We All Know Oprah Is Everything, But She Laid Us Out At the ESSENCE Festival

Photo by Paras Griffin/ Getty
Oprah delivered a rousing speech on the Empowerment Stage at ESSENCE Festival.

ESSENCE Festival just received a blessing. Iyanla Vanzant called it a lesson. Vanzant was scheduled as the keynote speaker on the Empowerment Stage on Saturday afternoon, but due to a medical emergency, she had to cancel. “Whatever the lesson is in that, I’ll let you know,” Vanzant said on a recorded message to the crowd. However, because she’s classy and thoughtful, she sent a replacement in to speak to the masses and that replacement as the incomparable Oprah.

Oprah’s keynote was set to begin at 4pm. I thought I was being smart by making my way to the stage at 3pm. Rookie move. There was a sea of beautiful Black people all standing in front of the closed doors of the Empowerment Stage, all waiting to get the splash of Oprah’s wisdom and encouragement, but there was only bad news. They’d already reached capacity and the doors were closed to everyone. “We’re not letting anyone in or out,” the security firmly told me as I tried to name drop Essence to gain entry. 

I was assigned to cover Oprah’s speech and I was determined to get my job done. Also, Oprah. It was almost as if Oprah whispered to Jesus about my assignment because within minutes, I found myself behind the Convention Center, walking through the loading docks and then backstage. I slid through the thick velvet curtain, smiled politely at any security I encountered and slipped into a seat in the third row as the previous panel was wrapping up.

I turned around and the crowd was overwhelming. There were no available seats in the entire ballroom and you could feel the yearning for Oprah in the air.

And then, like a vision in a red dress, there she was. Ponytail expertly snatched atop her head, her curves teased every set of eyes in the room and that signature voice of hers cut through the roar of the crowd as she asked, "ESSENCE, what took me so long?” This was the first time that Oprah has been to ESSENCE Festival. What a blessing.

And then she chose to start with Maya Angelou’s words from “Phenomenal Woman.” No matter how many times we had all heard that poem, hearing Oprah recite these lines felt like the first time:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.

But it was Oprah’s own words about what it took for her to be a part of The Color Purple, letting go and letting God and lessons in intentions (which is literally one of Oprah’s favorite things) that inspired the sea of people who roared every time she said a line worth remembering, the most. Luckily for you, I am able to share those inspiring words with you.

On Standing In Her Own Truth:
“I am who I am...one Black woman in God’s hand, trusting God’s word and it has never failed me.”

On the Creator’s Dream For You:
“I am living the dream. And I want you to live the dream. I’m not living the dream because I’m special, but I was obedient to the call of the dream. I’m living in the space of the dream and the dream is good. There is a bigger dream for you. What is God’s dream for you. What does the creator’s dream hold for you?”

On The Things You Get:
“This is what I know for sure, you don’t get what you wish for, you don’t even get what you hope for. You get what you believe.”

On Surrendering:
“The magic is to surrender to God’s dream for you. Quit fighting and pushing against and disallowing against and stop trying to tell the Creator what you’re supposed to do. Get still and know that His dream is for you.”

On The Importance Of Your Energy:
“The energy of what you do, what you say and the energy of who you are goes out into the world, your home and into your relationships and that energy is always coming back to you. You’re responsible for the energy you put out into the world.”

On Intentions:
“Before you think about the thing, you have an intention about the thing. The intention in which you give determines the outcome. My intention to live to the highest calling and be pressed to the mark of the highest calling.”

On How She Does Anything:
“I don’t do anything without thinking about, what is the real reason, the real motivation—what is the energy that will go into my thoughts and action and be returned to me? It is law.”

On The Power Of You:
“Consider not doing anything that you don’t truly intend. Do not allow yourself to be marginalized and defined by other people’s agenda and intentions. The power of your story lies in your personal intention.”

On Your Space On Earth:
“I used to spend a lot of energy wanting things—things are nice, I like them. When you can surrender to the dream, you get to live in the space of the higher power. You can live in the space on earth that you can claim for yourself.”

On Being A Woman:
“Women people will run ourselves empty. You want to have your cup overflowing so you have enough to give to everybody else. You can’t keep giving from an empty cup.”

On Wanting Someone Else’s Life:
“Surrender all because there’s a bigger dream waiting for you to step into it. Your life is big, your life is huge. We spend too much time wanting to be in someone else’s life. You don’t get celebrated wanting what someone else has. You get no credit messing in somebody else’s territory or trying to have power over something you have no control. You have no power in anybody’s territory but your own. What are you resisting? What are you not allowing because you have this idea of who or what you’re supposed to be?”

Did you get your life? You’re welcome.

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