We've somehow survived 10 years without 'Oprah.' What the TV icon has said about her show

Erin Jensen

Tuesday marks a decade since "The Oprah Winfrey Show" departed. In 4,561 episodes over 25 years, the show's host addressed serious topics – racism, AIDS and sexual abuse – and provided lighthearted moments from celebrity interviews and the comedy from cross-country road tripping with your best friend. 

Winfrey gifted lucky audiences extravagant gifts on her "Favorite Things" episodes and also gave viewers the courage to live their most authentic lives. Comedian Wanda Sykes shared with USA TODAY in 2020 how she hoped the talk show host's exploration of homosexuality and acceptance of gay people would make it easier for her parents to accept her sexuality, as Winfrey was "pretty much the law. So when she was doing these coming-out episodes and being accepting, I was like, 'OK, well maybe this is gonna help,'" Sykes said. 

Before walking off her show's Chicago set for a final time, Winfrey told viewers: "Gratitude is the single greatest treasure I will take with me from this experience. The opportunity to have done this work, to be embraced by all of you who watched, is one of the greatest honors any human being could have."

In honor of the anniversary of her final show, we've gathered Winfrey's remembrances of some of the show's biggest moments, her favorite guest and more. 

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The 'real reason' her show ended

Winfrey got choked up on when announcing the the end of her talk show to viewers in November 2009. "These years with you, our viewers, have enriched my life beyond all measure," she said with tears in her eyes. She explained, "After much prayer and months of careful thought" that her show would end with the following season. "Here is the real reason: I love this show, this show has been my life, and I love it enough to know when it's time to say goodbye. Twenty-five years feels right in my bones, and it feels right in my spirit. It's the perfect number, the exact right time."

In a 2017 interview with Vogue, she opened up about contemplating the show's end in 2006. 

“I started thinking about the times: where we were, would I be able to take it digital," she told the fashion publication. "People were moving into ‘I want to be able to watch it when I want to watch it,’ and the four o’clock hour was no longer must-see television. I could feel that happening with the audience. Their behaviors were shifting, and the media world was changing. I had written something in my journals years before: ‘I never want to stay too long in the ring so I end up punch-drunk.’ I didn’t want people saying, 'She shoulda quit that show three years ago!’"

Her favorite guest (who is NOT a celeb)

Winfrey crowned Zimbabwe native Tererai Trent her favorite guest. A child bride at 11, Trent eventually moved to the states, got out of her abusive marriage and achieved her dream of earning a PhD. 

"(She) symbolizes everything I believe 'The Oprah Show' stands for," said Winfrey. "Her story encapsulates the essence of every lesson we've shared over the past 25 years: hope, your thoughts create your reality, gratitude...it doesn't matter where you come from. She proves you can keep reaching for your dreams, that one person can make a difference in the world — and above all, you have the power."

Winfrey revealed to BFF Gayle King in a 2009 chat that most of her favorite episodes "are shows that involve normal, ordinary people, who have through their perseverance, through their dedication, commitment, stamina, heart have done extraordinary things and been able to be triumphant in their lives."

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"He was in love. He was very happy about it. He was on a show. He knew me. He came to play. That was it," she said in 2012. "For years, I think he thought I'd released the tape to all of these people... People just played that tape all over the world. I thought it was an expression of delightful exuberance and being in love, and any woman, anywhere, in any hut, in any mansion, any hovel and any home, would be really thrilled to have her man jump on a sofa, run around a room, whatever, proclaiming his love for her."

The 'You get a car!' episode

Winfrey opened up about the time she surprised her entire audience with cars in a 2004 episode in a 2015 interview with Entertainment Tonight.  

"I was saying that because people were screaming so loudly they didn't know what was going on," the host told the outlet. "Prior to that moment, I had said, 'Open up your boxes. One person has a key.' So when I looked at the faces of the audience, they go, 'But I have a key... but she has a key.' So, that's why I said, 'You get a car! You get a car!' to try to clarify, because they all looked so confused. Everybody gets a car!"

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Oprah Winfrey shows off weight loss in the early days of her daytime program, on Nov. 15, 1988.

What she misses the most 

During her May 13 appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Winfrey said she missed being connected to her audience.

"I always felt like I was a surrogate viewer, and that I was there representing the audience. So many times I would ask questions – particularly of celebrities that I didn't care about the answer, but I was the stand-in, the surrogate for the audience. So I really missed the camaraderie with the audience, because, as you know, after every show I'd sit and I'd talk to the audience, and that's where a lot of our ideas came from."

What Winfrey doesn't miss? Her makeover shows and having to repeatedly ask about beauty products. "There wasn't another way I could do that and be authentic with myself, and so I thought Yep, time to start thinking about moving in another direction."