— It was an event with thousands of women — and just a few men — out of their seats and on their feet dancing, singing, clapping — they were at the hottest show in town: Oprah.
The $185-a-seat tickets completely sold out in a few hours, and those who made the pilgrimage to see talk show queen Oprah Winfrey speak in Philadelphia were in like-minded company.
Emerging into what looked like a cross between a religious revival and a rock concert, Winfrey stepped out of her car at the Philadelphia show to find fans lined up along the red carpet to greet her, overjoyed to be in her presence and hungry to hear her words.
The only one taken aback by the event's success seemed to be Winfrey herself.
"I will honestly tell you it's hard for me to take that in, and when it happens as I'm pulling up and I see it happening — it's really hard to take that in," Winfrey told Good Morning America's Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview.
Living Your Best Life
But on stage, Winfrey met the crowd with her usual enthusiasm.
"Philadelphia! Hello girls! You look good!" Winfrey said to her fans. Next, came her trademark sass.
"I love the fact that you're here, you paid $185 dollars and some people more — and you don't even know why you're here," the talk show queen joked. Winfrey has been traveling the country on her four-city "Live Your Best Life" tour, which wound up this past weekend in Philadelphia.
"You came because obviously you saw us talking about or advertising for living your best life," Winfrey said. "And this is a session, a sharing session where I am here to offer myself to you and everything that I have come to know to be true in life."
Her friends, including best pal Gayle King, tease her about the attention she receives from fans.
"One time we were going someplace in Racine, Wisconsin, and my friend Gayle was with me and we're pulling up and there's this big, long line and there's traffic and I was getting there and all these people are out, and Gayle turned to me and she goes, 'Who else is coming?'" Winfrey said laughing. "I go, it's just me. She goes 'They're all here to see you? What else is going on?' "
Now, it's a running joke.
"So it's like that for my friends and for me — I'm like, 'is something happening? Is something happening here?'" Winfrey said. "It's hard for me to wrap my brain around it."
Last September, Winfrey became the first recipient of the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, at the 54th Annual Prime-Time Emmy Awards.
"I got up on the stage and I was standing there, and everybody then stood up," she said. "I got a standing ovation at the Humanitarian Award. And just for a moment — I mean it was like a flicker, I went, 'Oh, this is what fame is. This is fame!' "
And at that point, looking out at the applauding crowd, Winfrey almost lost it.
"There was just a flicker of a moment, standing at the Humanitarian Awards when I looked out, and really it was so overwhelming for me, I thought I was going to go into the ugly-cry, you know," she said. "So then I had to pull it in — so then I had to remove myself from there — like don't take that in."
She walked off the stage with Tom Hanks, still in disbelief.
"I turned and I looked back just to think did that really happen?" Winfrey said."Did that really happen? Yeah! Yeah! That must be what being famous is."
Common Bond Among Fans
Winfrey said one of the things that makes her feel best about her work is the way her fans range across various ages and races. But they all share a common bond.
"This is a thing that I am most proud of is that there are all different ages and all different colors and all different socio-economic backgrounds," Winfrey said. "And the common bond, I think is validation," she said.
Winfrey says mothers often have difficulty realizing how important they are to the success of America.
"I think women play themselves so small as mothers in this country. They say 'Oh, I'm just a stay-at-home mom.' Well what I try to do is to say that is the most powerful job on earth that anybody is ever going to have," she said.
Winfrey, who discontinued her popular book club a year ago, is now bringing it back, with the literary classic East of Eden by John Steinbeck as the latest book. Winfrey says she is passionate about reading.
"If you ever, ever hear me speak — reading saved my life," Winfrey said. "It changed who I believed I could be."
This past Christmas, she discovered a new passion after visiting children in Africa.
"Africa was a change-your-life moment, an ah-ha moment for me, when I was there with the children," Winfrey said. "I went there to do one thing, and it became something else."
The original plan was to create a nice Christmas for some of the children there, but it has become much more.
"What happened was I was changed in the moment. I realized — Ohhh!" Winfrey said. "This is why I was born. I was born to now be the voice for these children. I don't have any kids of my own, but these will be my kids. When I looked into their faces, there was my face."