I hope everyone enjoyed watching Oprah Winfrey receive the Cecil B. DeMille award for outstanding achievement in the world of entertainment at last night's Golden Globe Awards. Her speech was amazing. Her message was amazing. None of this is a surprise. Once you get to a point where you’re known world-wide by your first name, you’re surely amazing – and we can all agree that Oprah is the right kind of amazing.
Except, every time I see Oprah Winfrey on television having an amazing moment (which is all the time), it gives me a knot in my stomach - a feeling of lost opportunity. It’s not the type of regret where you beat yourself up for not taking that job, or championing that cause. It’s not about failure to succeed or reach my full potential. It’s about hugs. Yup, that’s right. Hugs.
Reese Witherspoon (another remarkable woman) introduced Oprah. She punctuated her introduction with the amazingness of Oprah’s hugs:
“Oprah’s hugs could end war, solve world peace. It’s like your oldest, dearest friend has just seen you after the longest journey of your life. It’s that good. When she hugs you, it’s the greatest thing, ever.”
Witherspoon's beautiful words made my stomach sink. Must I constantly be reminded of one of the best/worst days of my life?
April 26, 2004. I was in New York City for a conference with my best friend, Adrienne and my daughter, Casey. Sean “P. Diddy” Combs was premiering the revival of A Raisin in the Sun, a play originally written by Lorraine Hansberry and inspired by the Langston Hughes poem “Harlem” also known as “A Dream Deferred.” The 1961 film version had starred Sidney Poitier, the first black man to win an Academy Award (Lilies in the Field, 1963). I wanted desperately to see the play.
I walked up to the box office of the Royale Theater.
“Can I get three tickets for Monday night’s production of A Raisin in the Sun?” The man studied me for a full minute. I continued. “It’s my favorite movie (which it was) and I’m only in town till Tuesday morning.” His silence was killing me. I turned to walk away.
“Wait. I got three tickets. They don’t have a price, but I’ll give ‘em to you for twenty-five bucks each.”
Sold. I handed the man seventy-five dollars in cash and took my tickets. At this point, I had no idea I had been ‘gifted’ tickets for an invitation-only, celebrity-premier, black-tie event.
Sean Combs, Audra McDonald, Phylicia Rashad were just a few celebrities on the stage. Impressive as that was, it paled compared to the celebrities sitting around us. Anyone who was anyone had been invited, people like Beyoncé, Jay Z, Sugar Ray Leonard, Lou Diamond Philips, a bunch of rappers (whose names I’ve forgotten, but my daughter probably still remembers) -and us.
As the lights dimmed, an excited murmur shifted through the crowd. At the last-minute Oprah was being ushered into the front row! Oprah! Oh my God! This is amazing!!
Fast forward to the end of the show. We had already experienced a lovely, star-struck intermission where I had expressed to P. Diddy’s mother and sister (in the ladies’ room) how happy I was to be here, witnessing Sean’s rendition on the forty-five-year anniversary of the play’s original Chicago premiere. We had managed to pose like the famous, not gawk, act natural. Now the production was over, and we were in a very slow push of people leaving the theater.
I suddenly realize what’s holding us up. We’re in the line of people greeting Oprah – and she is hugging everyone!
“Act cool,” I say to myself.
As Oprah leans forward to bear-hug the woman in front of me, her face is so close that I can gaze into her eyes, so close I can see the perfection of her skin – the glow of her aura. She gives me her most radiant smile. I smile back and then I say – wait for it, “I’m just trying to get around you to get our jackets?”
My daughter and my best friend have never forgiven me. Nor should they. It’s a failure I will carry with me for the rest of my life. As wonderful as last night’s award ceremony was for Oprah (and the world at large), it was a little painful for me. Just sayin’. Now you know.