‘How do you shift the paradigm?’: Oprah Winfrey shares her philosophy for healthy living
Thousands flock to MACC to hear from former talk show host
KAHULUI–Oprah Winfrey vividly remembers the time a man came on her talk show and revealed in front of his wife that he’d gotten his mistress pregnant. Winfrey could feel the wife’s grief and humiliation, and she resolved it would “never happen” on her show again.
“I went to the producers, and I said, ‘We are going to have to find the higher ground,’ “ Winfrey recalled Monday before a crowd at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. “We’re going to have to find a way to still remain competitive and not do the KKK and not doing people who are blasting each other’s lives out on television in such a way that it causes them pain.”
Winfrey’s approach to TV, life and philanthropy kept her No. 1-rated show running for 25 years and won her countless followers who subscribed to her brand of inspirational programming.
On Monday, more than 5,000 people spilled across the center’s lawn, bleachers and hallways to hear from Winfrey as she discussed “How to Live Your Best Life.” It was Winfrey’s first public speaking appearance on Maui since the award-winning, billionaire talk show host first purchased land in Hana in 2002. She also has a sprawling ranch and organic farm in Kula.
People wanting to attend the free event had to make an account on Sharecare, a health-monitoring program, in order to be entered in a sweepstakes to win tickets. Insurance provider Hawaii Medical Service Association is partnering with Sharecare.
“It was everything I hoped for,” Oahu resident Ciara Glenn said. “I’ve just always been a fan of hers and watched the things that she’s done in business and her charitable work. I just admire her authenticity and her intentions.”
After taking the stage to loud cheers, Winfrey admitted she wasn’t sure how to give health and well-being tips to people “who already live in the best place in the world.”
“What do I look like trying to tell you all who had sense enough to move here, live here, raise your families, who do I look like telling you how to live your best life?” Winfrey joked. “I could take a few lessons from you.”
As it turned out, however, Winfrey had more than a few insights to share after a 33-year career of hosting daytime television and interviewing more than 37,000 people. She said it was encounters like the man who cheated on his wife and the KKK skinheads who used her show to recruit other members that really changed the way she conducted “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
“When I realized that I was being used by TV and not using television, I shifted the paradigm,” Winfrey said.
She decided that she wanted to use the show “to serve people, to live their best lives, to entertain them while also informing them on the path to being their best selves.”
“I’m telling you, not only did the show change, but my entire life changed,” Winfrey told the audience. “The key to living your best life is no matter what you do, no matter what your job title is . . . how do you shift the paradigm? How do I use myself, my personality and my soul aligned together in service to something that’s bigger than me? That will change your life.”
Not only did Winfrey retool her show, but she also took a deeper look at her own motivations, inspired by author Gary Zukav’s belief in the importance of intention. Before every episode, Winfrey started asking her guests why they agreed to come and what they wanted to get out of it. Then she’d explain her own intentions to the guest. Winfrey kept up the practice until the show’s last day in 2011.
“I don’t do anything without thinking, what is the real reason?” Winfrey said. “Because the outcome is going to be determined by the energy of your motivation.”
Winfrey said that one of the practices that’s been vital to her well-being is learning to express gratitude. Every day she journals at least five things she’s thankful for.
“I know so many people who are in that race to have more, be more, do more, and you are never content,” Winfrey said. “Live in the space of contentment for where you are, even if — especially if — it isn’t where you really want to be right now.”
Waiehu resident Kealiiwahine Hokoana-Gormley took the last piece of advice to heart. She said gratitude journaling is “something I haven’t practiced in forever” and that she hoped to pick up the practice again.
Hokoana-Gormley is a huge Winfrey fan. (“You got an Oprah question, I got an answer,” she said.) Before the rise of the internet, the show opened a window to a world even more diverse than Maui, Hokoana-Gormley said.
“I felt like I was getting to know other people,” she explained. “People from the South, people from the East Coast, people from different countries. . . . She asked things you wanted to know.”
Lei Biho Borden said that she grew up watching Winfrey’s show with her mom, Karen Biho. When they heard she was coming to Maui, Borden decided she had to help her 70-year-old mom check off one of her bucket list items: seeing Winfrey live.
“Because we would never reach Chicago,” Borden said.
Biho woke up at 5:34 a.m. Monday to get ready.
“I’m very interested in her because of her ways of speaking,” Biho said. “To me, she’s a very warm person.”
HMSA Chief Executive Officer Michael Gold said that “the hardest thing in health care is to get people to listen and get engaged.” Winfrey is able to do just that.
“With Oprah, we had the opportunity to bring somebody here who can . . . just talk about what it is to lead a good life,” Gold said. “Oprah is the kind of person that people listen to because she speaks very genuinely.”
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.