Many years ago I was hired for an incredible party Oprah Winfrey was hosting only to have the job canceled the day before… So when the opportunity came to photograph her receiving the Montecito Award at the 2014 Santa Barbara Film Festival I was very excited! The evening began with the red carpet walk, interviews with E News Network and other affiliates and dozens of still photographers (think of the entrance to the Oscars).
There were a few other familiar faces that walked the red carpet as well. Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) and the beautiful Alexa Vega (best known from Spy Kids).
After taking pictures of the arrival, it became a one on one conversation with Los Angeles Times columnist John Horn in the front of the Arlington Theater. Naturally, Oprah was very comfortable talking in front of the audience, but it was really enjoyable to learn more about her. Here are three of my biggest takeaways:
– When she thought she missed out on the role in The Color Purple, it changed her life and she vowed never to let herself ever get back to that place of sadness, rejection and depression. (And seemingly she never has).
– She genuinely seemed touched and appreciative of the recognition from the Film Festival in her home town and love when she summarized her good fortune in saying, her mother was a maid, her grandmother was a maid, and her great-grandmother was a slave, and now here she is living in Montecito…
– Through 25 years of the Oprah Winfrey Show, a few movie roles, and her less publicized plentiful non-profit contributions, she has consistently maintained the goal of helping others and making the world a better place. Not too shabby.