Two days ago I was glammed up and shaking Oprah Winfrey’s hand. Today, I’m wearing leggings and a sweater and grocery shopping at WalMart. I love that about life. You just never know.
Here’s what happened on Thursday. Shari and I packed our bags and went to the lobby to wait for our limo along with the other folks from the show. It was like the last day of summer camp when everyone stands around talking, exchanging email addresses, taking photos. Here’s a group shot with half our group and one of me with the hot Russian door man.
The limos were an hour late, which turned out to be a good thing because it gave us all more time to swap stories. We were all a little nervous, too, unsure of how our moment in the spotlight would unfold.
The limos arrived and Shari and I shared a ride with four other people, one of whom was Michael the head stylist. Here’s a photo of Michael, Jahi and I (click on the photo to make it bigger). I definitely had the best seat in the limo. Jahi lost a lot of weight and is now a competitive body builder. Michael saw me naked and still has a smile on his face.
At Harpo, the producers were in full “show mode.” I was led right to the makeup chairs where a very nice, very tall, thin, beautiful woman worked magic on my face. I managed to get some good makeup tips before I was handed off to the hair lady. She’d touched up my hair the day before so we were already BFF. She, too, worked magic and made my curly hair oh so straight. The producers wanted me glammed out which meant bangs in my eyes. I hate hair in my eyes. It itches and pokes my eyeballs, not to mention I can’t see much. But I was willing to sacrifice for Oprah.
When that was done, a few of us went to final rehearsal. There were a lot more people in the studio than were there the day before. Camera guys, sound people, directors everywhere. Kelly, Jahi and I were the second segment of the show. We quickly ran through rehearsal in our street clothes, but Kelly and I had on the shoes we’d be wearing. Nothing screams redneck quite like the crop sweats and t-shirt I was wearing with $200 suede boots.
After rehearsal, I went to the changing room where Michael helped me get dressed. I thought he was my friend until he and Lisa chose big gold hoop earrings as the accessory. My earlobes still haven’t forgiven me.
After I was dressed, PP&BFF went over the script with me. She told me, “Oprah might ask this question and so you might want to say this, but then, she might ask you something completely different and in that case you’re on your own.” Great. I could barely remember my name at that point, let alone the answer to a question I might get asked. I started pacing a little, memorizing the following: “I can tie my shoes, cross my legs, fit in airplane seats, I work out five to six days a week.” I figured if I could remember the highlights, I was good to go.
I went back to the dressing area to hang out with some of the other folks. Shari had been taken to the green room along with a few other friends, trainers and SOs that had accompanied other guests. I talked to Artie and Melissa and Cathi and Nancy. We were all in a zone, trying to deal with the unknown.
We were taping the show at 1:30. At 12:45, Kelly, Barbara, Mandy and I got called back to the stage. The director made a change. We weren’t going to walk out and sit between Bob Greene and Oprah. He decided it would be better if we stood there and chatted. Kelly was thrilled because she was sewn into a little green dress that had the possibility of showing the world a little too much Kelly. I was worried because I didn’t know what to do with my hands. At least when I’m sitting I can fold them in my lap. I’m a hand talker. I fling my hands everywhere when I’m talking. Dammmmit. I was so cool up til then.
After showing us our new marks, they whisked us off stage because the audience was starting to file in. They didn’t want them to see us. I started pacing again. The audio lady came over and hooked up my microphone on to my bra and wired it under my arm to the top of my shirt. As I said before, modesty gets you nowhere in television. I did a quick sound check and she left me to hook up another guest.
1:15. Time to get lined up. Kelly, Barbara, Mandy and I were brought to the hallway outside the back of the studio. Hair and makeup people kept walking by, fussing with our faces and hair. Then I heard a producer say, “Oprah’s walking.” She doesn’t want to see guests before the show because it interferes with the spontaneity of the meeting on stage. We were then led to the another part of the hall and watched the show on monitors. Nancy was first. Then David. I couldn’t listen to David’s story because it was so heartbreaking. I had tears in my eyes. The makeup artist saw me and whispered, “You can’t cry!” So I paced the floor and blocked out David’s voice.
A producer took Kelly and me backstage. I was nervous, but not overwhelmingly so. That surprised me. Lisa had told me to stand tall, like a string was pulling me up straight. I was tall and beautiful in that moment. Kelly went out on stage and did her thing. I got on my mark. They started my montage. I watched 10 seconds of it and had to look away. I heard my voice talking about how I felt when I was 300 pounds and I saw the photos of me and I got sad and I knew I couldn’t take that person out on stage with me. I had to be positive. I looked away. The guys behind stage kept looking at the monitor and then at me, their faces skewed in disbelief. Yes, I thought. That was me. This is me. We’re the same person inside, just not on the outside.
Then I heard Oprah say something like, “Come on out, Lynn, and show us what you look like now.”
And so I did.
I walked out, the crowd clapped and cheered, I smiled and waved a little (at least I think I did) and then I hugged Bob Greene. Then there was Oprah. Oprah Winfrey. She shook my hand and gave me a hug and when I looked in her eyes, I was calm. She has the most soulful, calming eyes. I knew that anything I said up on stage, she would hear. I knew she was in the moment, not thinking about what she was going to do after the show. She was there. Right there. And I was able to answer her questions as though I were talking to her at my dining room table. Before I knew it, the segment ended and the director led me to my seat.
I did it. I let out a huge breath. Some women in the audience gave me smiles and thumbs up. A man behind me said I looked fabulous. Fabulous? I was just so happy to be sitting down and breathing again that I hadn’t thought about what I looked like up there. I can’t wait to see the actual show.
After the final interview, we were all called up on stage for the last segment. Standing there, looking out at the audience, I felt empowered. I thought, ‘I’ve lost a lot of weight. I really worked hard for this moment.’ While I didn’t lose weight for that moment, I finally appreciated and understood what I’d done the last (nearly) three years.
Back in the production area, we were all relaxed and happy and so full of joy and energy. So were the producers. Adrenaline was everywhere. My flight home was changed since taping ran long and I was scheduled to fly out at 8:00 rather than 5:00. Shari and I shared a limo to the airport with David, his trainer Chris (see photo), Mandy, Barb, Donna, Mandy and a few of their friends. I didn’t care that it would take an hour to get to O’Hare. I wasn’t driving and I got more face time with some amazing people.
At the airport, we all said good bye. Shari’s flight didn’t leave until the next morning, so the driver took her to her hotel and I was alone at O’Hare. I repacked my bags, changed my clothes in the ladies room, and headed to the kiosk to get a boarding pass. A very nice woman from Ukraine helped me, but when she asked for my ID and I gave it to her, she looked concerned. Oh no! I thought. This makeover makes me look nothing like my ID! I explained to her that I’d just been on the Oprah show and, well, you’d think I’d just met Jesus himself. She was all about Oprah and we laughed and talked like we were old friends.
Then I went through security. I was prepared to be questioned and I was, but again, the guy thought my story was just outrageous enough to be true and let me through. It was smooth sailing from there.
My daughter picked me up at the airport and I stayed with her Thursday night so I could pick up Shari the next day. Friday morning, I washed out the straight hair, stuffed my curly hair into my new Oprah ball cap, and drove home. The French manicure is fading, but I still have a million memories and stories and new good friends.
I met Oprah Winfrey. I also met 20 other amazing people who walk a similar walk as me. I slayed dragons and took chances and am today not the same person who boarded that plane to Chicago on Monday.
I know this was long and I thank you for getting to the end of this blog. As I told you all last time, I couldn’t have done this without your support. Thank you so very much.
I know it’s not always easy, but don’t you just love the way life unfolds sometimes?