Wednesday, May 25 will mark an end of an era in American television when the final episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” airs at 4 p.m. Eastern time after a quarter century of entertaining afternoon viewers with one-on-one interviews with celebrities, experts and extraordinary everyday people.
A two-episode farewell event on May 23 and May 24 will precede the official finale. The event was pre-recorded in Chicago’s United Center May 17, and saw music, movie and television stars surprise Oprah and share thoughts on her legacy.
Oprah’s production studio received more than 154,000 ticket requests to attend the farewell event, but only 13,000 tickets were distributed to fans free of charge through a lottery, according to the Associated Press.
“Thank you is not enough, but thank you, for your love and support,” Winfrey told the crowd.
Performers Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Jamie Foxx, Stevie Wonder and Beyonce took to the stage to sing to Oprah and express their admiration for the host.
“Oprah Winfrey, because of you women everywhere have graduated to a new level of understanding of who we are, of what we are and most of all who we can be,” said Beyonce.
Actress Rosie O’Donnell even sang a tune, while Michael Jordon praised the talk show host as an inspiration, and actor Tom Cruise said she “always had the power, and that is the message you brought into our lives.”
Madonna said she is among the millions that adore Winfrey.
“She fights for things she believes in, even if it makes her unpopular,” Madonna said.
Will and Jada Pinkett Smith told Winfrey she mothered millions of viewers, which puts her in the “status of a goddess.”
In a moving speech, the talk queen’s longtime partner, Stedman Graham, told her he loved her.
“It really does amaze me that I get to be around a woman who changes people’s lives every day and who also takes her own lunch to work,” Graham said. “You know what really is amazing? You have done this, sweetheart, through all of the sacrifices you’ve made, humility you have and through God’s amazing grace.”
Other participants included actresses Halle Berry, Queen Latifah, Tyler Perry and newswoman Diane Sawyer.
Between the stars’ appearances, clips of fan farewells and recaps of past episodes will be shown.
Mashonda White, 41, an engineer from Aurora, Ill., was among those in the audience for the finale.
“She’s a blueprint of what I would like to become,” White told the AP. “She never takes anything negatively. She always makes it positive.”
Winfrey announced in November 2009 that her syndicated talk show would end following this, its 25th year.
Further details of the final episode of the show, including potential guests and topics, remain under wraps.