the take again
· Oprah talked about how phones, and google chat, and all the things that you can do today are like living in the Jetsons cartoon
· Oprah still has an amazing ability to relate to living paycheck to paycheck. She gets it in a way you would not expect her to. Her comments on the subject were thoughtful, kind, understanding and honestly surprising considering it has been a long time since she has been in that situation. The startling facts of how many woman and children are living in or on the brink of poverty in the USA was not lost on her. She understood what it meant to not have enough money to pay the bills and eat. ·Perhaps the best thing she said when the cameras were off was that this subject is important because people want and need to know that they have been noticed and heard. When you are living in or on the brink of poverty in America, fighting every day to make it, you can feel invisible. And you kind of WANT to feel invisible, you don’t want people to notice how much you are struggling. When you are not struggling to survive, you can forget quickly that others are.
· Oprah told us that every person she has ever interviewed has turned to her afterwards and said "was that OK, did I do OK?" Whether it was a sitting president, Beyoncé , or just someone like you or me. Everyone just wants to know they have been heard and noticed and that they matter.
While I am one of those people living on the poverty line in America I feel fortunate.
I feel like there are still ways I could give back more.
I have had help that has kept my family from going hungry, or cold, or homeless.
The gory details of the Wolfe family, how we make it, what we really live on, the things we've sacrificed, have lost, and the struggles we have had over the last 6 years didn't make it on the Oprah show. Our story may not have been televised for the world to see, but it has firmly reshaped Brian and I into better people. We have a different perspective on what it is like to work ridiculously hard. What true sacrifice is. What is really valuable. Our families experience has fueled the desire in us to make a difference and give back to those who have less than we do. I am thankful for that.
*Oprah is everything you imagine her to be. She is delightful, enchanting, and a once in a life time experience.