Oprah Winfrey kicked off her nationwide wellness tour at the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Jan. 4, with the message: All humans are instinctively happy and collaborative, trusting and respectful.
“Our desires are the same,” she told a sold-out audience of more than 15,000. “We want health. We want abundance. We want to be prosperous for ourselves and our families. We want to be connected … and we want to be uplifted in our lives.”
A daylong event with elements of a health seminar, celebrity fan fest, political campaign and church revival, Oprah’s "2020 Vision: Your Life In Focus" began a nine-city run at the BB&T Center, highlighted by a remarkably candid Q&A with singer-actor Lady Gaga and a rousing appearance by dancer-actor Julianne Hough.
The audience was probably 90% female, in a rainbow of colors and ages, and the energy in the packed arena was palpable.
“Oprah has been my main drive. She’s inspirational, and I listen to her podcast every day,” said Brie Mazin, a Boynton Beach yoga instructor and mother of three young children, who attended with friend Rachel Shapiro. “Everything is so positive, and she has changed our world. There is no better way to start the new year than with her and her vision.”
Here are some of the things that made Jan. 4 at the BB&T Center with Oprah Winfrey unique:
Lady Gaga opens up
Arriving onstage in all black, except for long, flamingo-hued hair, pop star and actor Lady Gaga was a warm, sassy and riveting presence in a vividly honest behind-the-music Q&A. Seated beside Winfrey in chairs placed a few feet from each other on a massive stage, Gaga spoke about being raped repeatedly at age 19 (by a man she declines to name) and the resulting mental turmoil that manifested in excruciating and near constant pain from fibromyalgia.
Ongoing psychiatric therapy and medication, as well as good friends, have allowed her to take control of her life, she said. And, in the end, hers is a message of empowerment: “I believe all things were supposed to happen. Because God was saying to me, ‘I am going to show you pain and then you are going to help people in pain.’”
Her session ran more than an hour and was interrupted by applause several times, including her call for mental health professionals on staff at every school and for mental health to be a course taught to students.
Winfrey steered clear of political statements but did graze the subject while discussing the decision-making process in coming up with a name for Oprah’s tour.
“We did talk about Oprah 2020. That has a nice ring to it, I think,” she said, as the tagline appeared on a large video screen and applause drowned her out. “And then, we knew for sure, that people might get, uhhhh, the wrong idea. If we were talking about something other than wellness.”
Laughter and louder applause rocked the arena.
“In fact, 2020 is an important year for so many reasons. Because there are people who would very much like to highlight all of the differences and the divide that we are experiencing in our country. But I was saying to reporters yesterday, I said, ‘You’re going to come to this room and you’re going to see people from red states and blue states and purple states and no states and out of states and out of town and out of the country and everybody is going to be in agreement on one thing. That we all want to get better in our lives!” More applause.
Gospel-music star Tamela Mann testified about her battle with weight issues and her work with WW in losing 50 pounds. Mann performed the iconic song “Take Me to the King,” a personal favorite of Winfrey’s, and turned it into an exalted visit to the mountaintop that drew a standing ovation.
Looking for inspiration
Caroline Lofton, of Fort Lauderdale, and friend Char Davis, a Miami native, said they came to the BB&T Center to be inspired as 2020 begins.
“I’m hoping to get a feeling of empowerment … I believe that God puts people in your life to inspire you,” Lofton said. “When you experience things and you’re successful with it, it is your job to go out an tell others about it to inspire them, to encourage them.”
A parishioner at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Lofton said she leans on her faith while watching the recent intermingling of religion, politics and current events.
“You’ve got to hope and trust and believe that people are going to do the right thing, for everybody,” she said. “And know that if you are a politician, that you are for the people, not for yourself. And you’re going to do your best to make sure that everybody is comfortable, everybody is safe and secure. Not an ego trip.”
Mother and daughter
Adelia Luca, of Coconut Creek, came to the BB&T Center with her 13-year-old daughter, Delyla, an eighth-grader at SLAM Boca Raton charter school. Adelia, who moved to the United States from Brazil two decades ago, described Winfrey as an American icon.
“I love Oprah. I can’t believe she’s here and I can see her in person. She’s so inspirational. I watch her shows. I record them,” Adelia said. “Seeing her here feels so, like, it’s not real, and I want to embrace everything that she inspires in us here.”
Delyla admitted she wasn’t sure about going to see someone she only knew through her mom’s TV watching.
“The fact that she came from nothing and is, like, a multimillionaire, and she did this all by herself, is great,” Delyla said. “Now that I’m here, I’m happy that I came. It made me feel good. It made me feel like I can do whatever I put my mind to.”
Of course, Oprah’s best friend, Gayle King, was in the audience. Seated nearby was Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, who got several personal shout-outs from Winfrey. Also in the audience were fashion icon Iris Apfel; Adrienne Bosh, wife of former Miami Heat star Chris Bosh; Instagram fashion arbiter Eva Chen; Telemundo host and actor Adamari López and telenovela star actor Alicia Machado.
A few good men
The crowd was largely female, and Winfrey saluted the few “good men” in the audience by asking them to stand for a round of applause. Anticipating the demographic split, the BB&T Center converted a majority of the men’s restrooms for female users. Even so, at the height of the event, just after lunch, one of the few men’s rooms available on the first level was empty. It was a remarkable sight.