There’s many ways to launch a book.
For media mogul Oprah Winfrey it was a star-filled gospel brunch at The Promised Land: her 65-acre estate in California.
And one small decision Oprah made that day has changed me ever since.
The first thing you notice upon entering Oprah’s estate is the trees. She previously shared that early in her career she visited a mentor’s house and noticed the trees in her yard. Oprah surmised that rich people own trees and, one day, she would own six herself. Her Montecito, CA estate has more than 3,600 trees. She 600xed her dream.
Golf carts escort guests through a winding driveway through the lush grounds. You pass by a huge fountain where in the distance you can see the main home and a pond that has candles all around it. We parked near her guest home and walked through a floral walkway to get to the garden, where journalists have assembled for a roundtable interview with our host.
Soon Oprah appeared and discussed her commitment to continuing to help awaken others. “That’s such a wonderful question” she said staring in my eyes, after I asked how she had adjusted to a life bigger than anything she had imagined, making a leap from growing up in rural Mississippi to this estate in Montecito, and the magical journey in between. Her answer? Never missing the beauty of the present moment. “There’s not a day that I wake up here, that I don’t have a sense of appreciation and gratitude. Usually on Sunday mornings, I’m around with the dogs. There’s not a day I don’t walk the property and find something different. I find another piece of moss growing between a stone, or I’ll turn my head and look through a tree and I’ve never looked through that tree, at that angle, before.”
After gliding into the garden, it was time for the main event. But first Oprah stood to take pictures with each of us. Before my photo I had to tell her about Charanna and Jimmy, my good friends who were getting married that very day and the reason I was in Los Angeles. She recorded a beautiful wedding blessing for them, and then noticed my stiletto sandals. I had not gotten the memo not to wear heels. “You want some flats?” she asked me and another woman also in heels. “Whatever you are offering, yes and thank you,” I replied. Who says “no” to Ms. Winfrey?
“I’ll bring you rose gold,” she said, noting the shoes I was wearing. Her team escorted her away. Our group stopped by the guest home to use the restroom before heading to the main event. Inside the cozy home, I was wowed looking at the floor to ceiling bookcase and her desk, which housed a photo of her and Nelson Mandela and one with her and Maya Angelou.
We head to the amphitheater where more than 200 of the biggest names and Oprah’s closest friends have gathered to celebrate the book, which includes her favorite gems from Super Soul Sunday. A woman walks up with holding flats for us, journalists happy to witness this special moment. That woman? Oprah herself. In the midst of all the details of this event, she went inside her own closet to grab shoes for us.
I was stunned by her personal care and look at the metallic Lanvin flats. They were a little too big on me, but who really expects to fit Oprah’s shoes? I find a seat in the packed outside theater. She soon takes the stage. “It’s not often I open this space. Stedman and I welcome you to what we call The Promised Land. I use to call it Tara II,” she shared. “One day I was looking out the back lawn to the ocean and said ‘Scarlet O’Hara wishes she lived here.’ I get to live the promise Dr. King had for all of us. I welcome you here to The Promise Land.”
And welcomed I felt. The couple sitting in front of me is Star Wars creator George Lucas and my #BossBride crush Mellody Hobson. Diane Von Furstenberg sat next to Diane Sawyer with Shonda Rhimes nearby and Arianna Huffington holding down the aisle seat. Kerry Washington and Angela Bassett were up rocking and clapping along with the choir. The concert was led by Bebe Winans who took the choir and crowd through a medley of classic gospel songs. Guests then walked to an open lawn reminiscent of eden for Sunday brunch produced by Colin Cowie.
I walk around to take in the brunch and powerful crowd. “Charreah” I heard as Niecy Nash called me over who attended with her mom. And when Mindy Kaling walked over to say “hi” to Niecy she graciously introduced me. And then it was time to go.
I understood how Cinderella felt with the clock ticking over my head at the most magical event of my life. Instead of turning into a pumpkin, my fear was being late to my friend’s wedding when I was a bridesmaid. I made it back in time to slip into my gorgeous gold dress that I really would wear again if it wasn’t rented from Vow To Be Chic.
The food, music and views were incredible.
But what I remembered most of that epic day in a stunning estate, was the host who took the time to grab some shoes.
Service is the secret to lasting success.