January 19th, 2012
12:08 PM GMT
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Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) - We interviewed Oprah Winfrey in a classroom at the school she established five years ago in South Africa. The walls of the classroom were plastered with posters that all advocated that 'You go, Girl!' attitude that Oprah oozes.

The messages were attached neatly on every available space; "I am me because I am special," "You can't get anywhere unless you start," "I know me, I accept me, I like me."

Oprah Winfrey has made a career, and a fortune, plugging self-awareness on her talk show and her new TV network. Her interview style is deeply personal, confessional even. She likes to share, open up, and be frank about her own life in the course of speaking to others.

Our 30 minutes-long interview was no different. She is Oprah after all.

She was generous with her time, delivered immaculate sound bites, offered up snippets of her own tragedies, created an intimacy with our crew in that small classroom and was, basically, a consummate performer.

She gave us 'Oprah' and all that entails with her heady mix of power, money and compassion.

She was passionate and emotional about the lives of the young girls she is educating. She expressed disappointment in the young student who concealed a pregnancy and then secretly gave birth at the school last year. 

The baby died and she hid the body in her school bag. Oprah said she knew the "loneliness" of trying to hide a teen pregnancy but that the pupil showed "poor leadership" and was now "happier" at a different school.

When I brought up the "abuse scandal" she lightheartedly told me she called it "The Crisis." A female matron was accused and recently acquitted of molesting some of the girls in her care at the school. Oprah admitted she was still baffled and incredulous that the alleged abuse took place at her school.

She said she had done everything to protect the girls from potentially abusive men, limiting male visitors, installing an electric fence around the school perimeter ­but never imagined the danger would come from women that she had hired.

 When I asked her about Barack Obama she said she wouldn't talk about him.

And then promptly did. Oprah famously "endorsed" Obama in 2008, which subsequently gave his campaign a boost. Significantly, she said she wouldn't publically endorse him again because, "everybody in the world now knows Barack Obama."

Diane Sawyer was interviewing Oprah via satellite after our chat and Winfrey's staff were concerned that she kept to her schedule. Despite knowing that she had a date with the U.S. anchor who had woken up at 4am in New York to do the interview, Oprah kept on chatting to us.

Her assistant repeatedly signaled to me to get her to stop talking. In the end, I had to interrupt her and essentially tell her to get on with it.

Afterwards, she grabbled hold of my arm and we walked arm in arm to the Diane Sawyer interview, which was set up in the school's library.

In true Winfrey style, she then gave me a tight, bear hug, which I guessed was the Oprah version of a firm handshake.

soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Kez

    I love oprah.

    January 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  2. Soonitha

    Oprah, you are a woman who I admire. Your compassion for the under-priveleged, your power to transfix me into listening to
    your shows is mind-blowing. You're the greatest!

    January 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  3. ETW

    Oprah is sill the greatest. I wish her all the best things in life. She is a living legend!

    January 19, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  4. josef

    i admire you and all your actions . so i need your knowledge to help my self

    January 19, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  5. Caj

    Oprah is cultural poison.

    January 19, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  6. Kim

    SICK of Oprah!!! go away!

    January 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  7. geezo123

    Just can not stand Oprah.

    January 19, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  8. bigcat32

    haha!! You're tired of Oprah the same way people are tired of Tim Tebow..because they actually do good and try to help people while complainers and haters like you do nothing but add negative energy and waste time!!

    January 19, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  9. JuneCleaversBeaver

    And all this time I thought it was: "OFRAH"

    January 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  10. blind?!

    Oprah and her famous friends..,they are way to many to mention ,earn so much money for 1 year ,that if they give just 10% each they WILL end all the hunger in Africa .So don't tell me rich Americans care about things like that.If they really did its safe to say they would have done something about it a long time ago .Its all about PR ..prove me wrong

    January 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  11. kathys

    Believe me their will only be ONE.
    Oprah is awesome. Period.

    January 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  12. Ok, Whatever!

    Yeah, I know, a few grammatical errors, but hopefully you get my point. Ha ha! Its not the Oprahs that need to give more, its the many other slave masters out their destroying the foundation of our country with their bad ethics.

    January 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  13. Kary

    Oprah. You are young, gifted and black. Nobody could take that away from you. Continue doing what you're doing. You are blessed. What God blessed no man cursed.

    January 19, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  14. Ok, Whatever!


    Beautifully said!

    January 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  15. the one

    This is an example of getting off your ass first she does not sit around talking if there somthing that needs done hey she does it.

    January 19, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  16. monkeymix


    January 19, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  17. The Flamingo Kid

    Oprah is a self-indulgent FREAK who in actuality gives VERY LITTLE of what she makes to charity. What she gives can be compared to you or I donating pennies.

    January 19, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  18. monkeymix

    Exactly, Flamingo Kid. I always say what she makes versus what she gives out is like me throwing a dollar in a bucket at Christmas time on my salary. Another key difference: I don't constantly brag about what I give.

    January 19, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  19. Professor Trollworth

    Oprah, go away. We hate you. Your network is packed with lame show after lame show, and the last 20 books you commanded people to read were boring.

    January 19, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  20. Vienna

    And what do you give yourself.....If i were you id rather shut up than attack someone who offers 20 pennies from 1b dollars coz althought the difference it makes could be seen as small its significant,...1 dollar for you its 1000 dollars for another, get off your computer and explore the real world

    January 19, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  21. Puckles

    Most of what Oprah gives is taken from her "Angel Network" – or whatever it is called – and is actually $ donated by the public! ALL of the things she "gives away" on her show were provided by companies who want to advertise on her show. Oprah gives very little out of her own wallet. She acts like she cares so much ab out suffering yet she owns several mansions. How many houses can one person live in? She is a major hypocrite!!

    January 19, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  22. The Flamingo Kid


    Get off YOUR computer and take an English grammar class. You have a low IQ and missed the point.

    January 19, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  23. Juhi

    I believe that when a person such as Oprah grants you an interview, you should respect her time. This article is very superficial and not full of depth as I would expect from a major news outlet. I guess I was expecting the quality of report to be on par with New York Times.

    January 19, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  24. Annie

    Typical case of reversed racism. An all black school – There are many white, coloured and indian underpriviledged children in South Africa. Why not help the underpriviledged children in USA.

    January 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  25. eric

    the world needs more Oprahs; people willing to put their money, time, and or celebrity to work for good purposes...

    January 19, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  26. Power Players Magazine

    Oprah is a God sent. People who hate on here hate themselves. If you can't put up shut up. Don't comment on her 10% charity and you put in 0%. Just live ,learn and prosper. But not from ignorance.

    Power Players Magazine
    Editor Troy T
    #FF @Powerplayersmag

    January 19, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  27. Norm

    Trolls just looooove to hate Oprah. Why do you care? If you don't like her, don't pay attention to anything she says or does. It's your life, your eyeballs, and your influence. Use your intelligence, wit, and focus to do something positive for the world.

    Personally, I've been inspired by Oprah and that has led me to do better in the world and better for myself. I don't need to critique her lifestyle to draw from her message. Her message is great.

    January 19, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  28. MJ Copps

    You barely hid your distaste for Oprah, which is too bad. She's an amazingly successful businesswoman and I believe she has a lot to teach us about success.

    January 19, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  29. Steven Ong

    What Opray had taught us is , we must be honest and open about everything , as nothing can be hidden actually but only a perception and insecurity , due to pride and fear of losing.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  30. kcm367

    If Oprah was born 2000 years ago, she could be the Oprah Christ, and Jesus became nothing.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:16 am |
  31. monkeymix

    You people who try and make Oprah seem like the messiah are hilarious. Oprah could not possibly care less about any of you yet you will defend her with everything you have. Awesome. She's obnoxious and so are you.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:22 am |
  32. Nick Palen

    All the money hasn't helped; she still as ignorant as ever. At least she won't be on welfare, food stamps or prison freebes. She needs to enroll in college and get educated so her self-canonization doesn't delude her since the narcissism has done its damage. Otherwise she'll become Gayle King. Work on an Indian reservation for a year, she'll find out what life is about – anonymity.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:47 am |
  33. Liz

    Oprah is smart, resilient, savvy, warm and generous. I like her. Congratulations O!

    January 20, 2012 at 3:27 am |
  34. OldCactus

    Oprah: Power, money and compassion, but you left off racism. She is as big a racist as she is a fat a$$ed woman.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  35. dinak

    And what exactly will these girls be able to do with their new wonderful education once they graduate? Africa is a conglomeration of despots and marxism. If Oprah really cared for these girls, she would be pushing for socio-economic reforms so that these girls would have U.S.-type opportunities (if we got rid of our liberal politicians and professors).

    January 20, 2012 at 4:22 am |
  36. OT

    This article sucked. This made print why? Poorly written with tmi about unimportant details of the meeting.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  37. SmarterthanU

    It's funny how you these celebrity 'philanthropist' and 'venture capitalist' are always helping people, but when the general public reaches out – no answer. Unless you are in their web, it's just another promo story about 'their' lives and how we should all just 'Keep on trying because I'm living proof!'.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  38. Proud

    Ms Winfrey, I am so proud of what you have achieved. These young ladies look so smart, elegant, charming and beautiful. I can imagine the joy you experience just being able to help these promising young ladies. You, indeed, must be one proud MAMA. Keep it up and may you enjoy every minute of being in their lives. God bless you for helping the underprivileged on my continent, Africa. As the saying goes ' educate a girl and you educate a nation'

    January 20, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  39. Rob Allan

    How about power, money and an egomaniac, the kind the world has never seen before or since.

    January 21, 2012 at 5:46 am |
  40. Eric

    We need more people like Oprah who plough back their hard earned riches to uplift poor communities

    January 21, 2012 at 6:07 am |
  41. /sigh

    If Oprah cared so much why is she so rich?
    She is more than willing to use media funds to give to the poor but the majority of her money never leaves those fat fingers.

    January 21, 2012 at 7:26 am |
  42. Mrs. Carter

    Great job Ms. Oprah on your first graduation,
    Your Grandmother is proud...and a commoner like me is proud to know –you dreamed, you acted, you gave some young girls a chance grow and dream of changing the world as they see fits.
    Well done!
    Thank you,
    Mrs. Carter

    January 21, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  43. Christine

    Oprah you are my role model for all the women out there. The girls must have really made you proud.

    January 22, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  44. love self respect

    Oprah, its good that you are helping girls, but the fact of the matter is...boys are having problems too. Read In A Different Voice, The Birth of Pleasure, and The Deepening Darkness: Patriarchy, Resistance, and Democracy's Future. And watch mitworld DOT mit DOT edu/video/729 . OUTSTANDING that you teach people to respect their own bodies and their own selves. but don't limit to just women. men are struggling in patriarchy also. mitworld video will explain better than i can. i don't live there, but i suspect this is an issue there also.

    January 22, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  45. masongo

    As usual sticking on encouraging people that they are better than they think.Not easy to give up due to what we receive from you>Keep it up

    January 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  46. zedana01

    very sad situation See the elephant is dying and die


    January 26, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  47. Tseko Mofokeng

    South Africans are saying to you and your fellow Americans:' Thank you very much, guys'.

    February 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  48. Melissa

    Good for her. At least she's letting her money do some good work. But...what's wrong with itsteng up scholarship programs for kids right here in the US? And what's her stand on vouchers so kids in the cities can choose their own schools?

    March 31, 2012 at 6:21 am |
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