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Her projects made room for black womens lives. Our stories matter, and above all, Oprahs life is a testament to that

For people whose entire lives are built around pop culture, some of the first truly impactful music we consume comes via TV theme tunes. For one glorious moment in the 1990s, my worlds collided when the fictional Banks family (from The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air) were invited on to Oprahs show. A delighted Carlton did his famous dance to the theme tune, and I threw similar shapes at home. Because Oprah Winfrey was (and remains) one ofmy all-time heroes.

My first exposure to Oprah, now 62, came early. I was fascinated by this black woman with the bighair and soothing but authoritative voice, whostalked her studio, microphone in hand. Somany of us adored andrespected her, and loved that shed become abillionaire (the first black female billionaire inhistory, and one of the worlds greatest philanthropists) after coming from so little.

For me, though, all that dough is merely a by-product of her impact on the culture: how she popularised confessional TV and set the agenda with her Favourite Things; how she consistently humanised black women merely by existing and being visible.

The first time I saw her, as Sofia in the 1985 film TheColor Purple, I was moved to tears. Her projects since have made room for black womens lives. She was one of my first teachers in the valuable art of elevating others wherever possible.

And shes still at it: as executive producer on Ava DuVernays new series, Queen Sugar, and starring in (and producing) Greenleaf, a new TV show set in a black southern megachurch. Our stories matter and Oprahs life is, above all, testament to that. Long may she reign.

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