Beyoncé, Tyler Perry, Aretha Franklin, Will Smith and Alicia Keys were among the celebrities who took the stage Tuesday night to honor Oprah Winfrey during the taping of a special farewell tribute to air next week.
They weren’t alone at Chicago’s United Center. An estimated 20,000 friends, fans and famous folk watched a star-studded celebration for the Queen of Daytime, whose reign ends May 25 when the final episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” airs. Last night’s spectacular event will be broadcast May 23 and 24.
Although it’s a well-documented fact that Oprah doesn’t like surprises, when Oscar winner Tom Hanks welcomed her to the event, she responded that she was “taking it all in,” and there was quite a lot to absorb.
Appearances by Halle Berry, Beyoncé and Queen Latifah highlighted the night. Also, Patti LaBelle performed “Over the Rainbow” with Josh Groban, but that was only the first half of the show. In the second half, Stevie Wonder and Jamie Foxx serenaded Oprah with Stevie’s hit “Isn’t She Lovely,” and Alicia Keys teamed up with Maya Angelou to offer an original poem.
S2S Publisher Jamie Foster Brown was in attendance and described the evening as “incredible,” but that’s not just because of the Hollywood heavyweights who attended; there were also some very stirring moments that emphasized how Oprah has given back to the community throughout the years.
Noting that nearly 65,000 students have been able to attend school because of Oprah, 415 men of Morehouse College arrived on the scene to thank Oprah for helping them earn an education.
“OMG. All the 415 Morehouse men she put thru college walking on… Awesome,” wrote Jamie. “You should see these men,” she added encouraging everyone to tune in to the shows next week. “Everyone has to see these shows.”
John Legend appeared via satellite to announce that 25 school libraries would be opened in Oprah’s name. In addition, 25,000 oak trees would be planted around the nation in honor of Oprah.
Gayle King, Usher, Madonna, Jerry Seinfeld and Michael Jordan all spoke a few words about Oprah, as did Stedman Graham, Oprah’s longtime boyfriend who said, “I love you for making a difference in my life, Sweetheart."
At the close of the event, Oprah graced the stage to thank her celebrity guests and the audience for the tribute.
“Thank you for taking me to a place that feels beyond joyous,” Oprah said. “It feels like the rapture.”
See some of Jamie’s cell-phone photos from the event, below.
-Tracy L. Scott