CHICAGO – There were no free cars or vacations. No favorite things or makeovers. No celebrity guests on stage – though there were plenty in the audience.
The finale of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, taped Tuesday and aired Wednesday, was all about the one thing that made her a billion-dollar success: the unique connection she made with millions of viewers for 25 years. In what she called her “love letter” to fans, she made clear that to her, all those TV friendships went both ways.
“Something in me connected with each of you in a way that allowed me to see myself in you and you in me,” Winfrey said. “I listened and grew, and I know you grew along with me.”
Winfrey was the only person on stage with little background music and short flashback clips. The show went to commercials with “Twenty-Five Years,” a soft song that musician Paul Simon wrote and recorded for her.
She called fans her “safe harbor” and became teary eyed when reflecting on her upbringing in rural Mississippi.
“It is no coincidence that a lonely little girl,” Winfrey said, choking up, “who felt not a lot of love, even though my parents and grandparents did the best they could, it is no coincidence that I grew up to feel a genuine kindness, affection, trust and validation from millions of you all over the world.”
Winfrey told viewers that sometimes she was a teacher, but more often her viewers instructed her. She called Wednesday’s episode her “last class from this stage.”
At one point she thanked viewers for sharing her “yellow brick road of blessings” – something she said back in November 2009, when she announced that she would end her show. The program gave rise to a media empire, including a magazine and Winfrey’s own cable network, which she launched in January.
Wednesday’s show was the last piece of a months-long sendoff, but as the hour wrapped up, Winfrey stopped short of saying farewell.
“I won’t say goodbye. I’ll just say, until we meet again,” she said.