It was early in March when Oprah's Lifeclass Tour went on sale. Not having the OWN channel, I hadn't watched her Lifeclass series, but had heard phenomenal testimonials via Facebook and Twitter. So when news spread about her coming to Toronto, I didn't hesitate. I bought my executive ticket in nanoseconds, affording me the second best seating level at the Toronto Convention Centre. With Deepak Chopra, Iyanla Vanzant, Tony Robbins and Bishop T.D. Jakes also on the tour, the only people missing from this iconic panel I surmised, were John Lennon and Gandhi.
I waited with bated breath for the date to arrive. I was certain that this was going to be a life-altering experience -- at the very least, bucket list territory.
Le Line, She is Long
It's April 16. My ticket says the show starts at 4 p.m., so I arrive by 3:15 p.m. and get dropped off two blocks away from the convention centre due to bumper-to-bumper Oprah pandemonium. I walk within optical distance from the centre and my mind is blown to smithereens. I was sure there would be a steady but short line trickling in, but this was a line down from the entrance, around the corner, down eight blocks, turn the corner, up a hill, walk eight more blocks; it was seemingly never ending. Being a somewhat of a Good Samaritan, I walk intently towards the back of the line, but ended up sneaking in half way, not wanting to go to the tail end, which, let's face it, was clearly located in another province. Yes, Oprah, I butted in line, and received stink eye from several of your minions, but it had to be done
I get to my seat which is 28 rows back and sit down just as Deepak Chopra takes the stage. I can see him from afar, but opt to watch the Orwellian jumbo screens like the 8,000-plus people who are seated behind me. Despite the room thrumming with unsettledness, I take my pen and pad out and start taking notes while alternatively shushing adults into quiet submission -- my worst pet peeve being the sound of "whispering." Deepak speaks in his soothing, dulcet tone about "cosmic identity" and "awareness." After a while, words like "infinite," "cells," "cosmic," and "loving compassion" all seem to blend together into a sweet broth, as I find myself falling into a hypnotic state from his lullaby-like speech, thinking about how much he reminds me of my therapist.
The song "Now That We've Found Love" comes over the sound system and Iyanla is dancing in the aisles from the back of the room. To put it mildly, this crowd of 99 per cent women are going tits to the wind, CRAZY CAKES dancing, singing along, hands waving in the air. Ms. Vanzant slowly makes her way up to the stage, singing the song in parts over and over; "Now, that we've found love, what are we gonna do, uh-huh, that's right, c'mon To-Ron-To SING!"
She looks armed to the teeth with "aha moment" fodder as she pats her perspiring face with a towel. Her presence is powerful. I'm scribbling notes in what can only be described as the hand writing of an 80-year-old stroke victim, taking in all of her bon mots and REALNESS. She is a mixture of Judge Judy and James Brown. I'm nodding. I'm listening. It resonates.
Tony Robbins flies out onto the stage with his Madonna-like headset. At 6'7 he is a mammoth presence -- his jaw line is the size of my torso. He is tanned and holllly crap, since when is Tony Robbins so HOOOOOT!? His ultra-white veneers, which resemble small buildings, sparkle all the way out to the last row. Tony Robbins is a breath mint on amphetamines and I am perma-smitten by his everything.
He's clapping! We're clapping back.
He's chanting! We're chanting back.
He is pure energy and persuasion. Everything he says I am agreeing with. He gets us to go through exercises about how we approach others in certain scenarios. How our breathing, our body language, and our vocal tendencies all change. We jump up and down like kids because he says, "celebrating shouldn't just be for children." I'm doing improv, I'm hugging my neighbours and yelling "Yes!" at the top of my lungs. I momentarily turn into Samantha Jones from Sex and the City and wonder what else this beast with hands the size of fighter jets can get me to do?
I miss Bishop T.D. Jakes in favour of some hot coffee and a bathroom break. My new quest is to get to front row, as I have already scoped out two empty seats that have yet to be filled, despite being told that they are for Oprah's guests for the live broadcast. With a half hour to show time, I imbue Tony Robbins advice that change can't be all "hemming and hawing," but instead has to be "radical and immediate." I beeline to the front row after Jakes is finished calling myself a "seat filler" and wait with knees-a-knockin' for the most gilded icon alive to grace us all. Oprah comes out and I know I'm safe in my seat. She is absolute luminosity, looking gorgeous in an emerald green dress as she humbly greets this frenetic crowd of Canadians. To the right of me is a beautiful young woman who seems like she's going into stage 4 hypothermia, teeth-a-chattering, lips-o-vibrating, tears streaming down her face. Right next to me is a woman who has her hands tightly clasped around her mouth with tears in her eyes, as if she is watching a live childbirth. I am now witnessing what it's like to be Oprah; or rather what it's like to be within three feet of her, and from my vista -- it's nothing short of being in the presence of a deity.
TO BE CONTINUED