We interviewed Oprah Winfrey in a classroom at the school she established five years ago in South Africa. The walls of the classroom were plastered with posters that all advocated that 'You go, Girl!' attitude that Oprah oozes.
The messages were attached neatly on every available space; "I am me because I am special," "You can't get anywhere unless you start," "I know me, I accept me, I like me."
Oprah Winfrey has made a career, and a fortune, plugging self-awareness on her talk show and her new TV network. Her interview style is deeply personal, confessional even. She likes to share, open up, and be frank about her own life in the course of speaking to others.
Our 30 minutes-long interview was no different. She is Oprah after all.
She was generous with her time, delivered immaculate sound bites, offered up snippets of her own tragedies, created an intimacy with our crew in that small classroom and was, basically, a consummate performer.
She gave us 'Oprah' and all that entails with her heady mix of power, money and compassion.
She was passionate and emotional about the lives of the young girls she is educating. She expressed disappointment in the young student who concealed a pregnancy and then secretly gave birth at the school last year.
The baby died and she hid the body in her school bag. Oprah said she knew the "loneliness" of trying to hide a teen pregnancy but that the pupil showed "poor leadership" and was now "happier" at a different school.
When I brought up the "abuse scandal" she lightheartedly told me she called it "The Crisis." A female matron was accused and recently acquitted of molesting some of the girls in her care at the school. Oprah admitted she was still baffled and incredulous that the alleged abuse took place at her school.
She said she had done everything to protect the girls from potentially abusive men, limiting male visitors, installing an electric fence around the school perimeter but never imagined the danger would come from women that she had hired.
When I asked her about Barack Obama she said she wouldn't talk about him.
And then promptly did. Oprah famously "endorsed" Obama in 2008, which subsequently gave his campaign a boost. Significantly, she said she wouldn't publically endorse him again because, "everybody in the world now knows Barack Obama."
Diane Sawyer was interviewing Oprah via satellite after our chat and Winfrey's staff were concerned that she kept to her schedule. Despite knowing that she had a date with the U.S. anchor who had woken up at 4am in New York to do the interview, Oprah kept on chatting to us.
Her assistant repeatedly signaled to me to get her to stop talking. In the end, I had to interrupt her and essentially tell her to get on with it.
Afterwards, she grabbled hold of my arm and we walked arm in arm to the Diane Sawyer interview, which was set up in the school's library.
In true Winfrey style, she then gave me a tight, bear hug, which I guessed was the Oprah version of a firm handshake.