Being an Oprah Winfrey fan is not just a passing fad for Miranda Clark. It has become a religion, literally.
She and three friends created Oprahology several years ago after bonding over their admiration of the day-time host. Oprahology views Winfrey as its idol and goddess, Clark said.
The group celebrates Winfrey's birthday every Jan. 29 with a sheet cake with the words "Happy Birthday, Oprah" written on the icing. The members perform an original song and dance that they wrote and choreographed especially for the megastar.
"I see her as an icon, larger than life," Clark, 30, a Detroit-based artist, said. "She's a self-made person. She's so independent and strong and brilliant."
While Clark understands that some people might find the religion strange, she said many other Winfrey fans would stand behind the religion.
"People tend to tense up with the word, 'religion,' but I know a lot of people feel this way about her," Clark said.
Before the skeptics' eyes begin to roll, some experts argue Clark is onto something,.
Yale professor Kathryn Lofton this year wrote "Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon," a book that explores the talk-show host's mantra of self-love and self-worth as a working religion.
Whenever Clark travels, she carries the paperback biography, "Oprah! Up Close and Down Home." Just like a Bible, Torah or Koran for some, Clark said the book brings her comfort and acts as a good luck charm.
Clark even sent a wedding invitation to Winfrey. While the day-time host did not RSVP, she is not offended. Clark understands that her goddess is busy, especially these days.
Winfrey's farewell show is an end of an era for many, and, while fans will still be able to catch her on her new network, OWN, her most devout followers say it won't be the same without Winfrey in their living rooms to unwind the day's events.
"It most certainly is part of their identities and will be a loss," said Dr. Jeff Brown, Harvard psychologist and co-author of "The Winner's Brain." "People wouldn't likely experience withdrawal in an addiction sense, but rather feel a bona fide absence of a significant person in their lives. "
Brown noted that Winfrey's producers have done an excellent job the past few months in emphasizing the closure between Winfrey and her audience by reviewing their lives together.
"Oprah's persona exudes hope, confidence, power and the ability to influence others for the good," Brown said. "Loyal viewers have likely lived vicariously through Oprah and will now need to find ways of making those experiences their own reality."
Dr. Martin Binks, clinical director and CEO of Binks Behavioral Health PLLC, said this will not be the first time that a part of the population might be overly attached to a television personality.
Binks called Winfrey a pseudo-fictional character. While he noted that her TV persona is likely genuine, there is always a "gray area" between the character played and the relationship idea that she shows her audience.
"People can become very emotionally attached to these types of characters on TV and the ideal version of themselves presented on TV coupled with the seemingly very personal relationship they create with viewers can lead to the formation of very strong feelings of attachment with the average person watching," Binks said.