I always give credit to my mother…
for my TV career because she took me to The Mike Douglas Show in 1976. I was 14 years old and I spotted a girl on the set with a clipboard. I didn’t know what she did, but I knew immediately I wanted to do it too. Years later, when my clipboard dream became a reality, I realized that it was my mother who put me in the TV environment, but it was my father who inspired me to follow my heart and work for Oprah. My parents are both love laborers.
“He made his patients feel like they mattered…”
My father was a doctor and was born to a love laborer mom. My father worked for the same hospital for 60 years and we he was truly a legend there. Not because he was the greatest doctor that ever was, although he sure was a good one, but because he was the doctor who cared the most. He made his patients feel like they mattered and dedicated himself to doing what he loved – helping people live their best lives by staying healthy and happy.
My dad never smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol. He knew those things would get in the way of being an All-American athlete. And even though my dad was not an All-American athlete, he was always striving to be one. And that was all that mattered. My father raised three daughters to be athletes because being a part of a team was integral to my father’s life and he wanted to make sure it was at the center of ours.
Every once in a while I would go to the hospital on the weekends with my father to make rounds. This was where the action was. We would walk the halls of the hospital and all I would hear was “Dr. Oaks! Dr. Oaks!” It was like I was traveling with a rock star, and I liked it. It felt good to be part of something bigger than myself.
My dad knew everyone by name, usually by nickname, and he said hello to everyone – from the doctors to the custodial staff. My father believed that everyone mattered and everyone played a part in the success of the hospital. He was doing Oprah before Oprah was doing Oprah! It was during these visits that I discovered I wanted to be part of that magic. I wanted to help people. I wanted to impact people’s lives. But I knew I wasn’t smart enough or brave enough to be a doctor.
“I wanted to impact people’s lives.”
And so when I moved to Chicago in 1984 to start my TV career, the same year Oprah Winfrey moved to Chicago to host AM Chicago, the stars aligned. I already knew from my Mike Douglas Show moment that I wanted to work in TV and now my first TV job placed me in the same city as Oprah. This was my chance to be part of something really BIG. Something that would impact people’s lives forever. This was my own “Dr. Oaks” moment.
During my years at Harpo, I always knew I was called to work for Oprah. It was a privilege to have been able to impact people’s lives through the show and the network OWN. I may have not saved lives like my father did, but I sure helped celebrate them every day I was on The Oprah Show stage as the warm-up girl.
The Oprah Show gave me the team my father had prepared me for. A team that through thick and through thin, worked hard and played hard. We were a work-family that shared one motto “Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork”. There was nothing we couldn’t do, as long as we were doing it together. We were a team of love laborers. And I am so grateful to have been a small part.